Luxury Apartments Benefit from Lightweight Framing

The Drapery Apartments

Project: The Drapery, Seven Sisters Road, London
Category: Residential
Products: SFS
Scale: £13 million luxury residential development
Contractor: AC Union Construction
Architect: Spacelab/Makespace
Installer: Robert E Lee
Engineer: Mason Navarro Pledge

A £13 million project to redevelop a former department store has employed the lightweight properties of Metsec’s SFS steel framing system to great effect.

The Drapery is a four-storey, art deco building on the Seven Sisters Road in London. Originally built as The London Drapery Store for D H Evans in 1936, the building was damaged by bombing in the Second World War and left empty until the 1950’s. Since then it has had a variety of uses, most recently comprising four retail units at ground level, with colleges occupying the upper floors.

The redevelopment, overseen by employer’s agents, Measur, sees the building transformed into a mixture of private and social residential units by contractors A C Union in a ‘cut and carve’ project aimed at retaining the building’s eye-catching, historic identity.

The challenges for the design and construction team were considerable. Structural Engineers, Mason Navarro Pledge led the design process, ensuring that the solution was compatible with the current building’s loadbearing capabilities.

In addition, the retail businesses at ground floor level needed to continue trading as normal, meaning that disruption had to be kept to a minimum.

Ron Farrow of A C Union explains, “The solution that we devised required lightweight structural framing, dividers to create party walls and rainscreen cladding. When we considered the options, we decided to adopt a single supplier approach as far as practicable. Metsec was the obvious choice.”

The project was far from straightforward, however. As demolition work progressed, the team uncovered vagaries in the building that had resulted from additions and alterations made during its various uses, including money chutes running through existing slabs and walls.

Furthermore, to avoid disruption to the retail operations, much of the structural steel (approximately 100 tonnes in total) was manoeuvred into position by hand, making Metsec’s light weight systems very welcome to the installation team.

Retaining the original building’s façade, AC Union demolished the rear and centre of the upper storeys and used Metsec’s structural framing systems to infill the three floors above ground floor level. The light weight steel frame was installed by specialist installers, Robert E Lee, as both freestanding and infill structures, with hot rolled steel creating cantilevered features from existing columns, according to requirements.

Metsec structural framing was also used in the construction of an additional freestanding four-storey building to provide further residential units.

Redevelopment of the Drapery has been undertaken in three phases of both new build and refurbishment construction, with Metsec lightweight structural steel and framing systems used extensively throughout to create a total of 107 residential properties.