GBA Case Study
Burnley College, Lancashire
New College and Sports Campus

A stunning £55 million development creating a new college and sports campus for Burnley College and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Burnley College and UCLan worked closely with its appointed design team to develop a functionally robust, but aspirational design proposal, to meet the needs of its learners and stakeholders. These values were maintained through the construction phase. Shepherd Construction, their sub-contractors, together with DLA Architecture employed their vast wealth of experience to create a state-of-the-art learning facility, of true stature and inspiration to staff and students alike. This culminated in winning the prestigious LABC North West Regional Building excellence award for 2010.

Fundamental to the building design and in-service performance are sustainability and environmental issues. The project specification team left no stone unturned as they researched beautiful, highly-durable building materials, while demanding cost surety and world-class performance criteria.

Material Selection

Over 4000m2 of White Portland finish cladding panels were required. These panels were all to be located from ground floor to second floor level of the college buildings.  The ground to first floor panels encompassed a special textured finish with exposed aggregate.

Most of the areas within which the GRC cladding was to be located would be subjected to heavy traffic day in, day out, and therefore an added consideration was high levels of resistance to in-service impact damage. Any cladding  panel type selected therefore had to look and feel like high-grade Portland finish concrete.

At pre-construction stage Shepherd Construction carried out rigorous inspections of GBA’s manufacturing facilities, together with past projects. They were keen to examine and understand GBA’s membership of the GRCA International, particularly the GRCA’s Approved manufacturers Scheme.

These considerations together with product durability, resistance to corrosion, UV Light, fire and temperature variations, Grade 18 GRCs Green Guide A+ Rating were all to weigh heavily as the time to reach a decision neared.

Once Shepherd Construction and DLA Architects had completed the necessary research, it then emerged that due to the lightweight characteristics (typically 70kg/m2), and the revolutionary fixing designs created, it would prove possible to attach the panels to the SFS sub frame and cement board face from the front, completely removing the GRC Cladding installation from the project critical path.

These key factors resulted in GBAs Grade 18 Special Portland HSB Panels being signed off and specified for use within this closed rain screen cladding solution.

Design and Collaborative planning

Shepherd Construction’s collaborative planning and design process encouraged the close involvement of all key cladding subcontractors as designs were formulated and installation programmes began to develop. Among the benefits of this system is that the particular product providers are listened to and their product characteristics are fairly considered. Ultimately the trades provide their own input toward agreement of the final construction programme and sequence of working.

A key advantage of the design and installation processes proposed by GBA and BSCP engineers was that GBA’s GRC panels could be installed to accommodate other, perhaps more critical or inflexible trades, whilst still ensuring timely completion of key areas.

The completion of all panels and restraint design, together with agreement of the precise installation programme was signed off in 12 weeks. This provided  GBA’s production team with sufficient time in which to produce their master production molds and then establish and store buffer stocks of product ahead of installation. Some 1500m2 of panels would need to be ready and available for dispatch, from day one of installation.

Product Installation

In June 2007, the first of the GRC Cladding areas began to be fixed. This process continued at various levels of intensity through to February 2008. Throughout this period, GBA’s Project Manager, Kevin Heaton, attended all of Shepherd Construction’s weekly planning meetings.

Building areas quickly became watertight, meaning that internal trades could progress simultaneously and earlier that might normally be possible.

The weekly planning meetings were of particular benefit to the appointed cladding, glazing and related subcontractors. Installers reviewed their progress on a weekly (or even daily) basis, meaning that labour and product levels could be adjusted by mutual cooperation, providing that the required completion deadlines were ultimately achieved.

“We are very pleased with the appearance of the GRC which has more than met our expectations. This has benefited the overall appearance of the scheme, which has received wide accolades including the LABC Building Excellence Award.” Mike Masterson, DLA Architecture.

Project Overview

By February of 2008 GBA had completed the entire installation of 4000m2 of its GRC Cladding panels.

Subsequently the GRC Facade received a meticulous inspection from external cladding consultants, CLADTECH, this ahead of final sign-off. The GRC Facade had been completed on time and for exactly the agreed budget.

The Burnley college campus is now in daily use. The buildings are clean, crisp, very striking and provide a truly wonderful learning resource facility for its students.Any routine maintenance requirement following building handover is virtually non-existent.

Mr Mike Masterson of DLA Architecture said: “We enjoyed working closely with GBA and BSCP engineers on the detailing of the cladding system. We arrived at practical and workable details, in particular at interfaces with adjoining cladding materials. We are very pleased with the appearance of the GRC which has more than met our expectations. This has benefited the overall appearance of the scheme, which has received wide accolades including the LABC Building Excellence Award.”

Grade 18 GRC Advantages

  • Surety of cost
  • Lightweight (High performance, thin section composite concrete product typically 70kg/m2).
  • Environmental benefits- A BREEAM A+ Rated product.
  • The installation process negated the need for site craneage and external scaffold, was totally unaffected by inclement weather and, in the main, was completely removed from the project critical path.
  • The design methodology followed tried and tested principles which facilitated fast, simple affective connection details. This eliminated the need for any secondary carrier system.
  • The routine Maintenance requirement once installed is virtually non existent.


Project Lead: Burnley College & UCLan.
: DLA Architecture, Wakefield.
Main Contractor: Shepherd Construction.
GRC Manufacturer: GB Architectural Cladding Products Ltd, Liversedge, West Yorkshire.
Design Consultants: BSCP Engineers, Leeds.

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