School of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University

School of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University

Entering a building is usually the only way to find out what takes place inside. But that’s not the case with the Manchester Metropolitan University’s new School of Digital Arts (SODA). It acts as a giant canvas to illuminate digital content produced by students, thanks to an LED rainscreen façade on its northern face. 

The five-storey, 5,200m2 SODA building is adjacent to the Manchester School of Art and will provide space for a digital innovation and User Experience (UX) lab, film studios, green screens, edit suites, sound, music and production studios; alongside a screening room and gallery space. 

Like all rainscreen façade projects, the SODA building needed insulation to meet the required thermal, fire safety and acoustic performance, but the LED façade added complexity to the specification. The chosen rainscreen panels were perforated with small holes to allow the lights to shine through – but this also meant the insulation could be seen from certain angles, so the insulation needed to look aesthetically pleasing too. 

During the design process, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios had specified Knauf Insulation’s Rocksilk® RainScreen Slab for the project. It is non-combustible with a Euroclass A1 reaction to fire classification, so complies with building regulations that ban combustible insulation on certain buildings over 18m tall in England and Wales.  

Rocksilk® RainScreen Slab also has a thermal conductivity of 0.034 W/mK so could meet the U-value of 0.19 Wm2K. And thanks to its sound absorption characteristics, critical for low mass rainscreen structures, it will help create a quieter space for the students. 

The principal contractor Kier Construction had tasked specialist façade contractors Maple Sunscreening with determining the required thickness and aesthetics. So they contacted Knauf Insulation to discuss the best solution.  

Knauf Insulation’s Technical Support Team undertook 3D U-value calculations and confirmed that a 150mm slab should be used for the project.  

What’s more, Rocksilk® RainScreen Slab is manufactured with ECOSE® Technology, Knauf Insulation's unique bio-based binder that contains no added formaldehyde or phenol. This gives Knauf Insulation’s mineral wool its unique brown colour, so the insulation won’t stand out behind the perforated rainscreen panels. 

It also makes it soft to touch, easy to handle and generates low levels of dust and VOCs. As a result, products made with ECOSE® Technology have been awarded the Eurofins Gold Certificate for Indoor Air Comfort. 

Rocksilk® RainScreen Slab is designed to be easy to install correctly. Slabs are robust which makes them easy to manoeuvre into place. Once in position, they butt tightly together and adapt to any imperfections in the substrate. This prevents unintended air gaps that can compromise thermal, fire safety or acoustic performance. 

Using Rocksilk® RainScreen Slab was the optimal solution for the SODA building providing both the high thermal, fire safety and acoustic performance demanded of modern buildings. And thanks to its unique brown colour, the mineral wool insulation won’t be a distraction, instead acting as the perfect backdrop for the dazzling LED light displays created by the students. 

Client Kier Construction