Lowering conversion costs and accelerating delivery 

Acorn Aluminium is currently on-site at a landmark student scheme in Leicester. Adopting an innovative approach to delivery, we’ve worked with the main contractor and client to control costs and accelerate delivery.

The project

Acquired by luxury student accommodation provider True Student, Leicester’s former International Hotel is undergoing a multi-million-pound transformation.

Led by main contractor, Torsion Group, the previously derelict building is being converted into a new 470-bedroom student scheme, including communal, study and recreational spaces. 

We were appointed to deliver the curtain walling, window and door, spandrel and louvre elements of the scheme on a manufacture, supply and install basis. 

Representing more than 4,400min total, this includes 3,350mof aluminium windows, supplied in Senior Architectural Systems SPW600E energy efficient aluminium window system; and 1,050mcurtain walling in the SF52 system. 

Increasing conversion from commercial to residential use

Conversion of properties from commercial to residential use is accelerating. Built in the 1950s, the International Hotel Leicester’s fall from grace, is symptomatic of a wider decline. 

According to PWC’s Hotel’s Forecast 202-23 by the end of this year the hotel sector will have contracted by between 0.6 and 9.4% in all regions of the UK outside London, a downward spiral accelerated by stubbornly high rates of inflation.

The flip-side of the coin is at a time when the UK has built fewer new houses than at any time since the Second World War, demand for new homes is hitting record highs. 

This includes the student sector, which according to the Higher Education Policy institute will see the current shortfall in student beds rise from 207,000 to 450,000 by 2025. 

“There are a lot of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) schemes coming online but new schemes alone are unlikely to meet projected demand”, explains Paul Stevens, Managing Director, Acorn Aluminium.

“With higher operating costs and falling demand the conversion of commercial space to residential applications makes a lot of sense. 

“The challenge in refurbishment, particularl of older buildings is that you lose the economies of manufacture at scale and the uniformity that you get with new build. 

“If you’re going to keep costs under control, you need to adapt your approach.” 

Accelerated delivery and lowered costs in commercial to residential conversions

We were appointed to the True Student Leicester Scheme with three distinct objectives: support the delivery of the scheme so that accommodation is ready for the 2024 intake; deliver the programme so while retaining control of costs; and guarantee acoustic and energy performance. 

Working in partnership with Torsion Group at the very beginning of the specification process we were able to put forward an innovative solution which allowed us to bring the economies of scale and uniform manufacture normally associated with new build, to refurbishment of a 75-year-old building. 

“Openings were similar in size but not uniform”, Paul continues. “That meant we would have needed to manufacture each window on an almost individual basis, something which would have increased manufacturing and installation costs, plus complexity on site, slowing down installation.

“We proposed instead manufacture windows in a standard 3045mm wide X 1800mm high size, but adding or removing a 25mm add-on as required on site to adjust for variations. 

“This supported us in lowering costs to the client and main contractor while also giving us more flexibility in installation, allowing us to make far faster progress.” 

Product overview

Senior Architectural Systems SPW600 Window

The Senior SPW600 is a highly versatile 75mm window system, while its also available in the SPW600e enhanced thermal option, which uses additional thermal inserts on top of the latest polyamide thermal breaking technologies used across the range. 

Senior Architectural Systems SPW600 Window

The SF52 curtain walling system from Senior Architectural Systems, is defined by a consistent slim 52mm sightline. It also offers an exceptional level of flexibility and is suitable for both ground floor and high-rise applications, with full weather testing to CWCT and EN13830. 

Accommodating glass units of up to 56mm, this combines to create a highly cost-effective commercial window capable of achieving a BFRC A Rating. 

Concluding thoughts

“There is an underlying imbalance in the supply of rental accommodation, which is particularly acute in university cities and towns”, Paul says.

“While the PBSA sector is and will continue to see growth, the conversion of commercial into residential spaces is logically, part of the solution. 

“With extensive expertise in both PBSA but also conversion schemes, we can work with main contractors, architects and specifiers to develop innovative and cost-effective window, door and curtain walling solutions.

“This is epitomised in the approach we adopted in partnership with Torsion Group for True Student in Leicester”, he concludes.

For more about Acorn Aluminium please call 0115 928 2166, email info@acornaluminium.com or visit www.acornalumnium.com

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