March 2017

The award-winning, £42 million Vijay Patel Building at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, combines several structural elements, each distinguished by a contrasting, yet highly effective external solar shading and screening solution, courtesy of Levolux.

The development, named after Dr Vijay Patel, a graduate of DMU’s Leicester School of Pharmacy and now a very successful businessman, comprises the Arts Tower, Design Wing, the Food Village and the Pod.

The Vijay Patel building, designed by CPMG architects, becomes home to the DMU’s faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities, offering sector-leading facilities to students. Levolux has an impressive track record working on projects at the DMU campus. This continues with the delivery of a custom solar shading and screening solution for the Vijay Patel Building.

The solution includes a diverse range of products, including curved Aerofoil Fins, faux terracotta Fins, PV integrated Glass Fins and plant screening louvres. These have been applied differently on the building’s three structures.

The eleven-storey Arts Tower is the only surviving element from the original Fletcher complex, which was built in the early 1960’s. Following a comprehensive refurbishment, the façade of the tower has been transformed with the addition of laminated Glass Fins, incorporating building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) technology.

In total, Levolux provided 156 Glass PV Fins for the Arts Tower, each measuring up to 763mm wide and up to 3.3 metres in length. The Fins have been divided into two sections. 81 Fins have been fixed horizontally in a vertical stack on the tower’s south-facing elevation. The remainder are fixed vertically, secured with angled brackets to the south-west facing elevation.

The Glass PV Fins perform several functions. Firstly, they provide a welcome return in the form of renewable energy. Each Fin is capable of generating a maximum of 299 Watts, with a total combined capacity of 46 kW. The Glass PV Fins also provide an effective form of solar shading, as demonstrated on the south west elevation. In addition, the Fins create an attractive façade element, particularly on the south elevation. By harnessing solar power, the University hopes to cut its energy bill by a fifth.

The Design Wing, which runs from east to west, at the northern edge of the development, is a large, six-storey structure with a modern, glazed façade. Its south-facing elevation is fitted with rectangular-shaped aluminium Fins, each measuring 150mm wide by 50mm thick. In total, 61 rows of Fins extend horizontally, along the length of the building in a vertical stack that extends from first floor up to roof level.

To complement the external aesthetic of the Design Wing, Levolux applied a faux terracotta finish to the Fins. To enhance the finish, Levolux developed a special extrusion, with rounded edges. Even under close scrutiny, the Fins have a look and feel that could be mistaken as real terracotta.

The pitch of the horizontal Fins reduces to just 200mm at high level on each floor, providing solar shading where it is most effective. The openness of the Fins at low level, helps to maximise daylight levels and allows occupants impressive outward views across landscaped gardens to the River Soar in the west.

Projecting from the south of the Design Wing is ‘The Pod’, an ultra-modern, five-storey, curved glass structure. It benefits from an array of extruded aluminium Aerofoil Fins, each measuring 300mm wide by 40mm thick. In total, 23 rows of Fins are fixed horizontally, set at a pitch of 565mm. To accommodate the structure’s inclined, curved form, the Fins have been precisely curved and are secured back to a custom aluminium support structure.

At roof level, Levolux developed a plant screening solution, utilising its XL Screening Louvres. Three louvred enclosures have been formed, scaling up to 3.6 metres in height, with a combined length of almost 200 metres. With a ‘Z’ shaped profile, the louvres provide effective visual screening, with excellent airflow. To facilitate access for maintenance, Levolux incorporate double louvred doors in each area.

In addition, at roof level on the Pod structure, Levolux’s Contour Louvre system was specified to create a high performance plant screen. The louvred facade extends 3.2 metres in height and almost 12 metres in length. The louvre’s ‘S’ shaped profile, delivers an attractive, yet highly weather-resistant façade. The louvres are backed with bird/insect mesh for increased protection, while double louvred doors were provided to satisfy access requirements.

Levolux’s high performance Triniti Bracket was used extensively across the development to integrate the various solar shading elements with the curtain walling. In addition to providing exceptional structural performance, the Triniti bracket is renowned for minimising noise transmission and preventing interstitial condensation, all while maintaining a thermally broken building envelope.

All aluminium components supplied by Levolux for this project were finished in an attractive and highly durable powder coating. This is available in a wide range of colours and with a range of specialist surface treatments, including a faux terracotta finish.

The completed Vijay Patel Building, which opened in September 2016, was recognised in the 2016 Leicester Civic Society Awards as the ‘best new building’ in Leicester. It complements Leicester’s heritage, while embracing new building technology, such as the striking solar shading solution from Levolux. This is helping to reinforce its status as one of the UK’s top ten most popular universities.