According to Institute of Civil Engineering statistics, UK construction output is more than £110 billion per annum, contributing some 7% of GDP. Surprisingly perhaps, about 40% of construction output is related to refurbishment or maintenance projects.
That’s certainly true for Wrightstyle which supplies advanced glazing systems internationally for all interior and exterior applications. A significant proportion of our business is in the design and delivery of systems to refurbish older buildings against fire or ballistic or bomb threat.
In part therefore, our business is about bringing older buildings into the 21st century, so that they not only meet modern building and fire regulations, but provide levels of security against criminal or terrorist attack that that were unheard of just a few years ago. Our latest systems, for example, have been live tested against lorry bomb attack.
But while refurbishment can be about supplying and fitting a standard solution, it generally isn’t that simple, because older buildings weren’t designed in standard sizes. In other words, refurbishment often comes with the need for a bespoke solution, complexity and, often enough, an absolute requirement to meet sensitive historic requirements.
Recently, that was a major consideration for our refurbishment of the iconic frontage of London’s King’s Cross Station – a project that showcases the strength, practicality and beauty of glass to millions of travellers and visitors every year.
Last year we also helped to redevelop the Victorian Fish & Coal buildings which sit alongside the Regent’s Canal just behind King’s Cross, and form part of the wider regeneration the, a project that will see 50 new buildings, 1,900 new homes, 20 new streets, and 10 new public parks and squares.
It was also true on a project last year on historic Bridgemaster’s House, part of Tower Bridge, which is being transformed into office space, bar and restaurant, with spectacular views of the world-famous bridge and the Thames.
All those projects required closely working with heritage bodies as well as the architectural team because, while refurbishment is all about living new life to old buildings, nobody wants those buildings to look anything other than old and original.
That’s where our design expertise comes in, because we are one of the few suppliers of advanced glazing systems able to offer profile ranges ideal for restoration projects and bespoke fabrication facilities able to manufacture glazing systems to any size.
But modern glazing systems aren’t just about replacing old with new, and bringing everything up to modern fire and building requirements. It can also be about enhancing an older structure and making it fit for purpose for a new age.
That’s true for our ongoing work on the Royal Academy of Arts and Hong Kong’s Museum of Art because, for an art gallery, letting light flood in is part of the modern visitor experience; providing exhibition spaces that connect the outside with the inside.
Refurbishment is all about giving the past new purpose, and building in new levels of safety. But it’s also about architectural sensitivity. Our historic past should be celebrated and preserved – and that’s precisely what advanced glazing systems are designed to do.