Durham University, Durham

Durham University, Durham

Client: Durham University, Durham.
Value: £500,000
Subcontractor: Plasliner
Type of works: Knauf Drywall's Apertura Cleano plasterboard and Knauf Shaftwall used in Science lecture theatres.

Complex designs and strict acoustic requirements in Durham University’s striking new Science lecture theatres called for scientific drylining solutions, which take an unusual angle on installations. Subcontractor Plaslines Ltd completed the £500,000 ceilings and partitions package using Knauf Drywall’s Apertura Cleaneo perforated plasterboard for walls and the Knauf Shaftwall system to line the underside of seating tiers. Drylining in the university’s landmark new building has been shortlisted for the Plaisterers' Trophy award.

The new building was designed by Building Design Partnership, Glasgow, and built by Laing O’Rourke. It has a tiered 400-seat lecture theatre on the ground floor, and two tiered 260-seat lecture theatres above it, all with floor to soffit heights in excess of 8m. It also has a 160-seat, flat-floored teaching room on the top floor, and an IT Techno-café which supports computer-based learning and offers light snacks.

Plaslines Director Paul Sweeney says the compact plan arrangement and the raked lecture theatre profiles created challenging internal geometric relationships between walls and ceilings. The challenges also included a 60 mins fire-rated plenum under the theatre seating, 8 m height, 63dB Rw partitions between lecture theatres, and 8 metre high curved independent wall linings at the perimeter of the theatres and stairs. And, as the project was located centrally within the campus, there were logistical problems for deliveries.

 “At tender stage, Knauf Drywall assisted Laing O’Rourke in preparing an outline specification to meet the rigorous technical and acoustic demands of the project,” says Paul Sweeney. “The challenges were overcome by innovative design and construction.

“The plenum was needed to insulate the theatres from foyer and machine-room noise. It was constructed with a novel sloping Knauf Shaftwall system between the supporting steelwork, with a rear layer of Knauf Coreboard and two layers of 15mm Knauf Soundshield, then a Knauf MF suspended-ceiling system underneath.

“The 63dB Rw partition has a twin framed I stud system, double boarded on both sides and with acoustic insulation between the frames. Wall linings consist of 146mm I studs, double boarded to create a 10 m radius to the perimeter of the lecture theatres. Knauf Apertura Cleaneo perforated plasterboard, more usually found in ceilings, is incorporated into the lecture theatre walls to contribute to the acoustic environment within each of them.”

The complex geometries of the lecture theatre ceilings, each with five 500mm steps following the line of the raked floors, are formed with the Knauf MF system, lined with Knauf Wallboard. Extra hangers and bracing were added during construction to maintain the ceilings’ stability while services were installed, before boarding commenced.

Paul Sweeney says that to overcome logistical problems, Knauf Drywall and distributor Sheffield Insulations, Newcastle, arranged more frequent deliveries of smaller loads than usual: “This minimised storage on-site, as materials were used as soon as they arrived. Overall, this was a complex project which benefited from all members of the supply chain working together to deliver a high-quality building.”

The project has been shortlisted for the Federation of Plastering and Drylining Contractors Plaisterers Trophy in February 2008. 

Knauf Drywall manufactures a full range of plasters, plasterboards, insulating laminates, drywall accessories, metal sections and steel building systems, for domestic and commercial applications. Recently Knauf Drywall introduced the Knauf Futurepanel, said to be the UK industry’s first carbon neutral plasterboard. Knauf Drywall also actively promotes recycling from building sites and has a zero waste policy in its energy-efficient factories at Sittingbourne in Kent and Immingham on Humberside.

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