Zinc cladding enhances the dramatic form of Bolton College’s new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Centre, designed by IBI Group in Bolton

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Standing seam cladding on Bolton College’s new STEM Centre required 485m2 of SIG’s NedZink NOVA, the seams progressing from vertical to wider angles as they follow the dynamic contours of the entrance. Here, a deep overhang with a zinc-clad soffit gives the 1800m2 building a distinctive shopfront to Deane Road as well as providing solar shading for the teaching spaces inside.

IBI Group architect studio associate James Hyde says the architects were looking for a high quality, light-weight product with a neutral graphite grey tone to contrast with the richer composition of materials on the college building opposite, designed by the same practice. NedZink NOVA was the answer for the STEM building, which contains ground floor engineering and automotive workshops with classrooms and laboratories above.

‘It suits the context, provides a high quality finish and fits the budget,’ says Hyde, adding that the crafted zinc panelling also has a synergy with the hands-on skills taught in the automotive workshops.

‘Maintenance was another consideration. We wanted something low-maintenance that was stable and so wouldn’t change in colour or appearance.’

NedZink NOVA is used to clad the south and west facades and part of the north. A standing seam application was chosen over a cassette system as this was easier to adjust to the angle changes. These were set out at 425mm centres – considerably smaller than the usual 500-600mm – to minimise the rippling effect of ‘oil-canning’ on the pre-patinated zinc. Panels are 0.7mm thick, and are supplied with anti-corrosion backing.

Specialist subcontractor Longworth installed the NedZink NOVA and associated substrate works as part of a ventilated cavity build-up, using three or four horizontal rows of panels depending on the depth of the facade. The cladding was applied to timber battens on a plywood surface, with insulation and a ventilation void behind. The whole ensemble was fixed into a steel framing system prepared by the main contractor.

According to Longworth contracts manager Lee Smith, the main challenge was the need to create angled rather than vertical seams. Setting out the panels to achieve the desired angles proved particularly tricky, especially around the horizontal band of windows. Longworth used its most skilled craftsmen on this project to ensure that the panels were kept at the same angle, and there was no creep with the joints.

‘We like NedZink as it is very easy to work with, a little softer and not as brittle as other products. This makes folding the material for swept ends and dressings easier,’ says Smith.

During the installation, Longworth cut coils of zinc to the appropriate panel and flashing size in order to minimise wastage, with any offcuts of zinc sent back to its workshop for reuse.

As part of Bolton City Council’s Skills Strategy, the STEM college aims to encourage those leaving secondary schools to follow a range of career paths in science, technology, engineering and maths, and the bold new building completes its Deane Road Campus.

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