Aluminium for a bespoke solution

Strong, slim and sustainable are some of the accolades given to commercial aluminium fenestration today. Along with almost 100% recyclability and exceptionally long life, it is not surprising that the material is also increasingly being used in home improvement projects.

Compared to other materials used in fenestration, aluminium profiles are cheaper and quicker to produce, they are also capable of providing intricate shapes for various requirements. These designs help the profiles to achieve not only incredible strengths without reverting to other materials, they can also offer high levels of weathering performance.

When half-scales (the inside and outside aluminium profiles) are coupled with modern multi chamber polyamides and strategically located aerogel insulation profiles, insulation levels of the frame can meet the Passivhaus standard. Thermal insulation performance for openable windows can achieve a UW from 0.53W/m2K and for a door, a UD from 0.62W/m2K. So aluminium systems are definitely not behind other materials when it comes to insulation.

Recent studies in the industry suggest that coated or anodised aluminium systems can last the lifetime of a building, there are examples, such as the New Bodleian Library, now refurbished and known as the Weston Library. The original anodised aluminium windows on this building were first installed in the 1930s and when the facade was refurbished, were simply cleaned in-situ within the original facade. These windows have already provided an 80-year productive life with many years of life ahead.

These attributes have helped aluminium become the specified material of choice for architects when it comes to fenestration systems but, it is the bespoke nature of today’s facades that really inspires the use of aluminium in architecture.

Aluprof recently supplied a bespoke aluminium glazing solution for the £3.3 million office redevelopment of 6 East Parade in Leeds. The ‘Avatar Mullion Feature’ principle installed is a newly designed principle which incorporates an external glass structural fin which sits within the MB-SR50N mullion. The fin, the first of its kind to be installed in Europe, was designed in a joint venture with Aluprof. Fabricator and installer H-K-L Specialists, designed and sourced the bespoke steel cradles and associated supports to carry the glazed fin.

Located in the heart of the city of Leeds, Associated Architects designed the new facade for the existing 6 East Parade concrete structure, using a dark red glazed terracotta cladding with full height aluminium windows. Having a contemporary appearance, the new facade is carefully designed to blend in between existing office buildings.

MB-SR50N from Aluprof is a high performance curtain wall system that can be supplied in various guises, both for vertical and roof applications and to suit a wide range of project requirements. The MB-SR50N EI Fire Rated System offers the same sight lines but can offer up to EI60 rating for vertical glazing.

MB-SR50N is a tried and tested system used across the globe that can easily be modified to offer specifiers bespoke requirements. At one time bespoke aluminium solutions were limited to large facade projects; the new structural fin detail from Aluprof shows that bespoke solutions can now be efficiently developed for much smaller projects.

Concept drawings for new extrusions can be completed between systems company and architect, then once agreed, die drawings can be produced. From this stage it can be matter of six to eight weeks for the extrusion die to be made and extrusion to be readily available.

These lead times are well within a new-build or refurbishment programme and open up possibilities for bespoke shapes of mullions, transoms, curtain wall cappings and in the case of 6 East Parade, a special detail to carry a structural glass fin. The other areas of bespoke design could be edge detailing to an existing or a new facade material, detailing to accommodate a special glazing detail, or special profiles which will allow CNC work to provide a unique visual appearance. The only limit is the specifier’s imagination.