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Optimism from strong economic growth forecast for Newport, Wales, meant the city was ready for step-out development work to revitalise its core and in November 2015, Friars Walk opened to the public...

Optimism from strong economic growth forecast for Newport, Wales, meant the city was ready for step-out development work to revitalise its core and in November 2015, Friars Walk opened to the public. Already a vibrant urban hub for the local community and visitors to this University City, the new retail and leisure development, featuring Kingspan’s integrated systems and building technology, has already exceeded expectations. Kingspan Magazine tracks the design vision through to delivery of this unique new space.

Harmonising town and country

London-based architects, Leslie Jones Architecture (LJA), are specialists in the retail/leisure and mixed-use sector and have a proven track record in urban place-making schemes. Brian Tracey, Director at LJA explained: “The design philosophy was to come up with a series of buildings each with their own character that used a palette of materials that were referenced back to the locality. We used brick, we used timber and we used the coloured panels from Kingspan to tie back to the greenness of the hills and the terracotta colours of the brickwork and the stone that exists within the town centre.”

Design + Build detail

From the beginning, Kingspan worked seamlessly with LJA and the contractor team to come up with creative solutions to the design challenges. These included the development of bespoke ancillaries, including vertical rails for the hook-on cassettes, factory-bent corner cassettes to give a smoother look, flashings made to match the thickness of the cassettes at strategic reveal points, and a penetrating steel fixing solution for store signage.

One of the largest buildings on the site was designed for retailer Debenhams. Being adjacent to a narrow street, it was important that it did not feel over-powering. The architects worked closely with Kingspan to determine the final scheme in which more than 2,000m 2 of BENCHMARK by Kingspan’s Engineered Façade System panels with aluminium hookon cassettes were used; four different shades of green and grey in matt and gloss finishes created the perfect look. Next, a cinema complex with a colourful terracotta façade incorporating LED lighting was designed to ensure the building made an equally arresting impression at night.

Design flexibility, a single point of supply, superior thermal insulation and airtight performance, which achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, were all key to the selection of the BENCHMARK by Kingspan’s Engineered Façade System. It also meant the contractor was able to quickly create a weather-tight building, giving an early green light to the internal fit out and faster route to handover to the client; Queensberry Real Estate.

How did Friars Walk measure up?

Since opening, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Footfall is above target and has also increased by 40% at neighbouring Kingsway Centre as Friars Walk draws more people to the city. While Simon Pullen, Operations Director at Queensberry Strategic Property Management is delighted with the easy maintenance and high energy efficiency of the building, Martin Tresidder, Project Director, commented: “The main challenge for Friars Walk was the sheer build speed required – a 21-month project by any measure is breakneck speed for a retail scheme of its scale. We were delighted with how the teams from Kingspan, LJA and the contractors worked together to deliver this transformational scheme to the heart of Newport.”