Student Union Centre, Bath

Project: Student Union Centre, Bath

Curtain walling and sloped glazing from leading architectural aluminium systems supplier Kawneer were specified for a refurbishment of and extension to the Student Union centre at the University of Bath with “sustainability, cost and maintenance implications in mind”.

Kawneer’s AA®110 curtain walling with 65mm sightlines and AA®100 with 50mm sightlines, complemented by sloped glazing on the roof, was installed by specialist contractor Aluminium Sashes for main contractor Britannia Construction. Design by architects Stubbs Rich, planning consent and construction was achieved in just 11 months.

The £5million project over 2,500m² comprised the construction and fit-out in seven months of a two-storey steel frame extension and link to the existing centre which was refurbished, as well as the controlled removal of asbestos and remediation of steel works to the under deck of the building which is the main access to the university.

The work was necessary because although the main campus masterplan was designed and built in the 1960s, with various extensions and alterations appearing over the following years, the hub of the university, the centre of the campus from a student perspective, had not increased in size nor had its facilities noticeably improved.

The brief to Stubbs Rich, who have used Kawneer systems many times before on a wide variety of schemes, was to provide increased, contemporary and engaging space at the heart of the university.

Architect Andy Battle said: “We generally prepare performance specifications, setting out the criteria that the curtain walling or roof glazing must achieve. The Kawneer systems were able to meet this specification, being flexible enough to provide the necessary environmental performance, mullion size, and capped and cap-less external appearance, while accommodating the large glazing pane sized required.

“Selection of building materials is an important decision in all projects and all material choices were made with sustainability, cost and maintenance implications in mind.”

He added: “The curtain walling plays a fundamental part in the overall aesthetic and performance of the building. The primary elevation welcomes people on arrival to the university so it was key that the elevation provided a distinctive and contemporary response to the campus aesthetic.

“The glazing also helps to blur the distinction between internal and external space, meaning the student centre feels integrated with the main pedestrianised parade which forms the spine of the university masterplan. From a more functional perspective, the glazing to both the curtain walling and rooflight provides the maximum gains of natural light into what is a very deep plan building.”

The Kawneer curtain walling is complemented on the upper storey of the new-build extension by vertical glass fins that are lit by LEDs at night to dramatic effect.

Andy Battle added: “The scheme is the product of excellent collaboration between all the members of the design team in delivering a complicated building on time and on budget. The client is delighted with the overall scheme and feels the aesthetic of the building is perfect for its location.”