Computational Foundry, Swansea University

Swansea University’s new computational science centre at its Bay Campus used brick-faced precast cladding supplied by Sterling Services to achieve the complex façade design and reduce the construction programme.

The 7,500 sq m building comprises two wings, one rising to six storeys and the other four, connected by an atrium space. Above a collonaded ground floor, the wing façades feature a cream Ivanhoe brick face, buff in colour with a light texture, designed by architect AHR after consultation with the Princes Foundation.

Main contractor Willmott Dixon was keen to minimise risks around quality control, a shortage of skilled bricklayers and weather delays  given the site’s exposed coastal location, so appointed Sterling to  offsite manufacture the façade.

The cladding comprises 640 precast panels, 150mm-thick, with only 10 variations among them. Sterling has used 250,000 bricks to face the panels, cut into half bricks using the firm’s new Ferrari automatic brick cutting machine at its Taunton factory. 

The half-bricks were placed into plastic mould liners allowing Sterling operatives to point them with a bucket handle finish from the rear.  The reinforcement bar plus hooks and lifting eyes were then positioned and the concrete poured on top.

The building is steel-framed and the panels were bolted on to the structure using a mobile crane.

The end result is a perfectly coursed brickwork façade across both wings of the facility, giving the impression of a traditionally built brick structure.