Is your tower block looking tired and a bit too last season? Here's a quick guide to a refreshing makeover. Plus, give your 21st-century fittings some retro elegance and discover the latest way to keep your office cool
What's the spec? Sudbury House, Wandsworth, London
The skyline of south-west London has been much improved since the exterior refurbishment of this tower block was completed. Sudbury House is located bang in the middle of Wandsworth and forms the centrepiece of a 1960s mixed-use development incorporating the Arndale shopping centre. Over the years the block had deteriorated and, being the highest building locally, had sprouted a proliferation of phone masts, satellite dishes and radio antennae.

In common with many similar refurbishments, the residents could not be decanted while the refurbishment took place. This gave the architect and project manager Pellings a splitting headache, as the two longest elevations of the block were a curtain wall containing windows, and asbestos-filled solid panelling that had to be entirely replaced. The first step was to remove the asbestos-filled panels below the windows, which exposed the edge of the floor slab and the concrete frame and allowed the framework for the new cladding to be attached. The frame protruded beyond the old windows that were left in place, and unglazed windows were put in from the outside so residents could still open the old windows for ventilation. In a one-day operation, each flat had its old windows removed and the new windows glazed. All this was done using a mast climber – a platform that runs up the building – saving all the time and cost associated with scaffolding.

The replacement panels are made of plastic sandwiched between aluminium and are 10 mm thick, rather than the 3 mm units found on other local authority refurbishment projects, which are prone to distortion. The new curved roof is entirely decorative and hides all the antennae and satellite dishes. The existing roof was overlaid with a high-performance membrane, and the windows in each flat had an extractor fitted to reduce the risk of condensation caused by the flats being better sealed and insulated.

Instant sunshine for interiors

Monodraught has teamed up with the Metal Window Company to produce its Conservation SunPipe. This is a replica of a traditional Victorian cast iron rooflight and is attached to either a 300 mm or 450 mm diameter SunPipe carrying natural light down to rooms below. The company says the rooflight does not project above the roof, and features a double-glazed unit with a 12 mm airgap and the Metal Window Company’s Thermoliner to prevent condensation forming in the system.
Monodraught SunPipe 306

Retro mixer tap
Hansgrohe has launched a mixer tap called Allegra Carlton, which the maker says uses modern technology with a design reminiscent of the early 20th century. It has a ceramic cartridge that the company claims offers accurate temperature control, a silicone aerator disc to prevent limescale build-up and a lever handle that can be fitted to either the left- or right-hand side of the tap. It is suitable for low-pressure installations and is available in chrome, chrome and gold and matt silver finishes.
Hansgrohe 307

Cladding system
An aluminium framing system, designed for ground- and first-floor applications has been produced by cladding manufacturer Kawneer. The company says the 451PT has been developed in collaboration with the Consortium for Local Authority Special Projects for education refurbishment and new-build projects, but that it is also suitable for retail display windows. It consists of slimline, two-colour multiglazed framing modules of various sizes that incorporate fixed lights, opening vents and insulated panels. It can also accommodate the company’s 190 non-insulated door, which it says is CLASP’s preferred choice because of its robustness. Kawneer says the poor thermal performance of the door is offset by the system’s standard hard-coat glass, which has a centre U value of 1.7 W/m2ºK.
Kawneer 308

Replacement guttering
Veka has introduced a PVCu guttering system designed to replace “troughing” rainwater drainage systems found on Victorian terraced housing, which run continuously for the length of a terrace to a downpipe at one end and are made from solid timber. The company says many of these systems are in need of repair, an operation that requires specialist manufacture, as any replacement sections must complement the rest of the run for the system to be effective. Veka claims its replacement system is easy to fit, looks similar to the original and is rot and corrosion proof. It is supplied in black, brown or white and a range of accessories including joints and brackets is available.
Veka 309

Concrete repair solution
MC Building Chemicals has launched a repair system called Zentrifix CR Plus for deteriorated or damaged concrete. It is a two-part system consisting of a reinstatement and a finish mortar that the company says allows water vapour diffusion, is carbonation resistant and has high crack-bridging capabilities. The company also claims it eliminates the need for separate corrosion protection, bonding agents and final fairing coats and is suitable for conventional, lightweight, aerated and coated concrete.
MC Building Chemicals 310

Protection for bituminous surfaces
Coverall International has developed a water-based protective coating for driveways, paths and deteriorated asbestos or corrugated roofs. The bitumen-rich product is cold-applied with a broom and the company claims that one coat provides sufficient protection and will not peel away at the edges. It is available in grey/black, red or green.
Coverall International 311

Natural slate for roofing
Alfred McAlpine Slates has launched a natural roof slate called Celtic, which is quarried and finished in Wales. The company says the slate has a robust appearance and attractive naturally occurring markings. It is available in heather blue, blue/grey and dark blue/grey in a range of sizes.
Alfred McAlpine Slates 312

Brass radiator valve
A traditional solid brass radiator valve has been introduced by Tuscan Foundry Products. Called the Union, it is modelled on valves from the 1920s and 1930s and has a distinctive ebony-stained and lacquered wooden handle.
It is also available with a nickel plate finish and the company says that it is compatible with most new and reclaimed radiators and towel rails.
Tuscan Foundry Products 313

Product innovation - Cool runnings

Consultant FaberMaunsell has developed a passive cooling system called CoolDeck, which is specifically designed for installation into existing buildings. Passive cooling uses less energy than mechanical systems, but until now has had to be incorporated into the building design prior to construction. A passive cooling systems uses the thermal mass of floor slabs to regulate the temperature of the building. It uses cold night air to cool the slab and, in the daytime, warm air from the offices below is cooled by circulating it past the slab. The necessary contact between air and slab is achieved by either exposing the slab or using proprietary systems, such as TermoDeck, which pass air through holes incorporated into a special floor slab. The problem with existing buildings is that the underside of floor slabs are not normally designed to be exposed – and are often covered up with false ceilings. The CoolDeck system overcomes this problem by being hidden in the ceiling void. Sheet metal panels are attached to the underside of the slab, and air is passed along between the two surfaces through a hose attached to a fan. This air comes into contact with the slab, exchanges heat with it, and passes out through the open ends of the panels, into the offices through ceiling grilles. FaberMaunsell has tried the system out at Stevenage council’s offices, which were suffering from overheating in summer. FaberMaunsell says the system cost £40/m2 – considerably less than the alternative mechanical cooling system, which would have cost £180/m2. The system has reduced the average internal temperature of the offices by 4°C and occupants report that the air in the building feels fresher in the morning than before the system was installed. FaberMaunsell says it hopes to market the system commercially.