University of Birmingham with Chamberlain Hall

University of Birmingham chose Gresham to supply high quality furniture for their biggest ever campus development, a £40m, 726-bedroom students residence across three wings and a 21-storey tower. Gresham would supply chairs for the student rooms and studios as well as chairs, sofas and TV stand shelving for kitchen/living areas. They would also provide sofas, chairs, tables and beanbags for the tower’s feature ground and lower ground floors, to be used as a bar and restaurant, as well as ancillary areas including office, laundry and multi-purpose space.

Project: University of Birmingham with Chamberlain Hall
Client: University of Birmingham
Value: £500,000
Products: More than 2,000 items supplied from Gresham’s extensive range of furniture. They included sofas adapted to form L-shapes for student kitchens and bespoke colours for chairs. A key feature of this project was a spectacular cantilever counter top built into the ground floor communal area of the tower part of the halls of residence along with a bespoke counter.

Brief

Gresham also created a centrepiece, 13-metre-long cantilever countertop from a design by project architects Glancy Nicholls. Although not part of Gresham’s original brief, they stepped in when the main contractor was unable to deliver the item. As well as successfully creating the structure, Gresham were able to complete the special project at a fraction of the original envisaged cost.

Design

Gresham worked with the University of Birmingham and Glancy Nicholls Architects on the furniture fit-out, recommending a series of colour schemes that the university could apply to the different wings of the development and the floors of the tower. For the bedrooms, Gresham specified Note swivel chairs in bespoke Sun Yellow, Yellow/Green and Vermillion. This palette also features as accent colours in the buttons of Gallen sofas, modified to create L-shapes better suited to fit the living area/kitchens. For kitchen chairs, Lahr seating with wooden base was supplied in standard white as well as in the bespoke colours.

To create the 13-metre-long, free-standing cantilever counter top, Gresham worked with a structural engineer and created samples and technical drawings to realise the final design and structural details of the item, with full approval from the client and Glancy Nicholls. The architectural structure involved a steel frame anchored to the floor with a Corian surround and an oak counter top – Gresham are approved Corian fabricators.

Delivery

The project was as much about delivery and logistics as it was quality of furniture design and specification. Project delays meant Gresham had just two months to complete the furniture fit-out before students moved in for the start of the academic year. They kept on top of the project, pushing both client and contractor and often delivering the high number of items out-of-hours.

Gresham were also up against a tight deadline for the design and construction of the counter top. Gresham’s Bespoke Operations Manager Chris Waddington led the project. “We anchored the metalwork to the floor and wall slab in extremely challenging site conditions,” he said. “It took a team of 12 to manually handle each section into place. The next stage was to fit the oak tops in sections and timber polishing works out-of-hours. It was a challenge, but a great result.”

Finish

Gresham delivered more than 2,000 high quality furniture pieces to Chamberlain Halls inside a few months and in time for the start of the academic year. Even with delays the company delivered a substantial project on time and to budget, including an array of specially-made items. Furthermore, Gresham was able to realise a centrepiece item of furniture, an architect-designed, 13-metre long free-standing cantilever bar top as part of the bar/restaurant area of the tower development.

More than 700 University of Birmingham students now enjoy very modern, comfortable and fashionable living areas and communal facilities thanks to Gresham.

From the client

“Working with Gresham had given the university peace of mind that even with the logistical and time challenges, the project would be completed successfully. Gresham were onto us a lot and kept pushing things a long – that was important. One of the biggest advantages of using Gresham was how flexible they were in delivery and they often came out-of-hours to get the furniture in. This is the biggest project the university has undertaken on its campus but we certainly got value-for-money from Gresham in terms of service and the quality of their products.”
Daniel Holmes, University of Birmingham Project Division

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