Co-operative Insurance Tower

Co-operative Insurance Tower

The CIS Tower
General information
Status Complete
Type Office
Location Manchester, England
Coordinates 53°29′11″N 2°14′18″W / 53.48639°N 2.23833°W / 53.48639; -2.23833Coordinates: 53°29′11″N 2°14′18″W / 53.48639°N 2.23833°W / 53.48639; -2.23833
Construction started 1959
Completed 1962
Opening 1962
Roof 118 m (387 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 25
Design and construction
Owner The Co-operative Group
Architect Gordon Tait
G. S. Hay
Developer CIS

The Co-operative Insurance Tower, or CIS Tower, is an office tower building on Miller Street in Manchester, England. It was completed in 1962 and rises to 387 feet (118 m) in height. The Grade II listed building, which houses Co-operative Financial Services, a part of The Co-operative Group, is Manchester's second-tallest building and the tallest office building outside London. The tower remained as built for over 40 years until maintenance issues on the service tower required an extensive renovation. The renovation included covering its facade in solar cells.



The mosaic-clad tower before 2005

The tower was designed as a prestige headquarters to showcase the Co-operative movement in Manchester.[1] In 1958 the company proposed building an office tower block, construction began the following year and was completed in 1962.[2] It was designed by Gordon Tait of Burnett, Tait & Partners and Co-operative's own architect, G. S. Hay. In the 1990s, it was granted Grade II listed building status by English Heritage. The tower, described as "the best of the Manchester 1960s office blocks",[3] was listed for its "discipline and consistency". It is part of a group with New Century House and its Conference Hall on Corporation Street.[4] The tower's design was influenced by Skidmore Owings & Merrill's Inland Steel Building in Chicago after a visit by the architects in 1958.[1][5]

The CIS Tower being clad in PV cells

In 1962, at 387 feet, the CIS Tower overtook the Shell Centre as the tallest building in the United Kingdom, a title it retained for a year until it was replaced by the Millbank Tower in London. In 2006 the Beetham Tower became the tallest building in Manchester.[6]


The office tower building rises above a five-storey podium block. It has a steel frame and glass curtain walls with metal window frames. Black vitreous enamel panels demarcate the floor levels. The building materials, glass, enamelled steel and aluminium, were chosen so that the building could remain clean in the polluted Manchester atmosphere.[3] The tower's concrete service shaft, which rises above the office tower, has two bands of vents at the top and was clad in a mosaic made up of 14 million centimetre-square, grey tesserae[4] designed to shimmer and sparkle.[5] The projecting reinforced concrete service shaft houses lifts and emergency stairs.[7]

The ground floor is set back behind six pillars. A green bronze-like, abstract mural sculpted by William George Mitchell made from fibreglass covers the entrance hall's rear wall.[4] The building has 700,000 square feet of floor area with clear open spaces on the office floors.[7] Interiors were designed by Misha Black of the Design Research Unit. The executive areas are delineated by the use of teak and cherry wood veneers.[3]


Within six months of construction some of the mosaic tiles on the service tower became detached due to cement failure and lack of expansion joints in the concrete. Although the tower was granted listed building status in 1995 falling tiles was an ongoing problem. English Heritage had to be consulted as alterations could change the building's appearance.[8]

In 2004 CIS consulted Solarcentury with a view to replacing the deteriorating mosaic with blue building-integrated photovoltaic (PV) cells which would provide a permanent green solution which generated approximately 180,000 units of electricity per year. The work was completed by Arup and at that time was the largest commercial solar façade in Europe. The PV cells were made by Sharp Electronics[9] and began feeding electricity to the National Grid in November 2005.[10][11] The project, which cost £5.5 million, was partly funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency which granted £885,000 and the Energy Savings Trust at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) contributed £175,000.[10] The solar power project was chosen by the DTI as one of the "10 best green energy projects" of 2005.[12] Out of sight on the roof are 24 wind turbines generating 10% of the tower's electricity.[13]


  1. ^ a b marvellous modern icons, Manchester Modernists Society, 31 October 2011, 
  2. ^ CIS Tower, Skyscraper News, 31 October 2011, 
  3. ^ a b c The Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Co-operative Insurance Society Buildings, Looking at Buildings, 31 October 2011, 
  4. ^ a b c Cooperative Insurance Society, Manchester, Listed Buildings Online, 31 October 2011, 
  5. ^ a b History of the solar tower, The Co-operative Bank, 31 October 2011, 
  6. ^ Green light for high living, The BBC, 31 October 2011, 
  7. ^ a b (pdf) Part-3 Air Conditioned Office Buildings, Heritage Group Website for CIBSE, 31 October 2011, p. 12, 
  8. ^ CIS Tower, Manchester April 2003, The Twentieh Century Society, 21 April 2007,, retrieved 2011-10-31 
  9. ^ CIS Tower, Manchester, Sharp Manufacturing,, retrieved 2011-10-31 
  10. ^ a b Solar power tower hits city, Manchester evening News, 22 February 2003,, retrieved 24 October 2011 
  11. ^ "CIS 'Solar Tower' Case Study", solarcentury, archived from the original on 2007-09-05,, retrieved 2007-09-11 
  12. ^ The Solar Tower, The Co-operative Group, 31 October 2011, 
  13. ^ UK's CIS Solar Tower garners 390-kilowatts from the sun, Engadget, 21 April 2007,, retrieved 2011-11-31 

See also

Preceded by
Shell Centre
Tallest Building in the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Millbank Tower
Preceded by
Manchester Town Hall
Tallest Building in Manchester
Succeeded by
Beetham Tower

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