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The Salvation Army, Denmark Hill

the project

Product: Rieder lightweight GRC

Colour: Cotton

Finish: Ferro


The Salvation Armys new territorial HQ in London demonstrates the innovative use of lightweight glass reinforced concrete (GRC) skin from Pura Facades.

image gallery

the process

Lightweight GRC provides stylish solution to new Salvation Army HQ


The Salvation Army’s new territorial HQ in London demonstrates the innovative use of lightweight glass reinforced concrete (GRC) skin from Pura Facades. Using a mixture of flecked brickslips and stone-like GRC cladding, this new structure reflects the timeless aesthetic of its neighbouring building, designed by modernist architect Giles Gilbert-Scott, the man behind Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Cathedral and the iconic red telephone box.

Pre-pandemic, it was decided that the charity’s former headquarters in Elephant & Castle had become uneconomical, so a move two miles south to Denmark Hill, the site of William Booth College, was undertaken.

Here, a new 5,000 sq m office for the church and charity is finally complete, despite the best efforts of Brexit, lockdown and the ongoing skills shortage. Standing in the shadows of the iconic 60m Gilbert-Scott tower, the new building is elegant, high quality and sustainable – in line with founder William Booth’s values of “soup, soap and salvation”.

Aesthetically, the new building is sympathetic to the neighbouring college, which looms large over this corner of south London. The outside of the new building is clad in brick slip, in a lighter tone than the Gilbert Scott buildings, but with darker flecks. Colonnades of vertical GRC piers alternating with glazing run along the front and rear.

The GRC elements, manufactured by Rieder and fabricated by Pura Facades, was specified due to its lightweight properties, durability, design versatility and excellent fire resistance. The sustainability of the product’s manufacture was another decisive factor in the choice of this façade material.

Lightweight GRC elements

NACWL was appointed by main contractor McLaren Construction Group to design, supply and install the new facade for the new headquarters and turned to Pura Facades for all of the GRC elements of the build.

The Salvation Army project presented a number of design challenges to the team at Pura Facades, involving innovative thinking, specifically in the area of fixings. The team also worked hard on aesthetic solutions to the GRC, to minimise the appearance of joins to create a seamless, stone-like appearance. .

Technical challenges

Commenting on the project, Burhan Orhan, Pura Facade’s Branch Manager, said: “To create a solid, stone-like appearance around the tall windows at the top of the building, the architects required 50mm thick GRC fins, each 3m in height, with variable leg sizes to be fixed onto the curtain walling brise soleil brackets.

“The major challenge here was finding a way to hide the fixings for these fins, as their small internal space of just 21mm didn’t allow for standard mechanical fixings. Having explored a few options, we eventually designed a bespoke set of aluminium brackets which were fabricated by our sister company MSP Facades based in Cumbernauld.

These brackets were fixed with dome nuts and stainless-steel rod bars – all spaced evenly along the height of the fins. The GRC fins were then riveted onto these bespoke supports, with either two or four rivets on the top and a single rivet for all the other bespoke brackets.”

Another challenge that faced Pura Facades involved a cruciform glass support structure that needed to be secured to the brise soleil bracket. Ana-Maria Moulas, design manager at Pura Facades, explained: “Here, we employed the same U-shaped aluminium bracket used for the vertical fins, along with large head rivets and dome head nuts and rod bars as primary fixings.

“The idea here was to eliminate rotation through the vertical section of the bracket, while the horizontal bracket fixed to the transom provided some restraint to make the cruciform support suitable.”

Lastly, Pura needed to address the challenge of fixing large coping GRC panels, developing a bespoke design solution to attach them. This involved utilizing a mix of aluminium L profiles, which were secured to hot-dip galvanized steel RHS beams. To ensure stability, Pura Facades incorporated custom-welded steel plates onto the hollow sections, which would then be attached to the concrete substructure.

Overall, the Salvation Army project demanded innovative solutions and careful planning to overcome the complexities presented by these design requirements.

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