University of Birmingham School

Architect: Associated Architects
Fabricator/Installer: MB Glass
Main Contractor: Willmott Dixon

When Associated Architects was developing the design for University of Birmingham School, particular attention was paid to achieving the highest quality materials. As the world’s leading independent producer of aluminium profiles, Sapa Building Systems was able to meet the performance demands of the project cost effectively; and its Dualframe Si Casement windowsElegance 52 ST curtain walling and STII commercial doors were specified throughout.

The school is the first academy free secondary school to be aligned to a specific university. The University of Birmingham School is a new model of education, bringing together the best of university research and teaching with best practice in secondary education.

The school’s success was supported by the university’s estates team and the school’s preopening team working closely together alongside Alexandra Parish, Interim Director of Operations for the school. Site manager David Nicholls, of Willmott Dixon, Dean Sherwood, Project Consultant at Sapa Building Systems and Alex Paul from Associated Architects also worked together to ensure a high standard of building design to complement the equally high quality teaching methods. As a result, the school is being used as a template for best practice since its opening in September 2015.

Alex Paul specified Sapa’s Dualframe Si Casement windows, in a special 2100mm high module to achieve the required available air flow and light transmission. This is the ideal solution for education, healthcare or commercial applications. Casement windows combine good ventilation performance with practical features, such as easy operation and large span openings (with separate safety restrictors), all whilst being very cost effective. The window profiles used achieved a BRE “Green Guide A Rating” and include an advanced polyamide thermal break technology to ensure high thermal performance, without the need for costly triple glazed sealed units.

The Dualframe Si windows are not just a practical solution, they are a popular choice from a design perspective, too. With a choice of outerframe profile depths, concealed hinges within the frame and dual colour finish options, there is no issue with colour matching or unsightly plaster lines; the flush vents and flat profiles combine to create a simple and streamlined appearance. When the customer wants to make the most out of a stunning view, the slim sightline allow for a maximised viewing area, whilst high quality glazing ensures the u-value of the window is not compromised.

The project also took advantage of the newly-launched Sapa Stormframe STII thermally broken commercial door. This new offering achieves improved robustness with it’s 65mm thick door leaf along with increased thermal performance by incorporating the same polyamide thermal break technology as seen in Sapa’s range of windows. Also, as the maximum door leaf height has been increased to 3000mm (subject to maximum weight restrictions), the new STII door gives greater design flexibility for architects and clients alike.

The simplified manufacture of the doors means there is no additional tooling or training required for those already trained for the original Stormframe ST door system. This helps the fabricator to avoid extra costs if their workforce has already worked with previous products.

To deliver more natural light, Sapa provided its Elegance 52ST curtain walling and sloped glazing system in order to produce roof lights over the atrium roof. The Elegance E52 systems are designed with weather performance, thermal insulation and ease of fabrication and installation in mind. This makes them a fantastic option for creating a comfortable educational environment.

Dean Sherwood, Project Consultant at Sapa, commented on his involvement with the project, saying, “With pupils and teachers in mind, it was important to achieve robust safe operation and the anti finger trap stiles and stronger profiles do this whilst maintaining elegant design. Also, the STII commercial door product is available tested to PAS024 security standard. Similarly, our doors allow for ease of passage thanks to the DDA compliant adjustable power door closers. It was great to see a new product of ours fit the objectives of the project so well.”

Giving his reasons for specifying Sapa products, Alex Paul of Associated Architects LLP, said, “The considerations of any school design will emphasise on cost control balanced against the aspiration to achieve the highest quality possible. We specified Sapa to achieve this and have been pleased with the quality service, general support and the standard of its windows and doors. We would be happy to specify them again and have done so on a number of projects since.”