Blaze rapidly engulfs combustible cladding system of large student complex

The Cube, Bolton

The Cube, Bolton is a large student accommodation complex positioned in the centre of Bolton, Manchester. The complex is one building divided into 2 stand-alone blocks (Block A and Block B, separated by a communal courtyard area) consisting of 221 units. On the evening of the 15th of November 2019, Block B faced a catastrophic fire resulting in the complete devastation of the 5th and 6th floors.

Source: Manchester Evening News

Source: Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service

Source: Dazed

Source: AliDeck

The devastating event, that ripped through the buildings roof and HPL cladding system, not only caused detrimental damage and disruption to the building itself but also to the lives, studies and homes of many students who lost everything that evening. Once all 217 residents were safely evacuated and accounted for, the battle began for the 130 firefighters tackling the fire to extinguish the blaze that had now taken hold of nearly every floor of Block B, with falling debris also alight, causing more damage, and igniting the lower regions of the complex.

Our Task?

The task handed to us was simple, in the sense that we knew exactly how we were going to overcome any obstacles to restore The Cube back to its original glory BUT make the new wall façade system as safe as possible. This task began with the removal of the remaining existing High-Pressure Laminate wall façade system fixed to C24 Grade structural timber battens. With urgency and haste, our team removed approximately 2,500m2 of combustible material, leaving the bare shell of this large complex, stripped completely inside and out.

To begin again

Based on events prior to the devastating fire at The Cube, such as Grenfell Tower (14th June 2017) which claimed the lives of 72 people and the homes and livelihoods of all residents, the fears of those living in high rise properties with a combustible façade system are understandably increasingly growing. It was our duty to ensure that all cladding materials considered, advised, and installed were fire-safe, correct, and compliant to the highest standard. Every material that was to be re-installed to this complex was to be approved and safe, creating an A2 Fire Rated Non-Combustible Façade system to provide future residents with the utmost confidence that they are safe within their own homes. The removal of unpredictable combustible façade systems and substrates, such as HPL systems and timber and replacing them with an A1 or A2 fire rated system is a task that we now consider crucial.

JUNE 2020 – AUGUST 2021

The process from beginning to end was a challenging yet rewarding journey. To watch the complex become completely restored, wall by wall, level by level became a fulfilling experience. Watching as the materials that we had so carefully checked to ensure complete compliancy, be expertly installed to manufacturers specifications by our team, was an accomplishing sight to see. The hard work and time and effort spent was becoming a reality in the form of a brand new building.

The build-up consisted of A2 Hardie Fibre Cement panel installed to a A1 Aluminium bracketry system with A1 Non-Combustible Insulation and Cavity barriers fixed to an A1 Weather Board secured into the SFS system.

Trust the Process

Fast forward 14 months, Block A and B of The Cube, Bolton is completely restored, and prohibition notice lifted ready to welcome students once again.




Block B – Stairwell

Block A – Rear Elevation

Block B – Front Elevation

Block A – Front Elevation

Block B – Rear Elevation