Bespoke fenestration plays key part in restoration of iconic architectural landmark

Latest News Tue, Mar 22, 2016 4:55 PM

Bespoke fenestration plays key part in restoration of iconic architectural landmark

The life of an iconic listed university building has been extended for future generations of students with innovative new window systems playing a key part in the restoration.

Fenestration is the major component of the facade of the Arts Tower at Sheffield University, a Grade 2* listed building which recently underwent a major refurbishment programme. Market leaders Sapa Building Systems were able to provide a bespoke system to meet the demands of English Heritage.

"The entire building envelope was replaced by sliding windows from Sapa's new Dualside Vertical Sliding Window range," said Jon Palethorpe, Sapa Building Systems Commercial Director. The range is noted for its high weather rating which was an important part in the design brief.

A prime example of post war modernist architecture, the Arts Tower has stood as a prominent landmark on the Sheffield skyline since it was erected in 1965, described by English Heritage as "the most elegant university tower block in Britain of its period."

The School of Architecture occupies the top floors and one its famous alumnis is John Allan of Avanti Architects, rated by many as the most respected expert nationally on the conservation of modernist buildings.

At 78 m (255 ft) the Tower is currently the tallest building in Sheffield, and the tallest university building in the UK, noted for its aluminium framed facade and repetitive glass panels. Time had taken its toll however, as the 20 storey building facade had been lashed by wind, rain and variable temperatures over the past 45 years.

The challenge was to turn the Arts Tower into a modern, efficient academic facility while preserving its authenticity.

The first phase was the restoration of the facade, perhaps the most important element as the key requirement was to replicate the visual appearance in line with the original iconic post-modern architecture as well as improving thermal insulation and weather performance. The design brief issued by Main Contractor BAM Construction UK included 1,700 vertical sliding windows, fixed to the concrete structure and providing minimal sightlines to make the most of dramatic views across the city from the upper floors.

Sapa Building Systems worked closely on the project with leading building facades expert Parry Bowen. The two companies have enjoyed a successful relationship spanning 22 years, solving design and technical detailing on both major new build and refurbishment projects.

For the Sheffield Arts Tower project, Sapa supplied their new Dualside Vertical Sliding Window, with the design teams from both Sapa and Parry Bowen working jointly on further developments to provide the client with a bespoke solution to the demands of this very exposed Grade 2* listed building.

"We were given a very precise design brief, as to be expected when putting together a scheme on a Grade 2* listed building," said Josh Bowen, Managing Director of Parry Bowen. "We had to closely replicate the sightlines of the original windows, provide beaded vertical sliding windows for easy glass replacement and meet high weather and thermal value performance. Sapa Dualslide met all those requirements and both Sapa's and Parry Bowen's design teams worked closely together to bespoke the standard window system, with new sections. We have had a trading relationship with Sapa for over 20 years and have always found them to be extremely supportive when tackling complex contracts."

A quality anodised finish and slim sight lines - essential for English Heritage's requirements - were other supporting factors in the choice to use Sapa and a comprehensive testing programme on the windows proved the experts at Sapa had indeed come up trumps. Another key in the quality controls required was Sapa's ability to design, extrude and anodize 'in-house'.

Air permeability, water tightness and wind resistance tests all produced remarkable results for a window configuration that is normally susceptible to leaks and draughts.

"The Sapa Dualslide window system has enabled us to bring an iconic 1960s building into the 21st century," said Parry Bowen's Project Manager Paul Casterton. "The integration of the Sapa window system with a number of bespoke extrusions satisfied the requirement to match the original facade. More importantly, it also provided the required performance to comply with the latest building regulations."

For further information contact Sapa Building Systems Ltd, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, tel 01684 853 500; email website

In association with Sapa Building Systems Ltd

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