The construction of Highfield Spencer Academy in Derbyshire faced several unexpected challenges through the course of the build. The school, which has already become a community landmark, overcame these challenges and opened on time to serve a growing population. The story of how it did so is one of collaboration, creative problem-solving and a happy accident. Finding Pura® NFC by Trespa not only provided a more durable façade than timber, but it also led to using Meteon® as a signature design element.

The school was planned and approved as part of the Highfields development, which is adding 1,200 houses to the fast-expanding area around Derby. A traditionally constructed school was approved with a 56-week timeline, which was based on the predicted speed of housing construction in the Highfields development. However, the development proceeded much faster than planned.


As a result of the advancement of the housing development, Derbyshire County Council were faced with a higher-than-expected demand for school places that needed to be available in time for the start of the next academic year. This meant the time frame for the build had to be reduced to 44 weeks. However, the previously planned method of construction would not be able to meet this new timeline. The Council decided to opt for a modular building instead, knowing that their Scape Framework Contractor, Morgan Sindall, had recently delivered a nearby modular school on a tight deadline.

The council wanted the appearance of natural wood but decided to look for something more durable. In Pura® NFC, they found a durable façade solution that not only had the aesthetic appeal of natural wood but also hassle-free maintenance. That was an important bonus for a school in a fast-growing neighbourhood.

The collaboration with Trespa brought an additional benefit: the vivid palette of Meteon® cladding. The school was designed to have the elegance of Pura® NFC Slate Ebony (PU22) siding broken up by bright panels around the windows and doors. The Council was enthusiastic about the appeal of the design, as well as the maintenance cost savings from the durable Pura® NFC and Meteon®. Both are engineered to lock colour in and dirt out, without costly touch-ups.

Paul Cockayne, Principal Architect at Concertus Design & Property Consultants, enthused: “The colours of Meteon® are worth noting. The wide selection of colours available allowed that design. The project architects couldn’t have proposed the 3-D effect around the windows and doors without such a large colour range being available. The product really helped with that.”
The modules were delivered to the site, much to the bemusement of the locals who couldn’t picture how these unclad boxes would form a building. Then, when the project was 17 weeks into its 44-week plan, the pandemic hit. Supply chains across the UK were disrupted and plants were shutting down as developers furloughed employees. For the Highfield Spencer Academy project, delaying construction was not an option.

Subcontractors informed Morgan Sindall that they would not be able to deliver under the pandemic circumstances they were facing. Trespa, however, delivered the Pura® NFC and Meteon® sidings on time, allowing the façade construction to proceed apace. Despite the disruption of the pandemic works recommenced, and the building was finished one week ahead of its already compressed timeline.

Locals warmed to the building as they saw its striking appearance. Students and locals alike call it “the rainbow building”. Just across from the new commercial centre, the brightly coloured building has become the heart of the blossoming community – right on schedule!
For more information and technical support, call 0808 234 0268, email or visit the website.

EQUITONE [linea] and [natura] fibre cement facade materials have helped provide a tactile exterior to a state-of-the-art nursery in Edinburgh.

The Corstorphine Nursery, which provides pre-school education for more than 50 pupils, has been given a crisp aesthetic by the EQUITONE facade materials to create a modern, free flowing facility that maximises the space available.

The new build facility was designed by Glasgow-based architects Anderson Bell Christie and has replaced a prefabricated setting on the site of an existing primary school.

Jonathan McQuillan, of Anderson Bell Christie, said: “We chose EQUITONE materials for this project as we wanted something that provided a lot of texture at the right height for pre-school children. It was important for the overall project that we created something that was tactile and interactive for the pupils. The scale and rhythm of the ridges on the cladding is particularly pleasant for children to run their hands along.

“The material allowed us to articulate the building using texture. This meant that we could create surfaces that generated interest using tactility on a child scale, but that were low on visual noise.”

EQUITONE [linea] is a through-coloured facade material that displays a linear surface which highlights the raw inner texture of the core fibre cement material, guaranteeing crisp, monolithic details.

EQUITONE [natura] offers a tactile smooth surface which allows the textures of the fibre cement to show through the facade.

As well as the aesthetic qualities, Anderson Bell Christie chose EQUITONE because of its durability and A2-s1, d0 fire classification.

Jonathan added: “We have used EQUITONE materials for quite a few projects over the years – the material is really easy to work with. It can be cut down into different sizes and formats, giving us flexibility in our design. It’s low maintenance and has a minimum life expectancy of at least 50 years, which will allow the nursery to minimise ongoing operational costs.”

All EQUITONE materials are available in a range of colours, finishes and fixing options, giving full creative scope.

For more information on EQUITONE facade materials, visit

The Village Green Medical Centre in Great Denham was built in 1994 using a modular building system for the speed of construction benefits. Planning authorities agreed to the project on the condition that the building would eventually be over clad with a finish that would blend in with the surrounding residential area.

Today the building stands proud with a mixed real brick and timber effect finish. Eurobrick’s P-Clad system was used for the ground floor by Industrial Contracting Services (ICS), who installed circa 315m² of the system with Rustic Inferno Multi brick slips and corners and a Smooth Brown brick slip plinth detail.
The surgery had to remain open during the project and the contract was completed in 6 weeks using an innovative mixture of access solutions as well as out of hours working to minimise disruption to patients.

Paul Fereday of ICS commented,

“The overall finish has given this modular building a new lease of life with an appearance that blends in well with the surrounding new residential development. Towards the end of the project many of the people visiting the medical centre commented on how much the appearance had improved.”

For more information on Eurobrick please visit


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Universities continue to compete with each other to win new students and one area that is sure to attract is the quality of student accommodation on offer. For some, the days of old fashioned accommodation blocks are gone, with the rise of stylish new hotel and apartment style schemes set to win new students.

Eurobrick Systems have been leading the brick cladding sector for 30 years and have supplied a number of developers for student accommodation. Recently, they have supplied two projects like this in Coventry – Godiva Place and Abbey House at Coventry University.

Godiva Place is Eurobrick’s biggest cladding project to date. The £47.5m scheme by Galliford Try is a 24,500m² project designed to provide student accommodation as part of the university campus in Coventry city centre. The 5-block project varies in height between 4-9 storeys and provides a total of 772 bedrooms, a social hub and sports facility.

This was a fast-build project, with many parts of the building being constructed off-site, so a quick and effective brick finish that is flexible enough to be installed on-site was required. P-Clad is an external wall cladding system that was developed for use as a sheathing on structures where a cavity is required between the insulation and the cladding system.  Approximately 5350m² of Eurobrick’s P-Clad was supplied to the installing contractor Select Facades, along with Michelmersh First Quality Facings brick slips that were specially cut to 25mm thick.

Abbey House is also in Coventry City centre, close to the university campus. At 7 storeys high, it includes 60 luxury studio apartments and 11 cluster flats with 55 bedrooms, making a total of 115 bedrooms throughout the development, which also includes communal areas and a gym.

Approximately 530m² of Eurobrick’s P-Clad system was fitted by Task Contract Services, who installed it to the 2 gable ends of the building. The standard 22mm thick Pastorale brick slips from Eurobrick’s Classic Range were used together with specially cut 32mm thick Pastorale slips to create decorative bands of alternate brick thicknesses providing an attractive relief effect to the brickwork. Eurobrick’s specially formulated light grey Europoint mortar was used as a contrast to the colour of the chosen bricks.


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Eurobrick offer a wide range of brick and stone slips and can also source other finishes and specially cut bricks from a number of specialised manufacturer partners in the UK and Europe, including non-standard sizes, glazed bricks and bespoke products and colours.

Kingspan TEK Cladding Panels have provided an offsite wall solution for a unique school and leisure campus in Littleport, helping the project to achieve excellent thermal performance within a tight construction deadline.

The £37.5 million development, designed by SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, co-locates a pre-school, Littleport and East Cambridgeshire Academy (LECA), Highfield Littleport Academy Special Education Needs (SEN) school and a public leisure centre. It has helped to create an inclusive community where children of all ages and abilities can develop together. To ensure the ambitious plan would be delivered in time for the new school year without compromising on the facilities’ energy performance, 142 mm-thick Kingspan TEK Cladding Panels were specified for many of the external walls.

Kingspan TEK Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) were designed and factory cut to the project’s unique specifications by Kingspan Timber Solutions. This offsite production process minimised site waste and enabled the panels to be quickly installed onto the steel frame, ready for main contractors, Morgan Sindall Construction, to apply the final external finishes.

The highly-insulated core of the Kingspan TEK Cladding Panels allowed the project to meet its thermal performance targets. Meanwhile, the OSB/3 facing and unique jointing system minimised air-leakage through the building envelope, helping the scheme achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating. In addition to supporting a fabric first approach and limiting the heating demand, the product’s excellent thermal performance also helped to keep wall constructions to a minimum depth, maximising the useable space within.

This was Morgan Sindall Construction’s first project implementing BIM design methods up to level 2 compliance. Utilising BIM can help with project planning, clash detection, wastage reduction, and costings. Both the 142 mm and 172 mm Kingspan TEK Cladding panels are available as BIM objects in Revit and IFC formats. 



The benefits of modular construction have been widely discussed with advocates including the government now recognising its potential to address the UK’s challenges in terms of both housing capacity and skills shortages. However, the growth and benefits of modular off-site construction are equally at home in student housing and commercial developments such as hotels and high-rise buildings.

The opportunities and benefits delivered by modular construction projects may range from significant reductions in programme length, waste and cost, whilst another major factor is the ability to achieve higher levels of quality control in the process.

From design through to construction and completion what is absolutely essential is that the selection of materials and products used within off-site projects is not compromised, ensuring performance is assured during the build process and throughout the lifetime of the building.

Helping to achieve this are some of the most technically advanced construction membranes available. The A. Proctor Group Ltd has been developing vapour permeable membranes and vapour control layers for over 25 years, and provides an extensive range of superior high-performance products suitable for modular and off-site construction.

The move to tighten building regulations

With the increased spotlight and focus on building regulations and the suitability of materials specified for use within external cladding, the correct selection and application of materials are at their most critical.

Following the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and subsequent Interim Report by Dame Judith Hackitt, the Government has introduced an amendment to the Approved Document B: Fire safety, which has a significant impact on the design and construction of buildings above 18 metres. Published in November 2018, the new regulations came into force on 21 December 2018. Guidance on how external walls can meet the Building Regulations requirement for resisting fire spread is set out in Approved Document B.

Changes to materials and workmanship

Regulation 7 of the Building Regulations relates to materials and workmanship and reads as follows:

  1. (1) Building work shall be carried out-

(a) with adequate and proper materials which-

(i) are appropriate for the circumstances in which they are used,

(ii) are adequately mixed or prepared, and

(iii) are applied, used or fixed so as adequately to perform the functions for which they are

designed; and

(b) in a workmanlike manner.

(2) Subject to paragraph (3), building work shall be carried out so that materials which become part of an external wall, or specified attachment, of a relevant building, are of European Classification A2-s1, d0 or Class A1, classified in accordance with BS EN 13501-1:2007+A1:2009 entitled “Fire classification of construction products and building elements. Classification using test data from reaction to fire tests” (ISBN 978 0 580 59861 6) published by the British Standards Institution on 30th March 2007 and amended in November 2009.

Changes on the use of membranes within external wall construction

It is important to note that with specific reference to membranes the Regulation provides a critical exemption and further clarification is found within Regulation 7, as stated below:

12.14 Particular attention is drawn to the following points.

  1. Membranes used as part of the external wall construction should achieve a minimum classification of European Class B-s3, d0.

In summary, the amendment stipulates significant changes to which membranes can now be used and limits these to a rating of Class B,s3,d0.

It is crucial that all those involved in the construction of highrise modular construction fully understand the implications of this amendment in the wider context of building safety and protection. Critically designers should note that some European membrane products whilst quoting A2 ratings do not breathe sufficiently to comply with BS5250, meaning the use of these membranes in the UK climate could make the building unhealthy and result in a much greater risk of condensation issues and mould growth.

The complexity of manufacturing a non-combustible membrane which is still breathable to BS5250 standard is extremely difficult to achieve. In selecting a membrane it is important that performance is not compromised and that compliance meets the requirements of both Approved Document B: Fire Safety and BS5250 the Code of Practice for Condensation Control.

High-performance membranes – air tightness: Wraptite

An example of a high-performance membrane in practice is the Wraptite air barrier system. Wraptite offers a safer and simplified membrane system, conforms with the required Class B rating, and it provides a fully self-adhered vapour permeable air barrier certified by the BBA and combines the important properties of vapour permeability and airtightness in one self-adhering membrane. The membrane bonds back to the substrate, ensuring a simplified design to airtightness and simple installation method.

System benefits

  • Complies with use on buildings of high rise and over 18m under Part B amendments made in November 2018, Membranes need to be Class B,s3,d0 or better, with Wraptite classified as Class B,s1,d0 when used over a Class A1 or A2 substrate.
  • Included within BS8414 testing with cladding manufacturers.
  • EPDM not needed to the frame of the building as the self-adhesive membrane continues across the whole envelope of the building against the sheathing board and the frame of the building.
  • Less EPDM around window details due to the membrane lapping into the building at junctions.
  • Corner detailing for opening and movement joint interfaces are easily treated.
  • Improved airtightness and may negate the use of a VCL totally from the design internally, meaning easier a quicker install of dry lining package.
  • Hygrothermal Modelling will identify whether the construction requires a VCL or not. In some instances, the use of this self-adhesive without a VCL may be the most efficient option.
  • Improving airtightness may allow you to change thickness or type of insulation used when modelled through SAP or SBEM.
  • No need to tape sheathing boards as the membrane is positioned across the whole board.
  • By using this membrane on the external may show improvement on making the building watertight, allowing the cladding package to come off the critical path and internal works to start earlier, and also internal works may not be installing a VCL so the site program is potentially quicker.

High-performance membranes – fire protection: Fireshield

The culmination of years of research into membranes has led to the development of a vapour permeable membrane with a fireproof surface, which has a unique intumescent composition that actively reacts to prevent fire taking hold and that also significantly reduces the formation of droplets and smoke.

Crucially the new membrane fully complies with BS5250, BS4016 and NHBC requirements for vapour permeable walling underlays. Having succeeded in overcoming the complexity of creating a non-combustible, yet vapour permeable membrane, Fireshield has also been able to meet long term 5000hr UV ageing. This allows the membrane to be used in open jointed rainscreen and cladding applications.

The installation procedure is the same as for standard breather membranes, with the membrane fixed to the substrate using mechanical fixings. Applications include both commercial and residential buildings including apartments and student accommodation, as well as Rainscreen cladding and applications over 18m high.

System benefits

  • Fireproof surface – unique intumescent composition actively reacts to prevent fire taking hold
  • Vapour permeable walling underlay for use either directly onto sheathing or insulation
  • Class B, s1-d0 but performs differently to other similar class products
  • Complies with BS5250, BS4016 & NHBC requirements for vapour permeable walling underlays
  • Ideal for use in rainscreen/façade construction
  • Suitable for applications over 18m high
  • Long term UV exposure suitable for open joint facades
  • Airtight

Spacetherm A2

Spacetherm A2 is a flexible, high-performance, silica aerogel-based insulation material of limited combustibility suitable for use in exterior and interior applications. Supplied in a variety of finishes, the substantial layers of Spacetherm A2 meet the requirements for A2 classification (insulation, MgO and plasterboard).

The product optimises both the thermal performance and fire properties of façade systems, enhancing the thermal performance of the ventilated façade and addressing thermal bridging in the façade. It is also useful in minimising thermal bridges around windows in areas such as window reveals.

With a thermal conductivity of 0.019 W/mK, Spacetherm A2’s performance credentials qualify it as one of the best Class A2 insulations materials available worldwide. Engineered for space-critical applications, the product offers low thermal conductivity, superior compression strength, plus breathability allied to hydrophobic characteristics.

System benefits

  • Class leading fire performance from an Aerogel insulation
  • Superior thermal performance
  • Limited combustibility
  • Water vapour diffusion open
  • Permeable
  • Flexible
  • Thinnest Aerogel insulation available