The corbelled brickwork soffit provided the ideal junction to conceal vertical, slightly stepped 10 mm mastic joints between the T-shaped units. The same exercise was repeated above on levels 5 and 6, but this time reverting to T-shaped units two storeys high. At the top of this eleva- tion are a series of set-back mansard dormers with reconstituted stone wings and white glazed terracotta facings on precast. The corbelled T-shaped units were cast using void formers to reduce weight. Finnan details how the envelope itself was constructed behind the panels: “The brick faced precast elements are ground bearing and sit one on top of another. The panels are restrained back to the concrete frame which provides lateral support to the facade.

“Once the panels are sealed they provide a fully waterproofed layer to the building. The windows were fixed to the rear of the precast panels, along with the insulation and fire stopping. Plasterboard is fixed to an independent light gauge steel stud work that sits on the edge of the concrete frame.”


Despite the wealth of knowledge among the project team, the build presented a variety of challenges, including its sensitive location, which were alleviated by the offsite panelling system. The entire 4,500 m2

brick facade facing

Cartwright Gardens, as well as many of the other facades, were manufactured offsite as composite precast concrete brick faced panels. This was principally implemented to offer construction programme efficiencies and advantages, including a robust sched- ule, and guaranteed quality assurance with the panels constructed in factory conditions. In addition there would be a reduction in safety-critical activities with a reduced number of operatives working at height, and a reduced disturbance to neighbouring residents and businesses due to an omission of the perimeter scaffold.

Describing the benefits that the mixed- process offered the scheme, Finnan asserts: “The prefabrication allowed the design team to develop stepped brick details that make reference to the detailing of tradi- tional load bearing masonry.

“The depth of the facade also allows it to be constructed from large load bearing units, which require fewer movement joints than contemporary site laid brick cladding.” He continued: “This delivers a building akin to traditional masonry, while minimis- ing the amount of on-site labour. This


What is interesting about the off-site method is how the techniques and refinement of the

technology has allowed us to do something quite crafted, such as the steps and the reveals, in what is actually a monolithic way

Gavin Finnan, associate director at Maccreanor Lavington

reduced the programme and cost of the facade by approximately a third.” To meet the tight installation schedule, three gangs were used, each with its own tower crane. When it came to finishing work, access was non-existent, so three teams of abseilers were taken on to do the work. Despite the access issues, the project opened on time and the building was soon fully occupied.

Raising the standard

Starting on site in June 2014, the project reached completion in September 2016. It was later shortlisted for the Brick Development Association’s 2017 Brick Awards, receiving a Highly Commended award in the Worldwide category. The project team achieved a high score under the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and took responsibility for the life cycle of impact materials, sourcing from suppliers with strong environmental creden- tials, along with the use of offsite construction helping to vastly reduce construction waste. In addition, the project achieved BREEAM Excellent. According to commentators, the develop- ment has significantly raised the standard of student accommodation in London, demon- strating how well-crafted and innovatively manufactured precast cladding can be used to create some of the most considered building facades in the UK.

The reason for the critical acclaim is clear; this redevelopment is a substantial, high quality achievement, with meticulous detailing and richness in form. It’s no wonder that, among University of London residences, Garden Halls has seen the largest number of students reapply for the same accommodation. 


FRONT ELEVATIONS A buff coloured water-struck Petersen brick was the key cladding material, used for the front elevations facing Cartwright Gardens


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