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Diamond Hall, University Of Ulster

Diamond Hall, University Of Ulster

Conservation/Restoration Winner 2011

Location: Coleraine, Co Antrim, N Ireland
Builder / Main contractor: GEDA Construction
Wood Species: Canadian Western red cedar, walnut.

The timber clad rainscreen was constructed of PEFC certified untreated Grade  Canadian Western Red Cedar fixed to FSC certified battens, counter battens and an insulated Strongbak structural panel. It was chosen for its’ appearance, inherent durability, sustainability, dimensional stability, cost and low maintenance.  The WRC was Grade A Class 1 Nr 2 Clear and better only. It is relatively light which made it suitable for fixing onto the existing structure. A pdf of the timber profile and construction system along with a design stage study of the shadows thrown by the various profiles have been forwarded with the photographic images.

Internally 50×50mm walnut battens were fixed to curved steel at 100mm centres to create an open ceiling in the foyer. Walnut wall panels, walnut veneered doors, frames and an engineered sprung walnut floor were specified internally to compliment the original retained timber battens. Factory paint finished timber acoustic panels in various shades of light greys and white were used inside the hall to break up the long uninterrupted wall elevations reflecting the external treatment of the clay tiles and acting as a contrast to the surrounding dark timber.

Other materials used were the Creaton clay tiles on the external rain screen at low level, Kalwall insulated panels to provide high level light, a Kawneer PF anodised aluminium curtain walling system, anodised aluminium flashings at low level and Zinc at high level. A milled finish stucco standing seam roof was used over the cantilevered link walkway.

The Project

The original Diamond Hall building dating from 1972 was clad in Galbestos and patent glazing. It takes its name from the traditional ‘Diamond’ meeting place often found in the centre of traditional Ulster towns. Used for graduations, exams and large functions it is at the centre of the campus and prominent in the surrounding area. The brief from the University was to completely replace the external facade and to undertake limited internal refurbishment. Throughout the 33 week contract period, time framed between the end of graduations and the commencement of exams, the contract had to adhere to many project constraints to minimise disruption to occupied elements of the building.

PEFC certified untreated Western Red Cedar fixed to FSC certified battens, counter battens and an insulated Strongbak structural panel, was chosen for its’ appearance, inherent durability, sustainability, dimensional stability, cost and low maintenance. It is relatively light which made it suitable for fixing onto the existing structure. The adaptability of timber allowed the sections to be sized to suit the existing 12 ft structural grid and to be detailed to accommodate movement. Over time the timber will turn silver and the palette of adjoining materials have been chosen to compliment this.

The fixings and profile design evolved following consultations with timber and joinery specialists together with guidance from TRADA. The wood supplier was Brooks Bros UK Ltd with whom the final details were resolved to suit available timber lengths, preferred joint positions and section sizes. Careful consideration was given to the location, size and depth of the countersunk bolts, fixings and site fabrication. Sample panels were constructed before fixing details and sections were finalised.
The installation of the insulated cedar rain-screen reduced the areas of glazing, improved the building’s thermal performance and focus’s the views on the adjacent River Bann. The original high level end glazing to the side elevations was replaced with cedar creating a bookend effect and accentuating the shapes of the central Kalwall panels. The cedar boarding, clay tiles, Kalwall, zinc and satin anodised aluminium are modelled and detailed to articulate the various finishes and to avoid adverse reactions between them, including tannin staining. Heavy profiling of the timber repeated on a 6 ft grid provides depth and shadowing which continually changes, adding texture to the building.

Internal refurbishment is concentrated on the hall and associated foyer which are at the centre of university life. Strong colours used in the foyer glazing reflect internally and add warmth and vibrancy to the interior. Spaced walnut battens fixed to curved steel creates an open ceiling which is a visual barrier but allows the existing services to function above. It mimics the original stained softwood batten finish to the ceiling and upper walls of the Diamond Hall. The use of walnut wall panels, doors, frames and an engineered sprung walnut floor compliment the original retained timber battens. Factory paint finished timber acoustic panels in various shades of light greys and white were used inside the hall to break up the long uninterrupted wall elevations reflecting the external treatment of the clay tiles and acting as a contrast to the surrounding dark timber.

The building users have been extremely complimentary on the changes. Given a relatively modest budget this important university building has a gained a vibrant and modern public image.