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Solar Power - CIS Building (Manchester)

One of the largest insurance providers in the UK (CIS) recently announced an ambitious plan to embrace a large scale solar power solution for their central Manchester offices to be completed in late 2005.

As part of an overall upgrade of the Grade II listed building, they will be replacing the existing 40 year old external cladding with a 400ft array of solar panels that will produce 180,000 units of green energy. Although this amount of energy will not be sufficient in its entirety for the needs of the building and it's 4000 employees, it will significantly decrease the need for energy from the National Grid.

The 25-storey CIS tower is the tallest building in the Manchester area, and it is thought that the revamped building will not only help to enhance Manchester's image as a green energy centre but may also prove to be a tourist attraction.

The solar panels have been designed to work in all weather conditions, which is an important factor when one takes into account the changeable weather systems encountered in the area.

Gary Thomas, Head of Property and Facilities at Co-operative Financial Services (CFS) stated, "This is a landmark development, in every sense of the phrase. For Manchester, the UK and for the whole of Europe it demonstrates that solar panels are viable almost anywhere".

The contract has been awarded to ISG InteriorExterior as part of a £5.5 million project. It was part financed by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry to the tune of £885,000 and £175,000 respectively.

The project is not without its challenges as Project Manager of ISG, Philip Chadwick notes: "The project presents us with some particular challenges as we are required to work closely with both the client and suppliers of the solar modules, which are manufactured in Japan, to ensure their delivery is carefully coordinated with the schedule of work.

As with any tall building, there are also additional health and safety considerations that need to be strictly adhered to and we have the advantage of bringing best processes onsite from our experience of working on the BT Tower and similar projects".

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