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Great Wall of Newcastle

14 April 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

Byker Wall is regarded as one of the most significant pieces of architecture of its era in the UK and has been brought into the twenty-first century with a modern solar system.

As part of the £26 million refurbishment scheme on a Grade II listed residential estate which features a continuous block of over 600 properties, work was performed to not only repair the existing roof but to bring Byker Wall to the forefront of modern-day roofing technology with the installation of a state-of-the-art photovoltaic (PV) system.

Constructed in the 1970s in the Byker district of Newcastle upon Tyne, Byker Wall and prior to undertaking any remedial work, the project team had to first get permission from the local planning authority because of the building’s protected status. Once approved the first phase of work began in 2014 to remove the original asphalt roofing which had exceeded its serviceable life and been experiencing water ingress.

As part of the required works the team had to convert the pitched metal roof back to its original flat roof status which was achieved by removing the profiled metal sheets and supporting timber framework that had previously been installed. All of the original waterproofing was replaced with 4,500m2 of Bauder’s reinforced bitumen system, BTRS that has a life expectancy in excess of 40 years and included a 120mm PIR insulation to achieve the required U-value and satisfy Building Regulations.


Sunny power provided

Four of the 10 housing blocks were then fitted with 132 PV Modules, enabling Byker Wall to generate at least 39.6mW/hr of solar power each year.

The PV system was installed using a welded membrane-to-membrane technique so that there was no penetration of the waterproofing or roof deck, ensuring the integrity of the roof is upheld. The relative simplicity of the installation also meant that Bauder approved contractor Hodgson Sayers could install the entire PV array in a matter of days to the exact specifications given by the client. 


Design revisions

One of the major challenges for the project resulted from the district heating pipe which runs the entire length of the roof but its exact path was unknown until the pitched metal roof was removed.

This meant that many design revisions were necessary for the PV layout and because the pipe penetrates the roof, the roofing contractor also had to come up with imaginative ways to temporarily support the pipe during the waterproofing installation. All residents remained in-situ throughout causing logistical challenges, however deliveries were timed as not to conflict with vehicles moving in and out of the facility and the team worked closely with residents to agree working hours. 


Local jobs for local people

Creating sustainable employment was another important requirement of the project brief.

In response, Hodgson Sayers created an apprenticeship programme that used Byker Wall as a starting point for employment, guaranteeing full time work at the end of the apprenticeship. As a result, four new recruits were accepted on to apprentice schemes. From a learning perspective, the complicated nature of the works made for a suitable learning environment for the apprentices, providing them with an opportunity to work on a well known building. 

“Byker Wall is an exceptional example of how modern roofing technology can help revive a historical landmark,” said Kevin Scott, Property Services Manage, Your Homes Newcastle. “Bauder’s PV system was chosen for its aesthetic impact, penetration free installation, impressive performance credentials and compatibility with the waterproofing. Bauder and approved contractor Hodgson Sayers delivered a roofing system of the highest quality giving us total confidence in the future performance of the roof on this Grade II listed housing estate.” 

All phases of the work were reportedly completed on time and to budget.

Picture: The Grade II Byker Wall now has a highly efficient PV system from Bauder as part of a £26 million refurbishment project

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 14 April 2016


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