Published On: Mon, Apr 30th, 2018

Sapa meets modular demands of new student accommodation

Sisk Construction has built a new 17-storey student accommodation block in the heart of Birmingham for the sector specialist, Alumno Developments, with high performance windows and doors from Sapa Building System, part of the Hydro Group, incorporated into the off-site, modular design.

The £30 million construction project at No.1 City Locks is on what was a brownfield site alongside the Digbeth Branch Canal and forms part of the city’s long-awaited Eastside Regeneration Project. Working in cooperation with Sisk Construction, Glenn Howells Architects and Sapa Commercial Dealer Elite Aluminium Systems Ltd, Sapa won the project by ‘value engineering’ the original curtain walling design.

By re-evaluating the project’s technical, logistical and budgetary challenges, Sapa produced a Dualframe Si Window Wall specification to offer a cost effective alternative which could be pre-fitted into the precast concrete modules that make up the building’s elevations. This solution also enables any replacement glazing/maintenance to be done from the inside, which is not possible when using conventional curtain walling. In addition the project also features the use of Sapa’s Elegance 52 ST curtain walling to enclose the stair-towers, and STII thermally broken commercial doors for main access routes. 

The Managing Director of Elite Aluminium, Jamie Bayliss, commented: “We received good back-up from Sapa to assist us as we went through the designs with the project architects, having received the initial inquiry regarding the project. We had never used the Dualframe Si system to create window wall elements before, and these were shipped to the precast manufacturer’s factory. In fact all of the bedroom windows were installed off-site, being fully glazed and protected before being moved to site in Birmingham for erection. 

“Then we infilled the stair towers on site using Elegance 52 curtain walling and fabricated all the doors using Sapa’s STII thermally broken commercial door system.  Given the scale of this project, the programme challenges and requirements within the specification, such as high acoustic performance, it all turned out very successfully.” 

Project Architect David Hickman added: “We are really pleased with the building overall, while the windows work really well both in terms of their colour and their proportions in the tower. We opted to go for the full height frames which means as soon as you enter into the student rooms they give a really good connection between the inside and outside of the building; and great views over the city.

“We have worked with Sapa previously, including the student and wider residential market. In this instance the idea of a modular solution and installing the Dualframe assemblies at the precast plant evolved during the tender submission process, and proved very effective.”

Alumno’s scheme provides accommodation for around 650 students, including many en-suite rooms, while several are fully wheelchair accessible. The rooms are arranged in clusters and provide views of the newly developed City Park and city centre skyline. There are also communal leisure and study areas for students within cluster flats with a shared kitchen/lounge. Meanwhile, a single central reception provides secure access to the building.

According to Alumno’s Managing Director, David Campbell: “Creating a vibrant new public realm through the opening up of the canal-side, Birmingham Council’s Eastside Locks masterplan focuses on generating investment in the city. University Locks provided the perfect opportunity to make a part of that vision a reality.

“Contributing to Birmingham’s academic stature, our proposal was to turn University Locks into a modern, high-quality student accommodation scheme, sensitively designed to complement and enhance the Digbeth Branch Canal. Following the shape of the canal-side, the three buildings have been designed to form a crescent with three distinctive wings facing out onto the canal. The materials of aluminum, glass and concrete are reflective of the canal-side heritage. The new development will provide on-campus student living close to BCU’s new City Centre Campus project.”

The Dualframe 75mm Si side hung open-in casement window is an enhancement to the Si suite in a new generation of window and façade products. Utilising advanced polyamide thermal break technology within the frame, Dualframe 75mm Si provides high thermal performance without the need to resort to complex and costly sealed unit specifications.  It is an ideal solution for high-rise or commercial applications, combining ventilation with easy cleaning facilities and large span openings – allowing for safe and easy operation; using a handle that is lockable by key.

Side hung open in Casement windows are an ideal solution for high-rise or commercial applications, combining ventilation with easy cleaning facilities and large span openings.

The Elegance 52 ST curtain walling system, meanwhile, is an externally capped thermally broken curtain wall system that offers infinite design opportunities through the use of different mullions and cover caps (bull nose, rectangular and aerofoil), which can be applied horizontally and vertically.  Mullions and transoms can be flush at the inside or can be specifically different to emphasis the vertical design; while several special options, such as 90° angle mullions or variable angles, have been designed with a minimal use of material to allow slim sightlines.  In combination with the extensive colour range, the different options are practically unlimited.

The Sapa STII High Traffic thermally broken commercial doors specified for the building offer high levels of thermal insulation and can achieve a U-value of 1.8 W/m²k for doors without mid-rails and 1.9 W/m²k for doors with mid-rails (depending on size and glazing specification).

This low U-value can help building designers to achieve their Target Emissions Rate (TER) by being offset against the allowable U-value of 3.5 W/m²k for high traffic doors when calculating the Building Emissions Rate (BER).