STUDENT ACCOMODATION, CROWN PLACE, LIVERPOOL, UK
A concrete frame super-structure with GRC (glassfibre reinforced concrete) façade elements
Crown Place in Liverpool is a range of striking new build residential apartments that will become ‘home from home’ to more than 1,200 students every year. The scheme is at the heart of the University of Liverpool’s campus and the three new accommodation blocks have been erected on the site of the old veterinary school at the junction of Brownlow Hill and Grove Street.
The three buildings constitute the university’s ‘single largest project to date’ and have been constructed employing a concrete frame super-structure and a mixture of brickwork, glass curtain walling and GRC (glass reinforced concrete) façade elements.
From the very outset the University were aware that a viable and attractive solution to the aesthetic and performance demands presented by this ambitious project could include Grade 18 GRC cladding.
GRCA Member GB Architectural Cladding offered their experience and expertise
With this in mind, and in the very early process of designing and procuring construction support, ULCCO Special Projects Ltd asked architects Lewis and Hickey Ltd to meet with GRCA Member GB Architectural Cladding Products. They wanted to further investigate the potential of GRC cladding, with particular regards to the main white external cladding panels. The design intent also called for orange and grey feature panels to be included.
Andrew Garside, the managing director of GB Architectural, said: “The design intent for the project naturally led itself toward GRC and we were delighted to be called in at an early stage to offer our insight and experience. This meant that our team was able to comprehensively communicate the potential benefits of GRC such as panel sizes, weight, methods of restraint, durability of the product as well as providing budget costs and advice as to how the project might further benefit from cost and practical perspectives.”
GRC enables architects to highlight special features
Further meetings over the months that followed not only covered the initial panels and design principles but also how GBA might develop the tones and finishes of the special feature panels. Along the way, the GBA team inspired increasing confidence in the use of GRC among the designers, builders, the University board as well as the local planning authority.
The Crown Place scheme called for one building to have ground floor retail units, a large social space for interaction with a games room and laundry facilities. A second building includes an undercroft car park while the third building is solely for accommodation.
During July 2013, after the tender process was complete, GB Architectural was awarded the contract to design and manufacture the GRC panels and related stainless steel restraints.
GBA’s Kevin Heaton, technical director says: “This particular project required significant front end commitment, ranging from designing and testing the panels, to creating a GRC product, means of restraint and install that would completely satisfy everybody involved in the project. Fortunately, one of our key strengths as a business is that, over the years, we understand exactly what the entire process demands as we have acquired an unrivalled amount of priceless knowledge about the potential for GRC products.”
GB Cladding deliver quality on time
The installation period for the Crown Place student accommodation was from late October 2013 through to March 2014 which meant that the team at GB Architectural had to begin manufacturing the panels during the first week of August. Starting the manufacturing process in advance guarantees that when the installation begins there are plenty of the correct panels ready for the work to begin and no-one is waiting around for deliveries. This commitment meant that 4,000 square metres of GRC panels had to be carefully scheduled in the production process and then delivered on site in sequence and on time.
Kevin explains: “For this particular project and with the timescales involved, the installers were planning to install 1,000 square metres of GRC panels per month which meant that we needed 2,500 square metres of all combined panel types ready on day one. There’s no doubt that when installers begin work, the product goes quickly and we need to be geared up for that process – this is another area which we recognise and have a proven track record in accommodating.”
David Harding, Senior Contracts Manager, ULCCO Special Projects Ltd said: “After successfully completing our extensive prequalification vetting procedure, we were pleased to award our £1million-plus design and manufacture requirement for the GRC façade panels to GB Architectural. “Our conclusions were that this was an established company with a wealth of experience in the manufacturing of GRC products that had delivered a quality product on numerous construction projects. GB Architectural worked closely with ourselves and the design team throughout the build process and were very accommodating with the logistical challenges that required off site storage and delivery sequencing to assist the build programme. The finished product is an exact replica of the architect’s CGIs and plays a major part in the building’s elevational treatment.”
Liverpool’s Crown Place project is a success
The GB Architectural team view the completed Crown Place project with immense pride and conclude that: “This was a very enjoyable and rewarding project to work on, particularly as the University of Liverpool, having an open book in terms of product selection, had explored a wider variety of cladding mediums before concluding that GRC was for them.
“The people involved with the project were aware of GRC and its potential and in this particular application they felt that the product was right. We think the finished result speaks for itself – these are remarkable buildings and the special feature GRC panels really do engender both interest and huge prestige.”
Client: The University of Liverpool
Architect: Lewis and Hickey Ltd
Main Contractor: ULCCO Special Projects Ltd
Design Consultants: Smart Crosby International
GRC Manufacturer: GB Architectural Cladding Products Ltd
Year of Construction: 2014