One day a used car sales lot…14 weeks later a five storey student accommodation block
Steve Hardy from offsite fenestration specialists Sidey tells us about the role they played in helping to bring an outstanding development to life.
“I know as a company we like a challenge – and to be fair our reputation in the offsite market is based upon us being able to come up with unique innovative solutions – but this one was a really big ask”.
“Our traditional offsite installation of windows had been into timber frame and SIPS type arrangements, but in this case the architect wanted a Light Gauge Steel system to be used for the super structure of their five storey student accommodation block at Selly Oak, Birmingham. We had not pre-installed windows using our KitFix ™ system into steel before, but all parties in the supply chain recognised that fitting the windows offsite was critical for this scheme in terms of the practical delivery, the thermal and the acoustic performance”.
“The site of the proposed 66 bed unit student accommodation block was previously a used car sales lot, it was near to a fire station where un-restricted access was obviously non negotiable, and it was adjacent to civic amenities and public seating areas. It was a logistical nightmare for deliveries and storage – almost a classic scenario for the use of offsite manufacturing you might say”.
“The logistics were only half the challenge – what the client required in terms of specification for the windows was the other half. They wanted to use a double dry lining system internally which meant we had to use a bespoke extra thick outer frame, whilst at the same time retaining the maximum amount of natural light possible. Externally we were required to source a non standard acrylic foil to a colour which would be complementary to the remainder of the facades, whilst the final challenge was to deliver differing acoustic values depending upon which side of the building the frames were to be fitted into”.
“It has proven to be a great ‘case study’ of what can be achieved when parties in the design and supply teams are all focussed in the same direction. Working with Fusion Building Systems the suppliers of the light gauge steel structure we agreed new junction and interface details which would ensure we could install a factory installed breathable air-tightness membrane between the windows and the structure whilst installing the fenestration in factory conditions in circa three minutes per frame”.
“By using our patented sliding bracketry system to install the windows flush into the panels for commissioning on site later and by coating the glazing with our Scratchguard ™ protection system to avoid transport or site damage to the expensive acoustically rated sealed units we knew we could help to positively influence the cost predictability of our element of the works. We also knew that with the windows being installed in controlled factory conditions that they would perform ‘as built’ as they were designed to do on paper”.
“Being able to install the windows in factory conditions had a significant impact on the site itself – no window frame deliveries, no storage or manual handling requirements, no health and safety risk as a consequence – and no risk to completion times or unexpected costs.”
“The lessons and the benefits of installing windows offsite are many, and the fact that we were able to do it into a light gauge steel system was a great breakthrough as this kind of panel structure becomes more popular with architects and clients looking to complete developments in tight urban locations. The cost benefits are also significant. Installing windows in a factory changes the whole cost dynamic completely from a price per window to install to a cost per hour – and with the average time to install a window being just three minutes the figures speak for themselves, especially over developments such as this one for 66 units”.
“The development is now recognised as being one of the most desirable student living blocks in the area; it has many unique features only deliverable because of the offsite manufacturing construction methodology used, and it is a site which meets not only the client’s wishes, but also the needs of the university and the local area. We are delighted to have been involved with it, and it really is the perfect case study for others faced with similar challenges”.