54 Hagley Road, Edgbaston

Major window replacement project for one of Birmingham’s most prominent Grade A high-rise office buildings

The refurbishment at Fifty4 Hagley Road, Edgbaston represents a significant thermal performance upgrade without altering the external appearance of the building while business continues as normal for its occupiers.

With its location on one of the main arterial routes into Birmingham city centre, it is a landmark office complex and a familiar site on the cityscape.


Overview

The building is a lasting example of the work of brutalist architect John Madin who died recently. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential architects in the Midlands during the post-war period, with his many building designs playing a significant role in shaping Britain’s second city as we know it today.

Fifty4 Hagley Road is formed of two tower blocks which are linked at ground level with a communal reception, services such as a café and main entrance doors. The taller of the two towers is seventeen storeys high and the other is eight storeys.

Landlords Mercia Real Estate acquired the 140,000 sq ft building in 2009. They invested in significant improvements on the back of a recently completed £15 million refurbishment programme by the previous owners that had already brought the office accommodation up to the premium Grade A standard.

One of the key strands of the current refurbishment work is the replacement of 1600 windows to the two tower blocks. The existing windows were installed when the building was constructed in the 1970s so offered enormous scope for thermal improvement given the advances in glazing technology over the last four decades.

With the refurbishment work carried out while the building remained fully operational for existing tenants, it was vital from the outset to ensure the safety and security of building users and keep disruption and noise to an absolute minimum.

Glassolutions was awarded the fenestration contract by construction project management consultants Buro Four.  The brief included acting as principal contractor and providing full site management duties including risk assessments, liability insurance, provision of all safety fencing and signage and operation of plant such as cranes and mast climbers.


Outcomes

All windows are fixed lights and span floor to ceiling height with large double glazed units – the largest of which are 1m wide by 2.2m high.  This maintains unbroken sightlines externally so retains John Madin’s original aesthetic vision.  Although unnecessary from a structural integrity or safety perspective, internally each window features a mid-rail fixed to the surrounding wall to provide building users with a visible barrier.

The specification of the new windows represents a significant upgrade on the existing.  Every window is fabricated using the Technal FXi65 thermally-broken aluminium profile system which offers slim sight lines and lasting long term performance.  These are powder coated to match the grey colour of the existing.

The profile’s design incorporates a highly efficient 19mm flush polyamide thermal break to minimise thermal transmittance.  This works in conjunction with 28mm, 1.1 W/m2K argon-filled double glazed units to achieve a low overall whole window U-value of well below the required 1.8 W/m2K.  The glazed unit features low-emissivity (low e) and body tinted glass manufactured by the float process.

Tinted glass meets the brief for Glassolutions extremely well at Fifty4 Hagley Road thanks to its coloured appearance and solar control properties.  It is specially designed and manufactured for exterior applications of this type with exact colour tint match for the replacement windows to replicate the originals.

Thermal performance is complemented with proven weather-tightness.  The project demanded superior resistance to the weather including extreme wind loadings due to the high rise nature of the towers.  Technal’s window system meets the brief, achieving the highest classification for air permeability in tests up to 600 Pa, full water-tightness up to 1200 Pa, as well as a rating up to the equivalent pressure of 2000 Pa for wind resistance.

Glassolutions typically had a team of between six and 18 installers working on this project on a daily basis.  The project perfectly illustrates how the thermal performance of a notable commercial building can be transformed without any change in the external appearance – something which is vital for iconic and listed buildings.

Important too is the fact that Glassolutions completed the work without significant disruption to the day-to-day operation of tenants.  And in the longer term, Mercia Real Estate will benefit by this refurbishment work adding value to the building and delivering a financial return on investment.

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