A portfolio of Rockfon acoustic systems feature throughout the former British Gas Engineering Research Station (ERS) where iconic 1960s modernism meets 21st Century needs following sensitive and innovative refurbishment on a grand scale.

The former ERS building at Killingworth has a very strong architectural pedigree. The 50,000sq.ft. Grade II* listed structure sits within a 10 acre site and was the brainchild of pioneering architectural partnership Ryder and Yates. Built in 1967, the starkly beautiful, uncompromising construction was influenced by such luminaries of modernism as Le Corbusier and Lubetkin.

Collaboration delivers heritage sensitive solutions

Rockfon were very pleased to have been selected for the project and to have worked with RIBA Chartered Architects, Ainsworth Spark Associates on the specification of acoustic ceiling and wall systems for such an important and sensitive undertaking on behalf of property owner and main contractor North Tyneside Council. The building is now a fit for the future, multi-use resource which includes public access areas, open plan work spaces, smaller offices and meeting rooms.

A primary eco-drive for the project was to bring the building back into use rather than wastefully demolish it only to build a new facility elsewhere. Recognition and respect for the building’s listed status were at the forefront of the architects’ plans. The development offered Rockfon the opportunity to demonstrate a portfolio of acoustic systems to match the particular demands of each space throughout the building.

Rachel Charlesworth of Ainsworth Spark Associates talked about the project, “We needed to expose the history of the building and respect its architectural heritage whilst delivering a positive, modern working environment. An example of this was to painstakingly remove original service grid, thoroughly clean all components, down to each nut and bolt, and reinstall to help tell the historical story visible above the Eclipse Islands. The Rockfon team worked closely with us, providing solutions, particularly for the 1st floor concourse. Rockfon Blanka® X with a concealed grid and bespoke edge trim delivered the smooth, seamless appearance we were looking for to fantastic effect. The new ceiling systems clearly define the refurbishment and were a crucial part of the build.”

Rockfon Blanka® offers a wide choice of options for installation and usage. Its smooth high white surface is non-directional, speeding up installation, saving time and money. The range embodies Class A sound absorption, 26dB – 46dB room to room sound Insulation, 87% light reflection and >99% light diffusion. Blanka B was also used as wall panels.

All Rockfon acoustic systems are made from naturally occurring inert volcanic rock stone wool, are non-combustible and will not harbour harmful microorganisms and bacteria. Rockfon also contributes to a more sustainable future. They are recyclable and have a high recycled content, supporting the closed-loop circular economy, and are certified to leave a positive impact on people and the planet as the firm’s latest Cradle to Cradle certification confirms.

Architectural legacy meets modernity

The building’s interiors use a pared back palette of greys and light wood to great effect with occasional elements picked out in blue. Original floor to ceiling strip windows and new, glazed screens, allow light to filter through.

In the vast, open plan work spaces around 600 square format Rockfon Eclipse® Islands have been used to control sound and diffuse the visual impact of the exposed mechanical and electrical services above.

These elegant, frameless acoustic islands are suspended in a linear formation by wires affixed to the three metre high plenum but they can also be installed using a suspended grid or fixed directly to the soffit. They absorb sound on both sides, helping to reduce reverberation time and improve ambient sound levels. Their smooth, deep matt, super white surface has anti-static properties which extend product life.

Elsewhere in smaller spaces, Rockfon® Koral™ and Rockfon® Tropic™ tiles were used. Dimensionally stable, each has an attractive moisture resistant surface. Installed with semi-concealed or visible grid options they both offer Class A sound absorption and Class A1 fire safety.

Rockfon expertise and support always available

KD Building Solutions were responsible for the ceiling systems installation. The firm’s John Duffy said, “We wanted to develop our expertise in ceiling installation and this project certainly gave us the opportunity to do that. We faced challenges due to the need to protect the listed interiors and the re-use of original materials but Rockfon’s Jim Lundy was always available to offer support and advice. Thanks also to Minster, Newcastle for ensuring Rockfon materials were there on time. The completed installations look and perform brilliantly.”