Case Study - Rylands Building

Image credit: Max Fordham

Project summary

The Rylands Building, a notable Grade II listed office and warehouse in Manchester, was originally completed in 1932. This project aims to transform it into a net-zero carbon building through meticulous restoration, refurbishment, and extension. The ground floor and basement will be redesigned for active retail and leisure purposes, while the upper floors will provide approximately 46,500m² of Grade A office space. Currently, Phase 1, involving strip-out and demolition, is underway and expected to conclude in 2024, with the main construction set to be completed in 2025.

Reuse summary

As a major refurbishment, the project retains residual value by reusing the structural floor slabs and primary structural frame, while restoring the existing façade and other architecturally significant internal features. The reuse of existing steel was limited due to its age (pre-dating 1932) and site constraints. Despite the challenges of refurbishing a sensitive historic building, the project team has demonstrated a replicable and scalable solution for material reuse.

Project information

Project name

Rylands Building


Manchester, UK

Project type 



Office, retail, and leisure

Gross internal area (post refurbishment)

Refurbishment – 38,300 m² Newbuild – 8,200m² 

Project stage

Under construction

ClientAM Alpha
ArchitectsJeffrey Bell Architects
ContractorRussel WBHO (PCSA)
Engineers and consultants

Max Fordham (MEP, Net zero carbon & Circular economy)

Woolgar Hunter (Structures)

Image credit: Max Fordham
Image credit: Max Fordham

Reuse highlights

  • Lighting: Over 600 LED lights no longer required were recovered and sent for remanufacturing to enable specification of reused products by the wider industry. This saved 14tCO2e and 644kg of electronic waste. Some of the remanufactured units have been installed at the London School Art.
  • Generators: Two redundant generators (3 & 4 tonnes) were prepared for removal by cutting open the existing roof for the complex removal process. A mobile crane was hired to lift off the generators and load onto a truck for onward reuse at West Coast Railway Museum in Carnforth.
  • Escalators: 12.6 tonnes of steel elements were recovered for reuse from nine passenger escalators.
  • Bricks: Recovered bricks from site will be used for opening up works, damage repair and column strengthening works.
  • Reclaimed steel: The team have been in dialogue with steel reclamation stockists throughout the design phase and are currently reviewing the potential to procure reclaimed steel columns in the proposed new four-storey extension.
  • Design for disassembly and future reuse: The proposed new build incorporates standardised structural elements and bolted steelwork connections in column strengthening for the perimeter columns, along with the inclusion of new steel beams for the trimming of any new apertures.
  • Creating a material bank for salvaged items for reuse in future tenant fit-out: This will house recovered items such as light fittings, switches, lift plant room steel bearing legs, steel cupboards, and a cast iron spiral steel case.
Image credit: Max Fordham

ASBP's Reuse Now Campaign

This case study is part of ASBP’s Reuse Now Campaign. The campaign builds upon the ASBP-led DISRUPT project, which is exploring the innovative reuse of structural steel in construction through the creation and adoption of new circular business models. Project partners and supporters include reuse stalwarts Cleveland Steel & Tubes, global construction specialist ISG, National Federation of Demolition Contractors, and Grosvenor, the world’s largest privately-owned international property business.

ASBP has been working on the topic of material reuse for nearly 10 years, with past activities including the Re-Fab House feasibility study, research with University of Cambridge identifying the barriers to structural steel reuse, and more recently, a sold-out Reuse Summit.

This previous experience is further enhanced with in-house expertise from Technical Director Dr. Katherine Adams and Research Associate Dr. Asselya Katenbayeva, who bring 25+ years of academic and industry-focussed research and development on the topics of waste, reuse and circular economy.

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