The new European IT headquarters for global electrical wholesaler City Electrical Factors (CEF) is described as a visual celebration of the company’s ethos and rich industrial heritage, thanks in part to an electrifying aluminium façade featuring Proteus HR rainscreen cladding.

CEF’s existing offices had reached full capacity and so a second site was developed opposite the company’s main building in 10 acres of natural landscape in Meadowfield, Durham. The brief set for the design of the award winning building, known as Janet Nash House, was to create a contemporary workplace solution which embodies and reflects CEF’s drive and commitment for innovation.

Architects FaulknerBrowns designed the £10m Data, IT and Marketing headquarters, using a variety of materials such as copper, aluminium and ceramic, which represent the components found within an electrical cable, CEF’s staple product.

Winner of the North East RIBA Regional Award 2019 and two British Council for Offices’ (BCO) regional awards, the contemporary workplace is split into two areas each with unique spatial qualities to support the requirements of the different departments across the company.

The southern ‘L’ shaped block, which houses the ‘graphics and marketing’ teams, features a striking façade executed in Proteus HR Euromax AluNatur Elox Anodised Brushed pre-coated aluminium, for which FaulknerBrowns took inspiration from the foil shield of a coaxial cable.

Proteus HR is a lightweight, strong and versatile cladding panel that provides aesthetic screening to building facades. The integrated modular rainscreen system features an aluminium honeycomb core, structurally bonded between two thin gauges of lightweight metal skin to create an optically flat panel that is available in aluminium, steel, zinc, stainless steel, copper alloys and other materials.

The Proteus HR honeycomb sandwich panel was fabricated for Janet Nash House using Euromax AluNatur outer skins with an Elox Anodised Brushed pre-coated finish to recreate the coaxial pattern. The designers specified Proteus HR Euromax AluNatur because it offered a value engineered method of recreating the granular appearance of stainless steel but still within the client’s budget expectations.

Euromax AluNatur material consist of semi-transparent clear-coats applied on brushed or transparent lacquering aluminium surface, highlighting the natural character of aluminium substrate material. Pre-coat finishes minimise shade variation between panels and Proteus worked with the project specifiers and installers to ensure consistency of grain direction of the panels at Janet Nash House to guarantee high aesthetic detailing.

The panels were fitted by Installer, Topside, in between vertical and horizontal aluminium anodised fins to create a sheer façade, whilst giving a nod to the company’s core product range with the ‘coaxial’ pattern. The cladding panels were fixed between the fins with bespoke brackets utilising the curtain wall mullions as the primary structural point.

In contrast to the aluminium finish of the southern building, the northern block features large format porcelain panels, which are fitted throughout as a reference to the traditional use of ceramics as an electrical insulation material. The building includes cellular spaces, specialist workplaces and breakout areas.

The southern wing featuring Proteus HR Euromax AluNatur structures and the northern block are connected by a two storey, glazed atrium with interactive breakout spaces and enhanced amenities for all employees, including a café, tea points and games area.

Judges at the North East RIBA Regional Award 2019 summed up the development, constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine, when they said: “The building has a strong sense of identity and purpose.”

 

To find out more about Proteus Façade’s wide range of pre-coated aluminium façade materials or for more inspirational projects, visit: www.proteusfacades.com

The benefits of modular construction have been widely discussed with advocates including the government now recognising its potential to address the UK’s challenges in terms of both housing capacity and skills shortages. However, the growth and benefits of modular off-site construction are equally at home in student housing and commercial developments such as hotels and high-rise buildings.

The opportunities and benefits delivered by modular construction projects may range from significant reductions in programme length, waste and cost, whilst another major factor is the ability to achieve higher levels of quality control in the process.

From design through to construction and completion what is absolutely essential is that the selection of materials and products used within off-site projects is not compromised, ensuring performance is assured during the build process and throughout the lifetime of the building.

Helping to achieve this are some of the most technically advanced construction membranes available. The A. Proctor Group Ltd has been developing vapour permeable membranes and vapour control layers for over 25 years, and provides an extensive range of superior high-performance products suitable for modular and off-site construction.

The move to tighten building regulations

With the increased spotlight and focus on building regulations and the suitability of materials specified for use within external cladding, the correct selection and application of materials are at their most critical.

Following the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and subsequent Interim Report by Dame Judith Hackitt, the Government has introduced an amendment to the Approved Document B: Fire safety, which has a significant impact on the design and construction of buildings above 18 metres. Published in November 2018, the new regulations came into force on 21 December 2018. Guidance on how external walls can meet the Building Regulations requirement for resisting fire spread is set out in Approved Document B.

Changes to materials and workmanship

Regulation 7 of the Building Regulations relates to materials and workmanship and reads as follows:

  1. (1) Building work shall be carried out-

(a) with adequate and proper materials which-

(i) are appropriate for the circumstances in which they are used,

(ii) are adequately mixed or prepared, and

(iii) are applied, used or fixed so as adequately to perform the functions for which they are

designed; and

(b) in a workmanlike manner.

(2) Subject to paragraph (3), building work shall be carried out so that materials which become part of an external wall, or specified attachment, of a relevant building, are of European Classification A2-s1, d0 or Class A1, classified in accordance with BS EN 13501-1:2007+A1:2009 entitled “Fire classification of construction products and building elements. Classification using test data from reaction to fire tests” (ISBN 978 0 580 59861 6) published by the British Standards Institution on 30th March 2007 and amended in November 2009.

Changes on the use of membranes within external wall construction

It is important to note that with specific reference to membranes the Regulation provides a critical exemption and further clarification is found within Regulation 7, as stated below:

12.14 Particular attention is drawn to the following points.

  1. Membranes used as part of the external wall construction should achieve a minimum classification of European Class B-s3, d0.

In summary, the amendment stipulates significant changes to which membranes can now be used and limits these to a rating of Class B,s3,d0.

It is crucial that all those involved in the construction of highrise modular construction fully understand the implications of this amendment in the wider context of building safety and protection. Critically designers should note that some European membrane products whilst quoting A2 ratings do not breathe sufficiently to comply with BS5250, meaning the use of these membranes in the UK climate could make the building unhealthy and result in a much greater risk of condensation issues and mould growth.

The complexity of manufacturing a non-combustible membrane which is still breathable to BS5250 standard is extremely difficult to achieve. In selecting a membrane it is important that performance is not compromised and that compliance meets the requirements of both Approved Document B: Fire Safety and BS5250 the Code of Practice for Condensation Control.

High-performance membranes – air tightness: Wraptite

An example of a high-performance membrane in practice is the Wraptite air barrier system. Wraptite offers a safer and simplified membrane system, conforms with the required Class B rating, and it provides a fully self-adhered vapour permeable air barrier certified by the BBA and combines the important properties of vapour permeability and airtightness in one self-adhering membrane. The membrane bonds back to the substrate, ensuring a simplified design to airtightness and simple installation method.

System benefits

  • Complies with use on buildings of high rise and over 18m under Part B amendments made in November 2018, Membranes need to be Class B,s3,d0 or better, with Wraptite classified as Class B,s1,d0 when used over a Class A1 or A2 substrate.
  • Included within BS8414 testing with cladding manufacturers.
  • EPDM not needed to the frame of the building as the self-adhesive membrane continues across the whole envelope of the building against the sheathing board and the frame of the building.
  • Less EPDM around window details due to the membrane lapping into the building at junctions.
  • Corner detailing for opening and movement joint interfaces are easily treated.
  • Improved airtightness and may negate the use of a VCL totally from the design internally, meaning easier a quicker install of dry lining package.
  • Hygrothermal Modelling will identify whether the construction requires a VCL or not. In some instances, the use of this self-adhesive without a VCL may be the most efficient option.
  • Improving airtightness may allow you to change thickness or type of insulation used when modelled through SAP or SBEM.
  • No need to tape sheathing boards as the membrane is positioned across the whole board.
  • By using this membrane on the external may show improvement on making the building watertight, allowing the cladding package to come off the critical path and internal works to start earlier, and also internal works may not be installing a VCL so the site program is potentially quicker.

High-performance membranes – fire protection: Fireshield

The culmination of years of research into membranes has led to the development of a vapour permeable membrane with a fireproof surface, which has a unique intumescent composition that actively reacts to prevent fire taking hold and that also significantly reduces the formation of droplets and smoke.

Crucially the new membrane fully complies with BS5250, BS4016 and NHBC requirements for vapour permeable walling underlays. Having succeeded in overcoming the complexity of creating a non-combustible, yet vapour permeable membrane, Fireshield has also been able to meet long term 5000hr UV ageing. This allows the membrane to be used in open jointed rainscreen and cladding applications.

The installation procedure is the same as for standard breather membranes, with the membrane fixed to the substrate using mechanical fixings. Applications include both commercial and residential buildings including apartments and student accommodation, as well as Rainscreen cladding and applications over 18m high.

System benefits

  • Fireproof surface – unique intumescent composition actively reacts to prevent fire taking hold
  • Vapour permeable walling underlay for use either directly onto sheathing or insulation
  • Class B, s1-d0 but performs differently to other similar class products
  • Complies with BS5250, BS4016 & NHBC requirements for vapour permeable walling underlays
  • Ideal for use in rainscreen/façade construction
  • Suitable for applications over 18m high
  • Long term UV exposure suitable for open joint facades
  • Airtight

Spacetherm A2

Spacetherm A2 is a flexible, high-performance, silica aerogel-based insulation material of limited combustibility suitable for use in exterior and interior applications. Supplied in a variety of finishes, the substantial layers of Spacetherm A2 meet the requirements for A2 classification (insulation, MgO and plasterboard).

The product optimises both the thermal performance and fire properties of façade systems, enhancing the thermal performance of the ventilated façade and addressing thermal bridging in the façade. It is also useful in minimising thermal bridges around windows in areas such as window reveals.

With a thermal conductivity of 0.019 W/mK, Spacetherm A2’s performance credentials qualify it as one of the best Class A2 insulations materials available worldwide. Engineered for space-critical applications, the product offers low thermal conductivity, superior compression strength, plus breathability allied to hydrophobic characteristics.

System benefits

  • Class leading fire performance from an Aerogel insulation
  • Superior thermal performance
  • Limited combustibility
  • Water vapour diffusion open
  • Permeable
  • Flexible
  • Thinnest Aerogel insulation available

www.proctorgroup.com