A job to be proud of: UTC Leeds

Date: 14 February 2019

The third instalment of our series of blogs celebrating plastering craftsmanship.

This month, Mathew Bates, Commercial Director at Sparta Systems, explains the work carried out to sympathetically restore a Grade II listed Victorian factory into Leeds’ first University Technical College.

Tell us a bit about the project.

This project has breathed new life into a key piece of Leeds’ manufacturing history, by transforming the disused Braime metal pressing factory into UTC Leeds – a state-of-the-art specialist college for 14 to 18 year-old engineering students.  

Developing the site required close technical collaboration from all members of the project team to deliver the high standards of lighting, acoustics and durability required by a modern education facility, while still paying homage to the building’s heritage. 

The original roof was stripped right back leaving just the old slender steel lattice trusses – typical of Victorian construction. Having stood the test of time, the trusses were retained; the Norse rooflight feature was rebuilt to create a central atrium; insulation was installed, and the roof was re-slated to create a watertight envelope.

Were there any challenges?

Limited access in the roof space was the biggest challenge for the drylining installation team. To achieve the robustness and acoustic requirements for the eight-metre high walls up to the roof, and maximise space, we used 146mm Acoustic Studs with a 15mm Gyproc DuraLine board to each side. However, the construction of the original building severely limited access to this area. Getting the internal partitions between and through the truss rafters and into the underside of the roof was complex, an obstacle unusual in modern-day construction.

In addition, the team had to work around 60 steel roof trusses, which were also at that time subject to movement. This meant special attention had to be paid to forming around them whilst maintaining the rating of the walls. 

It was a slow and steady process; we needed to use the smallest possible scissor lift, not only for access between the trusses but also to make sure we weren’t exceeding the load bearing limits on the floor. The steady nature of the first and second fix was one thing but then for skimming the eight metre walls, the access issues were compounded by the pressures involved with the setting time for the gauge of skim.

What are you most proud of?

Even though it should be a given, achieving a high-quality skim finish on such big walls requires real skill and it is testament to our experienced plasterers that there were no 12-month defects on this project for Sparta.

I’m really proud of how the team collaborated with following trades, to deliver an impressive finish throughout the project. The end result is a landmark building that sets a new standard in technology education.

Find out more about the Leeds UTC project.

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