Site Progress at St. Johns College, Cambridge University

See the progress IQ are making on-site at the prestigious Cambridge University, installing automated opening rooflights

bespoke pavilion at Cambridge university with opening rooflights

The new Buttery café and bar was designed by a team from MCW Architects, who underwent extensive planning and design consideration to transform the original Grade I listed building. The design was considered as a ’Fabric first approach’ to protect the integrity, stability and conditions of the original historic fabric of St. Johns College, in keeping with the college’s sustainability factors, energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

A.R.E.S automated opening rooflights were modified to suit the project’s bespoke design and fulfil the creative intentions for the internal design of the space. Five A.R.E.S were proposed for the roofing design of the buttery café and bar and the alternative design created by MCW architects features a remarkable free-standing oak pavilion structure that stretches the span of the room.  

large shaped opening rooflights at Cambridge universityThe design of the pavilion roof has a bespoke design with Oak forming peaks which house the automated venting rooflights. The systems vary in size and height to fit into the unique wooden roof design.

The pavilions were a collaborative effort between the designers at MCW and Swiss timber specialists Blumer Lehman and the roofs were fabricated prior to work starting on site to aid the building process of the overall project.

Prefabricating the wooden pavilions was extremely useful when planning the transportation to the site because the only access route is over the oldest bridge over the river Cam.  

Not only were spectacular Oak pavilions used to create the design of the space, but other components have been included to enhance the building’s historic charm. Wrapped copper was used to conceal the wooden structures, the upstands and the meeting points between the pavilions and the venting rooflights. The use of copper also contributed to the resistance of weathering, with copper being a highly durable material that is resistant to thermal changes. 

interior view of a large shaped automated rooflightThe automated opening rooflights are operated by motors, on this occasion HD motors were used due to the oversized panes. There are various ways that automated rooflights can be controlled depending on the intended function of the space and the automated rooflights at Cambridge University will be controlled using the building’s BMS system, which is connected through the bac-net and controlled by the university building control.

Due to the historic nature of the building, consideration of how the weather would affect the internal space was important. Weather sensors to detect rain and wind were installed on all rooflights, to ensure automatic closure if strong wind or rain is detected.  

This allows the communal space within the university to be well ventilated without fear of water entering the space, whilst keeping in line with Part K of the UK Building Regulation. As ventilation, especially in educational building design, has been at the forefront of many architects’ mind since the pandemic, incorporating these automated opening rooflights was an excellent way to ensure the space has adequate airflow. 

render of a modern extension to a university building design

Due to the confined space on Kitchen Lane, there was a need for consideration of how the structure as a whole would be built, as well as how the rooflights would be installed without the need for a crane.

After much planning, a tight schedule was formalised which detailed that per one Oak pavilion built, the rooflight would be fitted to the structure before the second oak pavilion was built.

A small crane was used to aid in the installation of each rooflight as there were height and weight restrictions; due to this factor, the automated opening rooflights were also constructed off-site.  

The specialist shaped glazing was constructed prior to the installation due to complex design elements, such as the angled design of the rooflights and one rooflight weighing approximately half a tonne. Not only was high specification glass used within the roof glazing, but solar control coatings and heat soak testing were also included to create designs that were functional as well as striking.  

aluminium framing profile for automated rooflight

Invisio structural glazing was also used in the building of the unit, a slim structural glass link was designed to connect the new oak structure and the existing building to provide cohesion between the two spaces. 

This aspect of glazing also has an extremely complex design, due to the grooves and ridges of the existing building. One main factor which was extremely important was adhering to the time scale which was set with the construction of the oak pavilions and the installation of the venting rooflights.

A 10–12-week schedule was agreed upon to complete the installation efficiently and the structural glass link will be the last system to be installed, due to the system being connected to the Oak pavilion structure.  

We are very excited to see how the project progresses as it has developed so quickly already and we will be posting regular updates and site progress on our Instagram account, @iqprojectsuk 

IQ Glass also designed and installed bespoke glazing at Jesus College at Cambridge University, including acoustic glazing, a structural glass roof, slim sliding doors and specialist casement doors with electronic locking and a fire safety release. Our extensive work on private schools, universities and colleges makes IQ the go to for any glazing needs for educational building projects. 

To discuss bespoke glazing solutions for your next university building design, get in touch with the team today

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Chloe Thompson

After completing her undergrad degree in Interior design, Chloe decided to join the architectural glazing industry and now works on social media strategies, writes content and manages the day to day marketing for IQ's commercial division.

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