St Asaph VP Infant School, Vale of Clwyd

160-year-old Welsh infant school gets innovative brick cladding system for new building

St Asaph VP Infant School is located in the picturesque cathedral city of St Asaph, in the Vale of Clwyd in North Wales. The school has a rich history stretching back to 1863 and has seen several changes in pupil age range and location over the years. In the summer of 2021, with nearly a hundred pupils aged three to seven years old, they needed to upgrade an existing classroom to make way for new teaching accommodation, fit for modern standards.

Graham Lee, building surveyor at Denbighshire County Council, explained that the building was in much need of repair: “The original structure was constructed in 1963 using a ‘Derwent’ prefabricated timber panel system. It formed a wing of the school which housed the children’s toilets, a classroom and assembly hall. Over the years the structural timber windows had become severely rotten and had allowed water to penetrate, severely weakening the integrity of the building.”

Improving thermal properties

A detailed examination, including opening up the structure, showed that the building was fundamentally sound, but there was no insulation. This caused high internal heat in the summer from solar gain but left the building uncomfortably cold in the winter. B&W Builders, a specialist building and maintenance contractor from North Wales, was appointed to carry out the works that would provide the school with two new classrooms, a new assembly hall and toilet facilities.

To improve the thermal performance of the building, Graham specified extensive refurbishment works. “New steel work was installed to support the roof, and the rotten single-glazed windows and doors were removed and replaced with thermally efficient aluminium double-glazed windows and doors,” explains Graham.

“The Council had identified weberwall brick as being a robust solution for the lower part of the walls and capable of withstanding the heavy use expected in a typical school playground.”

“The existing walls were replaced with new timber walls on the original grid and fully filled with a low lambda mineral wool and lined internally with a multi-foil insulation to allow the thermal properties of the new structure to surpass current building regulations.”
Once the structure had been decided, the council approached Saint-Gobain Weber with an enquiry about using weberwall brick on the project.

“The lightweight nature of the structure made weberwall brick an ideal cladding solution,” explains Nicola Burbury-Waters, specification manager at Weber. “The Council had identified our brick cladding system as being a robust solution for the lower part of the walls and capable of withstanding the heavy use expected in a typical school playground.”

Knauf Aquapanel Render Board was specified for the structure as it provides a vented airflow which allows the building to breathe and prevents condensation. Weber recommended its thin coat weberend MT render system combined with the application of weberwall brick.

Another important factor for Denbighshire Council was the carbon footprint of the project. They wanted a BBA fully specified system that was manufactured in the UK to reduce emissions during transportation. Weber was able to supply materials from its Telford plant nearby, further improving the sustainability credentials of the project.

Modern methods with traditional appearance

While the newer part of the building has been built with modern methods of construction, it was important that the final finishes were in keeping with the rest of the school building. Classic Red weberwall brick with Cotswold pointing mortar was chosen to match the existing brickwork.

Weber then provided the Council with a list of Weber-approved applicators for the winning contractor to use, and Lock and Jones was
subsequently appointed. Weber applications manager James Wood visited the site in mid- August to provide training on weberwall brick and ensure the company was fully conversant with the system.

Daren Lock from Lock and Jones was particularly impressed by the ease of installation: “It’s unbelievably quick and realistic to look at. Weber make it so simple - even supplying pre-made corners - and once you’ve found your line it makes the job so straightforward. Once the product is on the wall, you simply go back the next day to do the pointing. We think it’s a great product because it’s so light weight and have already recommended it to other customers.”

Each sheet of weberwall brick is equal to the weight of a single house brick and it’s typically three times faster to fix weberwall brick than traditional brick slips as they are supplied on a mesh sheet with 20 brick faces.

Following the training, the work was undertaken in just two to three days the following month. The lower section of the wall was finished with 23 courses of weberwall brick, with the remaining wall space finished with webersil TF in Chalk, applied to provide a durable and highly water repellent surface.

Graham added “This is the first time the Council has used weberwall brick, but we intend to use it on similar projects in the future.” The newly refurbished classrooms and hall now have the appearance of a brand-new modern building, both inside and out and the school will have a contemporary low maintenance and efficient building for decades to come.

       “It’s unbelievably quick and realistic to look at"

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