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Finalist for Higher Education Architect of the Year Award 2023, Greenaway Architecture guides us through the specification challenges present at Alscot Road

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Designed by Greenaway Architecture, 78-79 Alscot Road is a seven-storey student housing scheme in Southwark, London

The judges for this year’s AYAs were impressed with Greenaway Architecture’s body of work, as the practice was named a finalist for Higher Education Architect of the Year (sponsored by Carlisle). 

In this series, we take a look at one of the team’s entry projects and ask the firm’s director, Duncan Greenaway, to break down some of the biggest specification challenges that needed to be overcome.

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The scheme, which included public realm works, creates a new active frontage, a wide pedestrianised public open space and a positive relationship with the park opposite

What were the biggest specification challenges on the project?

One of the greatest specification challenges on the project was the exposed in situ cast concrete slab edges. Several elements required careful consideration regarding the concrete slabs, including the thermal break between the exposed edge and the internal floor slab, the quality of the finish (not too rough nor too smooth) and the concertinaed brick walls, and therefore thermal line, between the floor slabs.

Another challenge was achieving all of the performance requirements on a tight budget.

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The architectural language of the building is a response to the diverse fabric of Bermondsey

What were the key requirements of the client’s brief? How did you meet these both through design and specification?

The challenge of the client’s brief was to find a way of achieving planning for over 140 generous and light student bedrooms on the site. We achieved this by welcoming the stipulation from the Southwark planners that they would only permit such a density on site (a seven-storey plus basement building) if they deemed the design to be exceptional.

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The development was built by HG Construction for Alumno Group to provide 143 bed spaces with a mix of studios and ensuite bedrooms set around cluster apartments

What are the three biggest specification considerations on the project type? How did these specifically apply to your project?

Being student housing, the finish needs to be robust to maintain the building’s appearance through the years and reduce the need for annual redecoration. The exposed concrete helped to meet these needs by being appropriately tough, as well as giving a contemporary urban feel.

What did you think was the biggest success on the project?

The greatest success on the project is the fenestration, owing in large part to the quality of the internal spaces, not least because of the amount of natural light throughout.

Project details

Architect Greenaway Architecture

Client Alumno Group

Structural engineer Intuitive

M&E consultant Silcock Dawson

Quantity surveyor RPS

Planning Consultant Turley

Fire consultant Orion Fire

Landscape consultant Studio Cullis

Acoustic consultant Sound Advice

Approved building inspector Clarke Banks

Main contractor HG Construction

CAD software Vectorworks

Bricks BEA Building Products

Concrete Slab Thermal Break Max Frank

Windows Nordan

Railings B A Systems

Flooring Forbo

Bathrooms Walker Modular

Kitchens Project FF&E

Furniture Tatham Studio

Our “What made this project” series highlights the outstanding work of our Architect of the Year finalists. To keep up-to-date with all the latest from the Architect of the Year Awards visit here.