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Saving Béton House, Park Hill as an architectural asset

Roughly 1.2k tonnes of embodied carbon saved. 356 student accommodation units created. A project value of £20 million.

These key statistics define Béton House, Phase 3 of Park Hill, Sheffield, where we acted as Project and Cost Managers.

28 September 2023 | 3 min read
Liz Sidgwick
ON THIS PAGE

The project details

Previously derelict for years, the Grade II* listed site is now one of the most unique student developments in Europe.

With the project forming part of a wider masterplan led by Sheffield City Council and Urban Splash, the challenge for the development team was to regenerate part of this neglected estate into a characterful student development that preserved the asset for years to come.

What needed to be done? Supporting our client, Alumno Group, we created a retentionist strategy and test-and-experiment approach that kept the historical essence of the project at the core of its retrofit.

Discussing this further, our project lead and Senior Project Manager at RPS, Liz Sidgwick, shares the key lessons she took away from working on this project.

Retention over demolition

The main challenge of the project was balancing the ‘want’ to retain the heritage and how to achieve this, while meeting current design and construction standards.

But by not demolishing Park Hill but redeveloping it, a huge amount of embodied carbon was saved, roughly 1.2k tonnes.

We worked closely with the design and construction teams, rigorously testing the design solutions to better understand how each element could be retained, how we could work within the budget constraints of the project, and the material and construction longevity required. We created an inspirational plan to lead the way in sympathetic redevelopment and urban regeneration.

The historic balustrades were due to be replaced. But as they were an important and original feature, we worked with the architect and structural engineer to prove they could be retained. We created bespoke moulds of the balustrade spindles, as this helped preserve most of the original balustrades, and those hit hard by weather could be matched and replaced.

This approach enabled the team to save most of this element, significantly reducing the carbon output of casting new.

Assembling the right team and asking every question

Having teams of different disciplines around the table at the very start of the process to understand and discuss the objectives of the project was invaluable. It’s something I’ve taken with me heading into future projects.

The collaboration piece to the project was absolutely crucial to the success of Béton House. That focused effort, time, and letting the experts talk whilst working towards the common goal made the project what it was.

Not being afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions and trusting people to come up with that technical response led to getting the best out of everyone. All parties involved were brought along on the journey to finding the right solution.

The retentionist strategy saved history, carbon and money, cementing Béton House as one of the most unique student developments in Sheffield.

Want to know more about this project? Listen to our Building Sustainably: the road to net zero podcast episode here.