The University of Ulster’s new Belfast campus offers modern facilities spread over an area of around 72,000 square metres for up to 15,000 students and University staff. The project, designed by the architects at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, consists of four interconnected buildings between York Street, Frederick Street and Donegall Street – directly opposite the old University building. The modern glass façade of Block B was constructed by McLaughlin and Harvey using 2,000 square metres of complex glass structures from AGC Interpane's plants at Lauenförde and Plattling. The project was exemplary for the cooperation it required across several sites: the glazing was coated with highly selective ipasol neutral 60/33 for effective solar control and then processed further with complex screen printing. Some elements were then coated with ipachrome in Plattling. The high-end glass façade lowers the air conditioning requirements in summer and reduces heat loss in winter, thus protecting the environment whilst impressing with its unique design.
Almost ten years ago, in 2006, a report commissioned by the Department of Employment and Learning concluded that the old University building had reached the end of its useful life and was no longer suitable as a modern centre of learning. Various options were considered: demolishing the building, rebuilding it, renovating it or moving some of the University's activities to another location. In the end it was decided to relocate to nearby York Street as this was found to be the most cost-effective alternative as well as the best one academically. Between 2007 and 2010 the University bought four buildings around the campus: Playboard and York House near the renovated College of Art, the Metropole and the Interpoint Building. The 250-million-pound refurbishment project, which the University expects to finance almost completely over 25 years, could then begin.
Block A has five floors and includes the reception, several auditoriums and the library. It is connected to Block B and other building sections via a skywalk. The six floors that form the base of the nine-storey-high Block B reflect the skyline of York Street. The Centre for Sustainable Technologies conducts research within its walls. The middle storeys stretch across Curtis Street and connect to other buildings. Here, students and staff are busily active in workshops, studios and offices. Storeys seven to nine are unobstructed and provide ample space and light for ateliers. Block C rises from six to eight storeys and contains lecture halls, student facilities, administrative offices, a restaurant and café and plenty of rooms for intensive meetings. Part of the top floor is dedicated to recreational areas and offers the best view of the city. Block D contains, among other things, a car park.
Glass for solar control, thermal insulation, safety and design
For the complicated façades, which provide Block B with lots of daylight, AGC Interpane supplied complex insulating glass structures. Around 720 square metres consist of laminated safety glass made from thermally toughened float glass on the outside. For solar control it is coated with ipasol neutral 60/33, which is particularly colour-neutral (Ra,D = 94) and preserves the transparency of the glass. The solar factor of 33 percent ensures that that the rooms behind the large-area glazing do not overheat, even in summer, which saves on air conditioning costs. On cold days, the low thermal transmittance of 1.0 W/(m²K) of the double-glazing reduces heat loss. In accordance with the façade concept's focus on light, the glazing provides a relatively high daylight transmission value of TV = 60 percent.
The inner pane consists of eight-millimetre-thick fully tempered glass (with heat-soak test) with anthracite-grey screen printing (RAL 7016). A further 340 square metres of the same structure have screen printing in blue-grey RAL 7031. For increased safety, around 35 square metres of the inner panes are made from laminated safety glass instead of fully tempered glass. One architectural highlight, which also serves to improve the solar control, is the 850 square metres of façade covered in a highly reflective ipachrome Design coating. Interpane Plattling's chrome-based partial coating is so highly reflective that when viewed from the outside the façade shines in different hues of blue depending on the angle of the sun, constantly presenting a new appearance to the observer.
Object address: 25-51 York Street, Belfast, County Antrim BT15 1ED
Owner: University of Ulster, Belfast
Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Façade construction: McLaughlin and Harvey
Glass products: ipasol neutral 60/33, ipachrome Design, screen printing
Glass processor: AGC Interpane Lauenförde and Plattling