Robbens underfloor heating is providing a controlled internal environment for one of London's most exciting conversion projects.

A young team headed by Richard Scott and Andy Macfee at Surface Architects has refurbished and extended a derelict Lock Keeper's Cottage on the banks of the Regent’s Canal, in an imaginative scheme that has won praise - and stirred controversy.

It’s a design which hinges on the attraction of opposites – traditional and modern in practical harmony. The early Victorian Cottage and the sharp angles of the extension block have been forged into a unique building that now serves as a Graduate Centre for Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Campus.

The project was commended in the Waterways Renaissance Awards 2006 and has won a regional RIBA Award.


Inside the cottage, postgraduates in Humanities and Social Sciences have access to a meeting room and workstations. A "bridge" link gives access to the new extension, which wraps the older structure on the northern and western sides.

Those wishing to use the study facilities in the extension can also gain entrance through the new section's own double height foyer. A disabled access hoist is provided to serve both parts of the building.

The Surface Architects’ team was keen that there should be no visual clutter in the form of radiators in the extension. A Robbens underfloor heating combines efficient heating with discreet invisibility - and permits maximum use of internal space.

A concrete floor construction was used. During installation, loops of Robbens’ multi-layer pipework were fixed in position on the floor insulation material with the loop ends connected to discreetly located manifolds. The manifolds are connected in turn by flow and return services to the boiler on the ground floor (see

After pressure testing, a sand and cement screed was poured to integrate the heating system into the floor structure and provide a smooth, even surface for the final floor finishes.

The concealed system is completely safe and tamper-proof. Easy access is provided to all areas and all of the wall space is available for use.

Because the heating effect of the Robbens system is radiated from the floor upwards, cost-efficient comfort is ensured in all areas of the new extension - including the double height foyer.

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