Sheerframe curtain walling provides lasting Shetland school solution
A Shetland Islands school which occupies arguably the most exposed coastal location in the UK has been transformed with high performance Sheerframe curtain walling fabricated and installed by local firm Garriock Brothers.
Facing the brunt of harsh winds and violent storms blowing off the North Sea high above Lerwick, the 300-pupil Bells Brae Primary School is one of the country’s most northerly schools and the largest primary school on the islands.
Ever since its construction in 1971, and despite the use of the best available timber and steel fenestration systems over time, the weather has constantly gained the upper hand, particularly with the school’s south-facing elevation which features full height and width structural curtain walling.
Keen to deliver a lasting solution, Shetland Islands Council turned to Sheerframe PVC window and curtain walling systems and local fabricator and installer Garriock Brothers. Aberdeen based consulting architects Arch Henderson were appointed by the council to ensure the overall refurbishment was completed to a standard which could cope with the high wind loadings experienced locally.
Detailed structural design recommendations were given to the Sheerframe technical support team including on-site training and installation advice, and bespoke fixing brackets were made to suit the building design to ensure resistance to the extreme weather conditions.
In addition to providing a product and installation which excelled where others had failed, Garriock Brothers successfully overcame a second major challenge – completing this extensive window and curtain walling replacement project without causing disruption to teaching.
The company achieved this by making use of a temporary building provided by the council containing four classrooms which allowed the work to be carried out in phases. Temporary partitioning was also erected within classrooms to allow transitions between phases and the contractor’s external work areas were completely fenced off from the remainder of the school grounds, with material deliveries taking place out of school hours.
Bells Brae Primary School features in excess of 200 fixed and top hung casement windows which are restricted for child safety. The new curtain walling comprises a robust aluminium structural grid system into which the hard-wearing Sheerframe PVC windows are fitted.
The £400,000 investment in Bells Brae Primary School by the Shetland Islands Council is already paying dividends according to the council’s Technical Services Manager, Carl Symonds:
“The project went very smoothly overall and we are really pleased with the outcome. The internal environment has been transformed and we’ve experienced only a handful of minor snagging issues – which is remarkable on a project of this scale. Externally the school has been improved dramatically which is hugely important given the building’s prominent location. Garriock Brothers managed the project extremely well in demanding circumstances and the school was able to operate as near as possible to ‘business as usual’. Their nearby base and local knowledge played an important role in this, but so too did the technical support of Sheerframe and Arch Henderson.”
Faced with an ongoing battle to maintain its buildings to the right standard for effective teaching and learning, English Martyrs' R.C Primary School in Newcastle found itself in a position that many head teachers and local authorities find themselves in.
Designed in the 1950s, the school was built with large expanses of steel framed curtain walling to provide plenty of natural daylight into classrooms and communal areas. Unfortunately, this curtain walling had not performed well in the long term and its condition at various locations around the school was already having a major impact on the quality of the learning environment.
At English Martyrs', the performance of the windows had become so bad that windows had become ill fitting and the majority couldn't be opened, leaving many classrooms uncomfortably hot in summer and too cold in winter.
Given the failure of the steel framed curtain walling system, a different approach was required. A PVC based system was the only one which could offer performance characteristics capable of transforming the school instantly and cost effectively.
Working in conjunction with established North East building contractors McGann Builders, H Jarvis designed and fabricated Sheerframe 6000 system windows to integrate with the structural curtain walling grid. In total, 280 windows were installed, each offering maximum thermal performance as well as easy, safe and reliable operation by incorporating the latest hardware. To maximise comfort, the Sheerframe profile ensures minimal loss through the frame thanks to its four chamber profile and high specification glazing both prevents heat loss and solar gain.
The curtain walling replacement project had the full support of the pupils and parents alike, who contributed to the £147,000 cost of replacing the windows by sponsoring a window for £10 each. The timing of the project also couldn't have been better, coinciding with the school's celebration of its 50th anniversary.
Headmistress Denise Kendall commented, “The windows have made a huge difference. Not only does the school look better and everyone is more comfortable, but I'm also sure we are going to save on our heating bills. We are all hoping for a long hot summer so we can put our new windows to the test!”