Wood to the Rescue for the Byker Estate

Fri 06 Nov 2015

Ralph Erskine’s Byker Estate, built between 1969 and 1982, is widely acknowledged to be one of the UK’s most important housing developments of the ‘70s. A major Newcastle landmark and home to around 9,500 residents, the grade II* listed estate, has been subject of many photographic exhibitions, dramas and films.

As part of the Byker Community Trust’s £24.5m investment, the estate needed to undergo a full external fabric overhaul which included a new roof, new windows and doors. A great challenge faced the Trust and the local conservation department, however: the replacement of the original single-glazed aluminium windows with modern, energy-efficient double-glazing.


The Task

Like so many aspects of the Byker Estate, the windows and doors were highly individual, incorporating bright colours and a variety of different shapes. The first task was to approach aluminium window and door manufacturers for a like-for-like replacement. However, none could be found which produced double-glazed units of such complexity.

The second task concerned painting the windows and doors of the estate. While everyone agreed the exterior of the windows and doors should be brightly coloured, following Erskine’s original scheme, the tenants were less enthusiastic about having the same bright colours inside their homes. 


The Answer

The answer to these problems came from an unexpected source: a timber window and door manufacturer. Sean Parnaby, Managing Director of Wood Window Alliance member West Port, heard about the problem and was determined to find a cost-effective way of producing high performance double-glazed timber windows and doors that faithfully reproduced the shape, colours and profiles of the original aluminium fittings.

Sean says: “The Byker Estate is a piece of local history and a real eye-opener – a grade II* listed building requiring authentic windows, but definitely not everybody’s idea of period windows!. Replacing the windows and doors was a huge challenge, and I wanted to prove we could do it using wood as it’s the most energy-efficient and best-looking solution all round.” So what did Sean and his team do?



Make the doors and windows sustainable:

The windows West Port supplied were a highly energy-efficient flush casement window called ‘Fell’. This window style is top hung with an easy-clean function and excellent thermal efficiency – typical whole window U-values were 1.4W/m2K. The windows also had the benefits of low embodied CO2, an estimated minimum service life of 60 years and long maintenance intervals – the windows are warranted not to need re-decorating for at least eight years.


Make the doors and windows secure:

The 44mm door blade supplied on the external doors were constructed using layers of hardwood with 2 layers of aluminium sheeting to prevent movement of the door and enhance security. As the doors had to replicate the previous door blades in style, West Port had to have the correct calculations for the width and depth of the grooves. These calculations were required to input into their C and C machine for the grooves to be cut correctly to match the previous doors’ blades. The door sets improved the security of the flats and maisonettes thanks to the 3-point locking mechanism provided.


Decor to suit everyone:

West Port set up their induction spraying plant to ensure however brightly-coloured the exteriors of the window and doors, the interior would always be a neutral white, pleasing the residents while staying true to the original style of the building.