Conserving our historic academic buildings

A British education is still highly esteemed in the 21st Century and the UK is home to some of the most famous schools and universities in the world.

But the appeal is not just the superior teaching on offer among the hallowed spires of the country’s universities, schools, and colleges. For many it is the centuries old architecture that houses these academic establishments with its promises of strength, stability, and lofty ambition.

A vast number of academic buildings are listed.  Restoring these buildings to their original splendour, updating them to meet the requirements of modern students or simply maintaining them for the benefit of future generations brings a number of challenges.

One particular task is how to repair and update the windows, so often referred to as the eyes of the building and thus arguably their most prominent feature.  Steel windows are often specified for these sensitive restoration projects due to their inherent strength and stunning good looks.  The versatility of steel as a material means that the often complex design of the original windows can be accurately replicated and new steel windows provide added security and modern thermal performance.

Clement are proud to have worked on a number of conservation projects involving academic buildings.  Below are some of our favourite examples.

The University of Manchester

This project involved three late 19th century Victorian buildings, The Beyer Building, the John Owens Building and The Christie Library.  All three buildings are listed and have significant historical importance both regionally and nationally which is why specifying the appropriate window suite was incredibly important.

The Beyer Building opened in 1997 to house geology, zoology, and botany facilities and was named in memory of Charles Beyer, a German-born engineer and major donor to Owens College, which later became the University of Manchester.  The Gothic style John Owens Building was designed by local architect, Alfred Waterhouse, who in 1868 had won the competition to design a new Town Hall for Manchester and who later drew up plans for the Natural History Museum in London.  And the Christie Library, built in 1895-8, was the gift of Richard Copley Christie, historian, bibliophile, lawyer and executor of the industrialist, Joseph Whitworth.

The Clement W20 range of windows was used throughout and its flexibility meant that each window could be tailored to the character of each individual building.  The windows were finished with a matt cream polyester powder coat paint to blend seamlessly with the existing architecture and also benefitted from 16 mm double glazed units.

King’s College, Cambridge

The remarkable Market Hostel, which occupies a position on the edge of Market Square in Cambridge, dates back in parts over 400 years.  Again, the particular challenge of this project was to bring together three different buildings dating from the seventeenth century to the 1960s, creating new accommodation for students at King’s College, Cambridge University.

This time Clement’s versatile EB24 steel window range was selected, meaning one suite of windows could be used for the project in two completely different styles.  EB24 with clear glass, single point locking, and top hung vents was specified for the more recent parts of the building, whereas EB24 with genuine steel T-bars was specified to replicate the original design of the windows in the most ancient parts of the building.  As security was paramount, multi-point locking was added in exposed areas for enhanced security.

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

Gonville and Caius is the fourth oldest college at the University of Cambridge and is renowned worldwide for its educational achievements and notable alumni.

Clement’s EB24 range was specified to provide modern steel window replicas which delivered modern performance for the St Michael’s Court building, a Grade II building situated within the Cambridge Conservation Area.  The bespoke windows provide double glazing and a polyester powder coat paint finish to reduce heat and maintenance costs, while single point locking and opening restrictors provide the safety and security crucial to student accommodation.

Virgo Fidelis Convent School

Virgo Fidelis Convent School was founded in 1848 to offer a place of refuge and education to Catholic orphans.  Previously this stunning building was known as Norwood House, the residence of socialite Mary Nesbitt who welcomed King George III as a guest.

The beautiful Gothic style, club head windows with feature tear drops are a particular feature of the building.  The original single glazed windows were made from cast iron, and offered very poor thermal performance and minimal security.  A window system was required that could not only replicate the original design but would also meet modern performance criteria such as being Part L compliant and Clement’s EB24 range met these requirements.

Much care went into the formation of the new intricate window patterns.  The glass used not only had to replicate the existing complex templates but also had to be thermally efficient.  In order to achieve this, 24 mm double glazed units were used for the majority of the replacement windows.  Silicone fronting was selected to replicate the putty fronting of the original windows.

Removing the original cast iron windows and fitting the new windows was particularly challenging.  Due to the nature of the original casting process, every window frame was exactly the same size as they had all been made from the same mould.  When the original windows were installed the stone surrounds were close fitted around them meaning every window had to be cut out and removed piece by piece so as not to damage any of the original façade.

Henley College

Unlike the Victorian originals, the new windows were dual colour – white on the inside to match the interior décor and anthracite grey on the outside, skilfully creating the illusion of a less visible frame.  That the stunning shaped windows could be fitted direct to stone was an added benefit of the range.Henley College, a sixth form college in Oxfordshire built in the Victorian Gothic style, featured original white steel windows which after 150 years of use were no longer fit for purpose.  Clement’s EB24 range of windows was chosen for one of the college’s sites, Rotherfield, due to its elegant appearance, security, great energy performance and ability to be moulded into beautiful patterns to match the existing windows.

Framlingham College

Framlingham  College was founded in 1864 in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.  The land on which the college was built was originally part of the Castle estate, left by Sir Thomas Hitcham in 1636 to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge.

Included in the Governors’ £4million development initiative was the restoration of the original metal windows within the school’s boarding accommodation. Clement’s W20 range of steel windows was selected to replace the windows in both the Stradbrook and Rendlesham buildings.  To replicate the unusually shaped head original windows, W20 with vertical pivots and genuine T glazing bars was specified.  Once again, the new windows had to be fitted directly to the beautiful, old stonework.

Clement manufacture an innovative range of steel windows, doors, and screens for both private residences and commercial projects.  We provide a complete service – from the provision of technical drawings through to manufacture, installation and after sales support – whatever the project.  We work closely with architects, Conservation Officers, and other building professionals to produce window designs which are visually stunning and offer high technical performance, whilst respecting the important heritage and conservation objectives.  We also manufacture a selection of conservation rooflights, available from stock in either a tile or a slate profile.

There are currently no comments for this article.

Login to comment. slider