A study in glazing

Pilkington glass was recently used on the David Attenborough building in Cambridge.

The building is owned by the University of Cambridge and houses the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the Museum and Department of Zoology.

Originally completed in 1971 in the brutalist style popular at the time, the building has been celebrated by architects as an outstanding example of the period. However, it was also one of the poorest energy performers in the university’s estate thanks to single-glazing and a lack of insulation.

When refurbishing the building, the main goals of the architects were to improve the accessibility, openness and energy performance of the space. Glazing played a key role in achieving these aims.

To help light flood deep into the main body of the existing building, a new atrium has been created in the centre, descending through four floors. The roof of the space is fully glazed using double-glazed units comprising two panes of heat-strengthened Pilkington Optilam clear laminated glass.

The atrium contains a stairwell surrounding a fully glazed lift shaft, allowing light to pass down through the space. This helps illuminate one of the building’s most striking new features – a three-storey-high interior living wall.

The location of the glass in a key entry and exit route meant that it needed to meet strict regulations for fire protection. To address this, Pilkington Pyrostop was used, a product which has been tested to maintain integrity for 60 minutes and provide 30 minutes’ insulation rating in the event of a fire.

This protects occupants from spread of flame, smoke and gas, while also providing heat protection to allow time to safely evacuate the building.

The way occupants and visitors enter the museum has also been completely re-designed, with a double-height glazed extension at the front of the building containing the new entrance to the museum.

The outer pane of the roof light features a Pilkington Suncool 66/33 coating, which reduces the amount of solar energy entering the building while maintaining a high level of clarity for visible light.

The same coating was used on the glass surrounding both the existing building and the extension. These units, constructed using a system provided by Schueco, featured an outer pane of 6mm glass and an inner pane of 10mm Pilkington Optifloat Clear glass, sandwiching a 20mm cavity.

This relatively large cavity both helps to deliver excellent thermal insulation and improve the acoustic performance of the glass.