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Best of a clad bunch

Proteus Facades' Simon Gregory looks at how rainscreen cladding helps architects' plans stay in keeping with the character of historical buildings

Posted by Julian Owen | August 03, 2018 | Outdoors

Many university campuses across the UK are based around listed buildings and, as more young people choose to go into higher education, there is a need to expand and build onto these structures to accommodate growing numbers.

However, Historic England’s Heritage Protection Guide states that, when considering any planning application that affects an area or building of architectural or historic interest, special attention must be given to preserving or enhancing its character or appearance.

To stay within these guidelines, architects often have to ensure that any designs they create - either for completely new buildings or for extending existing ones - can co-ordinate with and complement their surroundings.

An increasing number of architects are therefore choosing to integrate rainscreen cladding into their designs when working on structures adjacent to listed buildings. This is because the vast choice of cladding materials and finishes allow them to design external façades that provide a harmonious link with the older buildings. The use of traditional materials - such as copper and copper alloys, which has been used in construction for centuries - is a popular choice for this type of project, particularly bronze.

Royal Holloway

The new Emily Wilding Davison Building at Royal Holloway, University of London’s Egham campus, is a great example of a new development that has been designed to perfectly complement a nearby listed building, through the use of bronze rainscreen cladding.

The east side of the striking 10,000m2 building features our TECU Bronze cladding panels. The subtle brown-red to brown-grey and ochre tones of the bronze façade help it sit harmoniously in a site steeped in history, flanked on one side by the Grade I listed gothic revival building and surrounded by one of the most beautiful natural campus landscapes of any university in the world.

The TECU Bronze cladding, installed by contractor Colorminium - who were involved in all aspects of the façade from two years prior to commencement of the build - was selected by the designer, Associated Architects. It was specified because the beautiful colour variation resulting from the natural weathering of the copper alloy material was considered to complement the shades of the brick and clay roof tiles of the adjacent structure.

The size and shape of the bronze cladding panels featured heavily during the design stage, alongside a decision to go with elongated portrait format panels with horizontal joints aligning with projecting feature ‘tree-house’ meeting pods. The sensitive design response came out of a number of constraints imposed by topological aspects of the site, one principal factor being a need to limit the height of the new building so that it remained clearly subservient to the listed Founders Building.

In response, the Emily Wilding Building doesn’t exceed three storeys above ground, whilst use of the Bronze cladding panels avoids the façade appearing squat. A basement floor was excavated into the sloping site, maximising the useable space.

The Bronze panels - which we supplied in their natural warm, reddish brown state - develops through the effects of weathering, providing the façade with outstanding mechanical abrasion and corrosion resistant properties, as well as being maintenance free.


Building alongside or near to listed and architecturally significant buildings, like Royal Holloway, must be considered carefully. Clients, architects and developers must devote a considerable amount of time to preserving the building, including its setting alongside features of special architectural or historic interest.

The choice of materials used for these new buildings, particularly for the external façade, are critical. There are new copper alloy façade materials being developed all the time; for example, TECU Gold is a mix of copper and aluminium. Zinn, too, is a great choice, being a tin-plated copper that offers all the advantages of copper but weathers from silver to subtle grey tones.

Copper and its alloys have been used to protect buildings for centuries and remain as sought after today as they always have been. Recent innovations in how the material is presented now make its benefits even more accessible to a wider range of projects.

For more information on Proteus SC visit or call 0151 545 5075.


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