London Road Student Accommodation
Brighton’s London Road is at the heart of a vibrant and historic area.
Built to house Brighton’s booming middle-classes in the early 1800s, it soon became a busy high street and by the 1930s department stores and supermarkets marked it as a major shopping destination.
After a slump in the 1980s the high street names vanished but the Georgian terraces are still there, and today residents buzz round a mishmash of independent shops, cafes and galleries.
While the locals take pride in London Road’s rebirth as a home to smaller retailers, they are also fiercely proud of the area’s grand heritage. The Abacus development met a strong reaction from traders and residents as well as planners with their plans to regenerate the site that included the old Co-Op - a once majestic building dating back to London Road’s golden age in the 1930's,
“Early designs sought to demolish the Co-Op entirely but that was rejected by heritage experts, and residents turned out to be fiercely protective of the building, so as a compromise it was agreed to retain the principle facade on London Road", explained Toby Lechler of the project’s lead architects O’Connell East (OEA):
“It was the right decision,” said Toby, “among all the independent shops it offers a unified facade that sweeps down London Road.”
The £15m project was built behind and alongside the front of the Co-Op building, extending beyond its original footprint to house 351 students and five retail units. Due to the building’s ‘locally listed’ status all external materials required Planning and Conservation Officer approval via a planning condition to ensure the quality and continuity of the retained facade.
Natural stone rainscreen cladding was selected for use at ground level. Toby Lechler describes how the stone facade product was selected, “We chose the facade early on because it uses a natural stone - as opposed to a manmade product - to both sympathise and complement the stone finish on the main Co-Op facade. Also we were going for a BREEAM excellent certification and it ticked the box on the A+ rating.
“Once we contacted Taylor Maxwell they reacted quickly: they brought a sizeable sample panel to the office; they were quick to provide standard details in CAD files which was crucial for us to be able to develop our own details; and they made themselves available to attend meetings.
“But the key thing was that they constructed a sample panel onsite for the planning and conservation officer: it was about 2m high, and incorporated key details complementing the design of the retained facade so the conservation officer could see how it would look. That was instrumental in gaining planning approval.”
Once planning consent was secured, Taylor Maxwell collaborated closely with the architects and other project partners on the details of the installation, as Toby Lechler reported:
“Part of the challenge of the stone cladding was that there were a variety of different sub-strates that the panels were being attached to: sometimes it was a blockwork wall, SIPs panels, sometimes it was part of the existing building. It had to be quite versatile to accommodate the various sub-strates that were there. It was really useful for us and the sub-contractor to be able to bounce ideas off the Taylor Maxwell reps when it came to fixing the panels to the various sub-strates.”
In contrast to the traditional facade on the ground floor, the upper floors have been enhanced with modern glass rainscreen panels in a range of blue shades. These vibrant panels of glass, provide added interest to the expanse of the upper facade and reflect the ever-changing skies surrounding the development.
The BBA certified glass faced rainscreen cladding system is manufactured from graded blown-glass granulate, which is mixed with a binder and pressed into a board format. The glass then has a mesh reinforcement applied to each side to give optimum strength and durability. Glass rainscreen is extremely hard-wearing, weather-resistant and up to 100% recyclable, with many benefits and design opportunities.
After all the preparations, comes the critical business at the end of the project. How did the installation work out in practice?
“The finished product looked fantastic: it worked well with the stone on the existing building and rejuvenated it. The sub-contractor executed the installation very well, they did a great job, and Taylor Maxwell worked closely with them.” reported Toby Lechler.
And he was equally happy with the overall service provided to O’Connell East Architects by Taylor Maxwell: “They were impressive - very helpful and ready to respond. Sometimes you have to chase suppliers, but Taylor Maxwell were very good at reacting fast. They were aware of the tight programme and made things happen quickly.”
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