Lewisham Exchange is a triumph for offsite construction and Mechslip technology and highlights the many strengths that brick slip systems offer design teams.
The construction site has changed dramatically over the years, with safety, sustainability, efficiency, and legislation all driving factors that have led to product innovation and materials used, affecting how construction methods are approached. But now, developers and contractors are looking at other means to make gains. Most notably, the construction process and method itself. As such, offsite construction has increased in popularity thanks to its various benefits from a cost, time and waste saving perspective, and efficiency of construction, storage, and labour.
One project that has benefited from this increasingly popular process is the Lewisham Exchange development. Primarily, offsite construction for this project was chosen due to the time saving properties and cost benefits provided. However, the development did not concede on design or aesthetics, instead, improving on these key aspects contrary to what might be expected from a modular constructed, offsite build.
The Lewisham Exchange development stands more than 100m in height at its highest peak, making it the tallest modular student accommodation building in Europe. It is built from 3D volumetric structural modules, which were completed offsite by specialists Vision Modular, and is one of only a small number of U.K construction projects to utilise this method. The twin-tower block structure consists of 35 and 20 storeys and accommodate more than 750 student apartments and around 70 affordable homes. Meanwhile, its commercial properties at the foot of the structure achieved an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating, putting them in the top 10% of buildings from a performance perspective.
The Lewisham Exchange project was constructed by Tide Construction using 3D volumetric structural modules, manufactured offsite. This enabled on-site construction to be streamlined and contributed to the impressive 35-week completion of the brick slip cladding installation by Century Facades Ltd, who also carried out the window installation offsite. The modular build saw the housing ‘pods’ manufactured in optimal factory conditions, including windows, which were then delivered to site where they were erected around the building’s lift cores. Then, once ten or so stories were complete, the external envelope’s Mechslip cladding was constructed in unison, chasing the finished pods up the building.
Offsite construction of the building’s modular pods not only ensured time saving benefits compared to more traditional methods of concrete or steel frame, but also quality of product with each one being manufactured in optimal facility conditions for consistency of quality. Furthermore, sustainability efforts were achieved through the reduction in transportation movements to and from site meaning less trucks needing to complete journeys for the finalised modular pods.
Mechslip was chosen primarily for two key reasons, its exceptional A1 rated fire accreditation and innovative natural brick cladding aesthetics. These benefits overcome difficulties with competitor products that in the past have either not been fire accredited or from an aesthetics perspective, look unnatural with clay extrusions which can’t compete with Ibstock’s eye-catching, real cut bricks. Importantly, the development also breaks the narrative surrounding modular structure builds and their limited design availabilities that come with the technique. As, although the modular construction method was used, Lewisham Exchange showcases incredible architectural and aesthetically pleasing detail thanks to the Mechslip cladding technology. The Mechslip technology utilised on the Lewisham Exchange project was produced jointly by Ibstock the UK’s leading brick manufacturer and building envelope specialist Ash and Lacy, with distributor RGB Facades supplying materials to installer Century Facades.
Mechslip boosted the construction and architectural aspects of the build due to its ease of installation and flexibility in design, useful when working with modular construction. Such is the ease of installation, the cladding took just four months to cover the 100m high, 35 and 20-storey buildings. It’s this speed and practicality alongside the product’s diverse design offering that highlights its popularity as first choice for innovative, modern-looking developments.
Lewisham Exchange was the most advanced Mechslip application to date, with more than 10,000sq m of the technology contributing beautiful, intricate, and complex arches, soft returns, and bond patterns across the structure. The arches themselves were constructed on-site, allowing for full creativity of design, and not being limited in size or shape for transporting purposes that other projects may fall foul of.
Brick returns leading into windows, eye-catching vertical coursing and large curved soffits all added to the modern architecture of the Lewisham Exchange to form an overall striking façade and geometry in the centre of urban London to really capture the vision of JTP Studios, the architects for the project in intricate detail. All of which were sourced from a range of more than 300 brick options, in both shallow and deep form, and allow for unique design iterations suitable for varying project needs. While the technology also boasts a lighter overall weight compared to traditional masonry and comes with the reassurance of an A1 fire safety rating and BBA accreditation and other quality identifying weather and performance standards.
The Lewisham Exchange development is an example of how innovative technologies such as Mechslip can combine with the increasingly popular offsite construction processes to make real-world gains on sustainability, time, and cost efforts across a modern newbuild – all without compromising on aesthetics and quality. Partnering with companies such as Ibstock and Ash and Lacy who develop these innovative technologies, understand the move to more modern construction approaches, and proactively facilitate the uptake of them through product innovation, ensures your next project can be a success for future generations.
For more information visit: www.mechslip.co.uk
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