Gillespie Road development, Highbury, North London

Gillespie Road development, Highbury, North London

Client: Private
Architect: Mole Architects
Contractor: RMS Contractors
Type of works: supply and installation of Marley's Natura Plus fibre-cement wall cladding.

Natura Plus from Marley has once again demonstrated how fibre-cement wall cladding can add form and function to a building, this time on a new property in Highbury, North London.

The development features over 60 square metres of Natura Plus in Ruby and Ivory. This colour scheme was chosen to create a link with the nearby Grade II listed original Arsenal Football Club's Highbury stadium, which has White-painted masonry walls with distinctive Red window infill panels.

The specifiers recognised the low-maintenance benefits of Natura Plus, compared to the painted masonry walls on the stadium; Natura Plus is a smooth and solid cladding panel that has a natural fibre-cement finish. It has a pure, through-coloured core that enabled the architects to create a tough and practical rainscreen cladding solution.

The Gillespie Road property is divided over three floors and, although relatively compact with a 75 square metre internal area, the architect achieved a feeling of space and light by designing it without a fully enclosed stair. Use of space has been maximised by incorporating a half-basement, which means that the whole building is less than 4.5m high.

The construction of the building is made up of reinforced block basement walls, with concrete block walls above and joisted floors and roof. Insulation is fitted to the outside of the masonry walls, behind the fibre-cement Natura Plus panels which, along with the rear ventilated cavity, forms the rainscreen cladding system. The new wall construction now achieves a U value of 1.7 W/m2K.

A top hat or T-section support structure anchored directly to the masonry was used to fix the large rectangular Natura Plus panels in a vertical arrangement. A secret fix system allowed these to be mounted to the inverted top hat section with a slight over-hang, but still retaining a gap between the panels.

The element of the inverted top hat visible through the gap was painted a contrasting colour to the Natura Plus, Red in the case of the Ivory panels and White in the case of the Ruby panels.

The shadow lines created by the overhanging panels and contrasting coloured backdrop, gives the impression that the rainscreen cladding is floating over the surface of the building.

“We designed the rainscreen cladding with a gap between the fibre-cement panels and finished them in contrasting colours because it created a much more interesting building,” said Meredith Bowles, architect at Mole Architects. “We could have designed the rainscreen cladding with the panels butted together to make it look like a solid wall however, we felt that the gap helped us to make a feature of the rainscreen cladding, which we highlighted by using a contrasting coloured backdrop on the inverted top hat profile.”

Natura Plus is available in a range of colours and a variety of fixing systems to ensure a smooth and clean finish to a building. The practical qualities of the material, including class 0 fire-performance, excellent durability, strength and an installed life expectancy of at least 50 years, along with low maintenance, make it an extremely cost effective cladding material.

The Natura Plus was installed by Lincolnshire-based RMS Contractors. Gillespie Road was designed for a private client, who plans to make it available for rented accommodation. The site was previously occupied by a row of three garages.

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