The major façade renovation at the University of Birmingham involves a building constructed in 1966 designed by Sir Philip Dowson of Arup Associates. The building became a “listed” building (of special historical interest) in 1993. The facility consists of four very similar three-story blocks that are interconnected at the corners. The building’s historic designation required that the refurbishment be conducted to maintain the original aesthetics of this unusual structure.
Protecting aesthetics, improving thermal efficiency
In line with requirements, the new building façade was required to be aesthetically very similar to the original, which was singularly glazed and included a distinctive lead feature. However, with the need to increase solar gain and reduce heat loss, a goal of decreasing the existing thermal transmittance or U-value of the glazing was also of paramount importance. Specialist curtain walling contractor Parry Bowen was tasked with replicating this façade with a system that meets the project-specific criteria and increases the thermal insulation—a considerable task given the prevailing space constraints.
Addressing the challenge with a custom curtain wall
The design features a unitized curtain walling system incorporating FW50 profiles manufactured by Schuco UK Limited.
Increased insulation is achieved in two ways. First, the single glazing was replaced with vision and spandrel dual-sealed insulating glass units. The vision units were manufactured using 6mm thick vision Sunguard super neutral 51 toughened glass on the outer pane, with a 20mm argon filled cavity with black spacer and a 6mm clear inner toughened glass pane. The spandrel glass unit components are similarly configured, but consist of a 6mm-toughened clear outer glass treated with a color-matched ceramic coating. The vision glass has a U-value of 1.1 and the spandrel glass has a U-value of 0.239. Dow Corning 993 Sealant was selected for use as a secondary seal on all insulating glass units and for bonding the outer pane to the spacer bar, thereby transferring the dynamic load back to the frame.
Secondly, insulating glass manufacturer Crystal Units Ltd proposed the installation of high efficiency Dow Corning Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIP) in between the glass panes in the spandrel units. The spandrel panels are installed in areas where total concealment of the internal structure is required to hide existing services and floor slabs. VIP is a recent innovation and provides an ideal solution given the severe space restrictions. Only 18mm thick, the panels achieve an expected 0.239 U-value W/m2-K. A recent thermographic inspection of the site has helped to confirm that they are working well, with significantly reduced heat loss recorded through the glass and seals.
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