Saturday26 July 2014

Warwick Clinical Trials Unit by MJP Architects

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This building for Warwick University uses composite timber curtain walling to improve energy performance and create an elegant facade

Architect MJP Architects
Location Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick
Completed 2009

Warwick Medical School may be some distance from the main university campus, but this lack of proximity didn’t deter the school from commissioning a showpiece new building that raises the bar in terms of its energy performance.

Key to achieving this goal was the building’s double-glazed, composite timber curtain walling system by the German company Lang Fenster. This not only achieved very good air-tightness but also created a restrained and elegant facade.

The naturally ventilated £4.25 million Clinical Trials Unit by MJP Architects lies south of the main campus on Gibbet Hill, replacing an Estates Department building, although it retains a communication hub, part of the original complex, which MJP has reclad and re-roofed.

The 1,745sq m rectangular building is two storeys with plant room above. It provides office space for 75 of the medical school’s academics, researchers, programmers, statisticians and administrative support staff.

Constructed from an exposed steel frame, the building incorporates an 18m-long central atrium used as a break-out space from the cellular offices that run along the long sections on either side of the building. The building is bookended with circulation space at the north and south ends and a bridge link attached to one end of the clinical trials unit connects it to the rest of the medical school.

This is the third building MJP has designed for Warwick University, the others being a modular children’s nursery and the refurbished and extended Student Union building. MJP has been able to secure these commissions as a result of the good relationship it has developed with the Estates Department since it prepared a masterplan for the 290ha campus a few years ago.

Curtain Walling

MJP Architects expected a lot from the curtain walling system it specified for the Clinical Trials Unit. It not only had to perform well but also achieve good air-tightness.
MJP associate Russell Clayton says the practice had wanted to use a curtain walling system by Seufert-Niklaus. However, due to a previous communication breakdown between the UK installers and the German manufacturer, Seufert-Niklaus would not supply their product to the UK.

MJP then discovered Lang Fenster, which produces a similar quality curtain walling system, costing in the order of £450 per sq m. It features a timber-laminated frame with an aluminium clamp and pressure plate, opening vents and fixed panels.

The stick cladding system incorporates 24mm-thick double-glazed units (6mm glass, 12mm high performance spacer, 6mm glass), the external glazed skin is solar-controlled to reduce solar gain and the double-glazed unit is krypton-filled to enhance its thermal performance. The 200mm by 50mm mullion-transom is made from finger-jointed lacquered larch, and the transom stands 800mm from floor level. The vertical cover cap is naturally anodised, the transom cover cap is in pale umber and the mullions appear at 1,200mm centres.

Each bay includes a bottom section of glass with an 800mm top-hung opening-out window. Above this is a 360mm inward-opening louvre screen with integral insect mesh, for overnight purge ventilation. Next is a 775mm-high level-fixed light, with glass bonded over the face of the frame. A bespoke 6m-long brise soleil by Levolux is fixed to the front of the building. The extruded aluminium fins are fixed back to the structure using stainless steel brackets and angled by 45 degrees. All solid sections of the elevations are clad with Saint Gobain’s Emalit Evolution - a 100% coloured frit, which changes depending on the weather.

The building is Breeam Excellent-rated and has been awarded an A rating in accordance with the Energy Performance Certificate. Its predicted carbon emissions are 40.68 kg CO2/sq m/annum and its air-tightness is twice that required by regulations.


Client Warwick University, Structural engineer Arup, Building services engineer CPW, Contractor Kier Moss, Zinc roof Rheinzinc, Rooflights Vitral, Brise soleil Levolux, Anodized aluminium rainscreen PSP, Timber composite curtain walling Lang Fenster, Externally insulated render Sto, Green roofs Flag

Original print headline - Warwick Clinical Trials Unit


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