Facades with Distinction – The High Watermark of Architecture

Opinion Piece by Guest Author, Paul Iddon ARB RIBA

Creating a building of distinction requires extraordinary design and materials.

Not all buildings are created equal. When it comes to architecture, there are extraordinary briefs and settings that demand an extraordinary response. The interesting thing is that anyone can sense when a building is special, when it has been loved, agonised over, lavished with care and attention to detail. We can feel it in our bones, and we know it matters. The idea of ‘civic pride’ may seem a bit 1950’s, but ask any resident of Barcelona, Sydney or New York and they will tell you in effusive terms of love for their city and what makes it special. As you read this, I can confidently predict you already have a particular building in each case in your head – am I right?

This is the remarkable power of architecture at the highest watermark, it is imprinted on our collective unconscious because it represents the pinnacle of human achievement. Architecture is called the mother of the arts for good reason.

If you have been lucky enough to witness first-hand the genius of Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, the innovative triumph of Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, or William van Alen’s art deco landmark Chrysler Building on Lexington Avenue, you will have been enriched for ever. There are many more all over the world, but you get the point. There is no substitute for quality, and it shows.

I would add to the list of world-class architecture, some examples closer to home. The magnificent response to the iconic Manchester Town Extension’s stone tracery was lovingly referenced by architect Simpson Haugh at No.2 St. Peter’s Square shown above. It is a building fit for probably the most important public space in the city.

Another stunning example is the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee by Kengo Kuma and Associates. A radical addition to the city’s waterfront, with its unmistakable references to the ruggedly beautiful Scottish landscape.

What do they all have in common?

Remarkable expression through their design and materials. Impact created through a powerful combination of quality, simplicity and clarity of form. To architects and those acquainted with the history of Imperial Rome, the ‘Vitruvian Triad’ is still the measure of architecture and has been for over 2000 years. Developed by Emperor Augustus’ chief architect and military engineer, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio 80-15 BCE and described with beautiful simplicity in three Latin words: Firmitatis, Utilitatis, Venustatis.

These three qualities Vitruvius believed every structure should possess, most commonly translated as Commodity (appropriate design of spatial accommodation and setting on the site, i.e., good planning), Firmness (Stability and build quality i.e., excellence in detail and construction), and Delight (Beauty and attractiveness in appearance). These cases are such an incredible success because they all possess these three simply stated qualities. But achieving them is extraordinarily difficult and is as clear as day when manifested in the world.

When it comes to facades of distinction, it is the second, Firmness, that holds the key to success even with the most brilliant concept. The material from which it is built defines its longevity and resilience to the ravages of climate and time. The examples in Manchester and Dundee use precast concrete manufactured to exacting specification, in order to stand solid and proud in the extremely variable climate of the British Isles, coupled with the environmental challenges of pollutants in North Cheshire basin or exposure and salinity of the Tay estuary.

“To build sustainably, we should build for centuries”

This material is noble, robust and durable. Perfectly in tune with the requirements of the highest quality demanded by the public realm. It is axiomatic amongst architects that sustainable design, especially in buildings of such note, should be based not just on a sensitivity to embodied carbon, but also their resilience and longevity. We should, of course, leave no stone unturned in striving for low carbon materials and a healthy circular economy, but as a first principle, to build sustainably, we should aim to build for centuries. The architecture that means the most to our civilisation, has the quality that last many lifetimes. Is part of the fabric of our shared history.

That means paying attention to the creation of buildings of distinction, with facades of distinction.

Paul Iddon ARB RIBA,

Owner / Director 
Agency PSI Ltd
Vice President – Manchester Society of Architects
RIBA NW Council Member

Grangegorman Shortlisted in Irish Construction Excellence Awards

Techrete’s Precast Concrete Facade Shortlisted in the Specialist Contract Category of the ICE Awards, Dublin

Techrete were delighted to receive the news that Grangegorman Central Quad has been shortlisted in the Irish Construction Excellence Awards. The project is up for multiple awards for main contractor John Sisk / FCC Joint Venture in what is sure to be an exciting evening at the Dublin Convention Centre on May 14th 2022.

International Women’s Day 2022

Techrete Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on 8 March in order to recognise the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the world and to highlight issues which still need addressing. IWD advocates for an inclusive, gender equal world whereby difference is celebrated and the theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias.

Techrete celebrated the women of Techrete by holding a focus group to recognize their valued contribution to the business, as well as exploring how to support them further and encourage more women to enter the construction industry.

Managing Director Mark O’Dea said ‘We are committed to creating an environment in which each employee can feel safe to be themselves, to fulfil their potential and maximise their contribution, regardless of their gender, age, religion, ethnic or national origin. Today, we join our female colleagues in celebrating the occasion and reflect on the significance of the message that it communicates

Duncan House Wins at Concrete Society Awards

Duncan House Wins ‘Highly Commended’ at the Concrete Society Awards

Techrete were thrilled with the news that Duncan House won ‘Highly Commended’ at this years Concrete Society Awards. The judges were impressed with Techrete’s quality and consistency of finish over almost 1,500 precast concrete panels which were manufactured off-site for Watkin Jones, saving considerable programme time and cost.

Duncan House is one of 6 recent and current Techrete projects at Stratford.

i9 Wolverhampton Wins Brick Award

i9 Wolverhampton Wins a Prestigious Brick Award 2021 in the Commercial Category

Techrete are proud to have designed, manufactured and installed the precast, brick-facing facade for this award winning project. 239 panels veneered with red IBstock bricks were manufactured off-site at Techrete’s facility in North Lincolnshire for Graham Construction.

Considered the most prestigious brick awards in the UK, the judges award the very best in craftsmanship and brick detailing.

Glenn Howells who designed the project said ‘We’re delighted and proud that i9 has gained this recognition from the Brick Awards. i9’s crafted red brick facade defines its identity and we wanted the strong vertical expression of brickwork piers to create a striking yet complementary addition to the family of buildings at this important intersection in the city.’

Wear it Pink

‘Wear it Pink’ Day for Breast Cancer Awareness

As part of our Wellness calendar, our team in Brigg organised a bake sale to raise funds for ‘Wear it Pink’ day in late October, while the famous pink ribbons were sold by our Balbriggan team. A total of €300 was raised, with Techrete matching that figure for a sizeable donation to this worthy cause.

With one in nine women developing breast cancer during the course of their lifetime, it is vital that we continue to raise awareness and support women who are affected by the disease.

RIBA Stirling for Kingston University Townhouse

Kingston University Townhouse has been names the UK’s ‘Best New Building’ Winning Architecture’s Top Award – Riba Stirling’

Architect Lord Foster, chair of this year’s prize jury, said Town House “seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention”.

He said it was a “highly original work of architecture” where “quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning can delightfully coexist”.

“That is no mean feat,” he added. “Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”

Grafton Architects said they were “delighted” that their “spatial open matrix” had been selected, noting how they had always “imagined a place where students would feel at home”.

Techrete are proud to have played our part in the construction of the Townhouse, supplying 473 reconstructed stone columns and beams for the projects’ facade.

Low Carbon Strategy Boosted with Solar Array

Techrete Install Large Solar Array at Dublin Facility

A Solar PV solution was installed at the Techrete factory in Balbriggan in September as part of our Low Carbon Strategy. With the Alternative Energy Ireland array, the Kw/h output is guaranteed, and it is expected that 300,000 kwh will be generated in year one alone. This will save Techrete approximately 75,000 kg of carbon emissions over 12 months.

Just one of our sustainability measures being implemented to ensure we reach our goal of achieving Net Zero by 2030.

Techrete Sponsor Local Football Team

Techrete Sponsor Balbriggan Football Club Under 14’s Football Team

Techrete were proud to sponsor the under 14’s team with the local Balbriggan Football Club for the upcoming season. Pictured below is Eddie Donegan of Balbriggan FC and Techrete Managing Director, Mark O’Dea.

It is important to Techrete to support the local communities in all of our operative locations across the UK and Ireland and you can read more about our Corporate Social Responsibility here.

Techrete Launch Summer Programme

Techrete Launch Summer Programme for School-Leavers at Facility in North Lincolnshire

The programme is a great opportunity for school leavers in the local and surrounding areas who are interested in the construction and manufacturing industries. Participants will gain experience and training in multiple trades and disciplines through a structured, paid, 8-week programme from 26th July to the end of September.

Techrete Win Presidents Award

Techrete Receives RoSPA Gold Presidents Award for Health & Safety Achievements for 10 Consecutive Years.

Techrete is celebrating after landing an internationally recognised award for demonstrating high health and safety standards. Achieving the RoSPA Gold medal 10 consecutive years has earned Techrete the President’s Award this year.

Organisations receiving a RoSPA Award are recognised as being world-leaders in health and safety practice. Every year, nearly 2,000 entrants vie to achieve the highest possible accolade in what is the UK’s longest-running H&S industry awards.

Micheal Sanderson Group Health and Safety Manager said: “To win the RoSPA Gold Medal for 10 consecutive years is an outstanding achievement for Techrete and it is testament to the strong leadership of our Health and Safety Managers and co-operation by all employees both at our manufacturing facilities and on-site. We are so proud to have achieved the President’s Award this year.”

Julia Small, RoSPA’s achievements director, said: “The RoSPA Awards scheme is the longest-running of its kind in the UK, but it receives entries from organisations across the globe, making it one of the most sought-after achievement awards for health and safety worldwide.

“RoSPA is very proud of the achievements of its entrants, and with this award we recognise the best of the best, those organisations that have gone the extra mile, raising the bar for the delivery of safety in the workplace. Employees, wherever they may be, should be able to go to work safe in the knowledge that they will return home unharmed and healthy at the end of every day. Our RoSPA Award winners are central to achieving this goal. By entering they are driving up standards and setting new safety benchmarks for organisations across the world. Currently, around 7million people are directly impacted by the RoSPA Awards, but the scheme’s global influence is even wider – with nearly 2000 organisations from 46 countries represented this year. I would also particularly want to thank our main sponsor NEBOSH, the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health – for their continued support for the 16th consecutive year.”

For more information about the RoSPA Awards visit www.rospa.com/awards

Penrose Dock Wins Double Award

Two Awards for Penrose Dock at the Building & Architecture Awards 2021

Penrose Dock won two awards at the Building and Architect of the Year awards 2021 – ‘Building of the Year’ in the Large Office category and ‘Overall Building of the Year 2021‘. Penrose Dock has also achieved the ‘Gold LEED’ standard for its environmental credentials. LEED is recognised as the benchmark for green building standards globally.

Martin O’Brien of JCD Group said ‘This award was only achieved by the dedication and attention to detail from a committed Design Team, Main Contractor and the many subcontractors that were involved in the project.’

Images Credit : JCD Group

30 Day Challenge for Stress Awareness Month

Techrete’s Wellness Team Challenge the Company to Walk 1.25 Million Steps in April.

April is ‘Stress Awareness’ month and it’s no surprise after a full year of the pandemic that the theme around the initiative is ‘Regain Connection, Certainty & Control’. 

Walking is low-impact and one of the most effective stress busting activities we can do so we’re hoping that we can  collectively walk the 1.25 million steps from our facility in Brigg to the HQ in Balbriggan to Leicester in April!

We will send a weekly ‘steps’ update to all who have registered for extra motivation!

Low Carbon Project for Warwick University Completed

Willmott Dixon Hands Over Low Carbon Techrete Project

The below press release details how Willmott Dixon delivered this low carbon project for University of Warwick. Techrete are proud to have manufactured and installed the precast façade – a major contributor to the sustainability of this project.

Willmott Dixon has completed the construction of the £33m Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building (IBRB), which has been assembled with components manufactured offsite, at the University of Warwick

The new research building on the university’s Gibbet Hill campus will bring together up to 300 researchers who will be working to understand the origins and mechanistic basis of diseases of the body and brain, intending to find new ways to extend healthy life spans.

The facility will also house research in neuroscience, microbiology and infection, cell biology, and disease models, supporting and facilitating interdisciplinary biomedical research of the highest quality.

The development, which was project managed by Turner and Townsend, is 7000sqm and includes a 400-seat lecture theatre and five-storeys of laboratories, as well as various social and collaboration spaces.

Alongside housing a team of researchers, the development will also enhance the student experience, facilitate the growth of undergraduate schemes and foster interdisciplinary collaboration enabling life-changing biomedical research.

The building – designed by Hawkins Brown Architects and Fairhurst Design Group – has been completed to a standard with 50% of the development made up of PMV (pre-manufactured value), comprising of several offsite manufactured components, such as a pre-cast frame, mega-riser, timber frame, and cladding.

Net-Zero Carbon Strategy

This approach simplifies the project’s logistics and improves its sustainability credentials by reducing the carbon footprint.

The project, which was supported by cost consultants Mace, has also maximised opportunities to improve sustainability, including the installation of over 390 vertical PV solar panels; these offsets approximately 46,00kg CO2 emissions.

Willmott Dixon’s Energy SynergyTM process will also be applied to the building to bridge the performance gap and drive down energy costs.

Throughout the project, the contractor has also studied the project’s embodied carbon lifecycle which is supporting the university’s net-zero carbon estates strategy.

With a £750,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation, the IBRB includes the Wolfson Tissue Mechanobiology and Human Disease Laboratory, where researchers will investigate how cells and tissues perform mechanical functions.

Their work will impact our understanding of a wide range of diseases, from cancer to brittle bones and heart conditions, positively impacting our ability to fight human diseases.

Advancing Health and Fighting Diseases

Nick Preedy, project lead at Willmott Dixon, said: “Following the successful completion of the award-winning University of Warwick Sports Hub, we established sustainable working practices with the university that could be replicated throughout the build of the IBRB scheme.

“These innovative practices included a blend of onsite and offsite manufacturing, which allowed us to cut down on product waste for both schemes, reduce build time, ensure better quality control and minimise our carbon footprint through fewer site deliveries.

“Our Energy SynergyTM process also played a large part in the sustainability of both projects. Initially launched during the construction of the university’s Sports Hub; the innovative service offering enables us to accurately estimate the energy consumption of each build.

“As a result, IBRB is now one of the most environmentally sustainable space on the University of Warwick’s campus to date, aligning seamlessly with the university’s targets to be carbon net-zero by 2030.”

Techrete Publish Environmental Product Declaration

Techrete are proud to publish the first ever company specific Environmental Product Declaration for Architectural Precast Concrete Cladding.

Our bespoke Environmental Product Declaration has recently been verified and published by EPD Ireland. Our EPD confirms that we are currently 20% less carbon intensive than the industry standard.

The publication of our bespoke EPD marks an important milestone in our carbon reduction journey to be 50% less carbon intensive than the current standard panel by 2025 and net zero by 2030.

Duncan House Wins ‘Tall Buildings’ Award

Duncan House Wins ‘Best Facade Engineering Project’ in the Tall Building Category

Techrete were delighted that our project Duncan House in Stratford won the ‘Best Tall Building Facade Engineering’ Award in December 2020 at the Tall Building Awards.

The submission was entered by Hodder + Partners and they said of the facade:

‘The building structure is reinforced concrete. The envelope is a robust framework of precast concrete with infill concrete panels, bronze anodized aluminum windows and vent panels set behind bronze anodized louvre blades.

The precast cladding panels were manufactured offsite by Techrete with glazing and vent panels pre-installed to minimize working at height.

The building facades are formed primarily from precast concrete by Techrete, insulated and fore-stopped with mineral fibre and lined internally with plasterboard.

The aesthetic qualities of the precast concrete are linked to its physical and technical characteristics – enhancing resistance to fire, air, water, wind and improving acoustics. It is a material that lends itself to modern methods of construction, but also has a timeless quality that references key buildings within the local heritage.’

Techrete Proud to Support Local Charities at Christmas

In Lieu of Corporate Gifts, Techrete Donate to Charities Local to Facilities in Balbriggan & Brigg

As always, we donated to charities such as The Crumlin Children’s Hospital Tiny Hearts Foundation, in lieu of corporate gifts.

Alison Reynolds of the foundation said :

“We are blown away by the continued generosity and support of Techrete this Christmas. It has been a difficult year and having supporters like you in our corner makes such a huge difference.

Donations like yours mean that we can continue improve the lives of children all around Ireland by funding various patient experience programmes such as music and play therapies, purchase state of the art equipment and invest in world class research in the National Children’s Research Centre to name a few.

These changes are only made possible by donations like yours.”

Other charities we donated to in Dublin and Brigg include :

  • Meals on Wheels
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Jigsaw Prosper Fingal
  • Balbriggan Scouts
  • Scawby District Lions Club
  • Dublin Simon Community
  • Newham Christmas Toy Appeal and more…

Another Win for Kingston University Townhouse

Kingston University Townhouse Wins ‘Highly Commended at the 2020 Concrete Society Awards

Although sadly there was no party to attend this year, we were delighted that Kingston University Townhouse won one of the four ‘Highly Commended’ awards. The judges had this to say “an excellent example of extensive exposed internal and external precast concrete, complemented by polished concrete floors.”

Our work on Kingston University Townhouse is outlined here.

Contractor & Site Supervisor of the Month for Techrete

PJ Hegarty Present Techrete with Two Awards for ESB

Last week as part of Health and Safety month, PJ Hegarty and Sons awarded Techrete with ‘Contractor of the Month’ for our work on Project Fitzwilliam / ESB and ‘Site Supervisor of the Month’ was awarded to our very own Phil, for the same project. We were delighted to be recognized by PJ Hegarty for the care and attention taken by the whole team on ESB and we’re looking forward to our continued collaboration on this and future projects.

You can read about our Health & Safety policies here : https://techrete.com/about-us/health-safety/