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Tall buildings contractor wins Greater Manchester contract

The task of constructing and fitting out tall buildings can require a number of specialised skills in construction, design and materials. All of these are much in demand at present around Manchester and Salford, where a large number of taller structures are now being built, or are planned for the near future.

As well as the construction work, specialised engineering is needed to support the kind of work that will be undertaken in all kinds of residential buildings, such as installing insulation and shower room waterproofing. More waterproofing work may be needed because of particular conditions at some sites, such as a proximity to rivers and canals, a common feature of new, upcoming and recent developments in the Greater Manchester area.

Among the sites where this is most true is the MediaCityUK complex, built at Salford Quays on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. It is here that Bouygues, a company with specialist skills in constructing tall buildings, has made an important breakthrough into the Manchester market by signing a £35 million deal to construct a 19-storey apartment block.

The development, known as the Lightbox, will contain 238 one, two and three-bedroom luxury apartments, with work now due to start later this month and be completed in early 2019.

It is the first of what could be many projects for the firm as it seeks to make a major impact in the huge growth market represented by the plethora of tall buildings rising up in the area.

Chief operating officer at Bouygues UK Craig Tatton said: "Securing this scheme in the north-west is a fantastic achievement and Lightbox is an exciting project.

"Greater Manchester is a core focus for us as we look to apply the technical expertise we have as part of the wider Bouygues group to major projects where we can add value."

Salford Quays is actually one of the least high-rise parts of the inner Manchester and Salford area. Central Salford is currently the site of new developments that will tower above anything at MediaCityUK, while Manchester City Centre is reaching ever more skyward. Until 2005 the 387 ft-high CIS Tower was Manchester's tallest building, and had been since 1962. Not only was that then topped by the 554 ft Beetham Tower, but it will be a long way down the list in a few years as a number of other structures of 400 ft or higher are built.

This list includes all four of the skyscrapers being constructed in the Owen Street development at the south-western edge of the city centre, with the tallest of these set to replace the Beetham Tower as the tallest building in the city as it soars to 658 ft.

Even the tallest of the Owen Street towers may not hold the record for long, as Allied London's plans for the St John's area of the city centre include the Vertical Village, a development of four residential skyscrapers at Trinity Islands. The planning application submitted last month revealed the tallest of these will, if built, be 778 ft tall, higher than any of the current skyscrapers in the London Docklands area around Canary Wharf.

Like the Owen Street project, the Trinity Islands scheme will include around 1,400 apartments, and it is residential accommodation that is mainly driving the Mancunian skyscraper boom.

While the new buildings being constructed in Salford Quays are not so high, the emphasis on meeting the high levels of demand for apartments is ensuring that plenty of buildings are going up. Last year, Salford City Council granted planning permission for the doubling in size of the MediaCityUK complex. The new buildings will contain a much greater residential element, with a further 1,400 apartments being built there.