IG Masonry Support

IG Masonry Support: Sommerville College, Oxford

  • 18 May 2022

For new high quality, contemporary student accommodation at Somerville College in Oxford, IG Masonry Support was able to create a solution that offered striking aesthetics whilst complementing the adjacent listed buildings and sensitive character of the conservation area.

Designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects, overseen by contractor Beard and installed by specialist subcontractor OG Stonemasonry Contractors Limited, the Catherine Hughes Building at Somerville College in Oxford is a  new-build development comprising of four and five-storey accommodation blocks. Named after a former principal of Somerville, it features 68 en-suite bedrooms for undergraduates including three fully accessible rooms, kitchens and a new graduate study room.  

Constructed using a cross-laminated timber frame which offered a low-carbon alternative to concrete, the building’s external walls were built using a combination of hand-laid and prefabricated brickwork elements around the façade’s windows.   

Such was the success of this well-thought-out exterior design the building won the Best Educational Building at the Brick Awards 2021.

The Challenge

For this new student accommodation, the client required a number of striking, bespoke designs for the exterior brickwork including an aesthetically-pleasing brick-to-soffit header with a taper effect across the reveal rather than it being straight. These deep brick soffit reveals are designed to be in contrast to the roofline.

To meet the requirements IG Masonry Support manufactured and supplied the prefabricated B.O.S.S.+ (Brick on Soffit System) for the head of the windows which produced the Corbelled Cornice detail.

Customisable to the architect’s design wishes, the Brick Slip Masonry Support Systems are prefabricated units manufactured offsite and delivered complete with brick slips mechanically fixed and pre-bonded to the units.

The utilisation of IG Masonry Support’s B.O.S.S.+ helped achieve the distinctive soffit design and striking corbelled head units, offering a flawless and historic aesthetic in a modern, easy-to-install solution. 

IG Masonry Support


The Solution

Whilst the bespoke elements were a challenge and pushed the boundaries in terms of design, IG Masonry Support’s collaboration with main contractor Beard, ensured a solution that met the architect’s specific requirements. Due to the brick slip units being large, heavy and unique, IG Masonry made a sample to showcase how the units were fabricated. Beard visited the factory for a tour to see how the product would look and ensure it met their needs and standards. 

IG Masonry Support exceeded expectations with its versatile B.O.S.S.+ (Brick on Soffit System) and Brick Slip Lintels, creating a seamless match with the surrounding brickwork. 

The B.O.S.S.+ is a lightweight pre-fabricated system, which contains mechanically-fixed brick slips and is faster to install than traditional hanging brick systems. Installed to a pre-fitted masonry support system, B.O.S.S.+ allows increased adjustability along three axes. Produced off-site, B.O.S.S. offers 90% time saving onsite and negates the need for mechanical lifting. B.O.S.S.+ also removes the need for brick-cutting on-site, resulting in a quality system that is checked before it arrives on site. This BBA-certified unit is suitable for use on residential buildings over 18m above ground level and complies with the Building Regulations 2010* Approved Document B:Fire Safety.

Not only is the system versatile, it offers ease-of-installation and enables time-savings on-site. The bespoke solution offers a 70% weight-saving against an equivalent concrete product, negating the need for mechanical handling and on-site labour. These were significant benefits on this educational project in particular. 

An integral part of the street scene and conservation area, this exemplary accommodation block and the presence of IG Masonry Support’s systems has ensured Somerville College’s newest student accommodation is thoughtfully planned, well-built and a sought-after place to live on campus.

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