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Two of SSQ’s recent projects illustrate just how much bearing geography, and other factors linked to the location of a building, should have in making the right choice when specifying natural slate materials.
On the surface, there are similarities: both are housing developments – either of apartments or houses – and both were built for customers at the luxury end of the market. Naturally this meant specifying materials that were long lasting as well as aesthetically pleasing.
However, the specific situation of each project meant significantly different slates chosen for each site.
The first, Penrith New Squares, is located in Cumbria, not too far from the Scottish border. The area has high exposure to erosive weather conditions such as wind and heavy rain, making durability essential.
There has been a raft of avoidable slate roof failures in recent years. Ultimately, these have been caused by specification of materials that were not suitable for the environments in which they were used. And the north of England provides some of the most challenging weather conditions in the country.
Slate is the most attractive, most durable choice of roofing material. But it must be the right slate; it must be fit for purpose.
This is why Thomas Armstrong Construction, the main contractor on this large-scale development, decided on SSQ’s Domiz Heavy slate.
Andrew Feddon, construction manager at Thomas Armstrong, explains further:
“The development at Penrith New Squares lies to the far north of England and is generally exposed to the elements, so we needed a slate that was aesthetically pleasing but also thicker (7-9mm) and harder wearing. We specified SSQ’s Domiz Heavy for all the houses and apartments on the site, because it fulfilled these criteria. We needed approximately 100,000 slates and the company was able to source and deliver these in a short space of time.”
Further south, a development was taking place in Woodhouse Eaves, an extremely picturesque village in Leicestershire, situated near to Carnwood Forest and the well-known Bradgate Park.
Crucially, the settlement is also located adjacent to Swithland where, until the end of the 19th Century, distinctive heavy grade Swithland slate was quarried and supplied to the local area in generally smaller sizes. The quarry eventually closed after the introduction of clay plain tiles and lighter (and less expensive) Welsh slate.
The slate has a natural purple, blue to grey green colour and, as a result, existing buildings in this area have a characteristic appearance – and new buildings are governed by conservation area regulations. Accordingly, natural stone was specified for walling while Sarria First was chosen for the roofs as a striking blue-black slate, which fits in well with both the Swithland and Ffestiniogg Welsh slate roofs already in position locally. Sarria slate has a dark blueness that shows up particularly well in sunlight and the material splits cleanly down the grain.
Jamie Gibbins, managing director of Barwood Homes, which carried out the project, says:
“The luxury home-building project at Forest Rock was situated in a charming Leicestershire village that falls within a conservation area. Working in such locations means adhering to rules, and we identified Sarria from SSQ as the best choice for the development, as it’s smoother grained, allowing us to create a great looking, but also more intricately patterned roof here.”
Haroun-El Helw, Head of Marketing SSQ Slate, comments: “The respective locations of the housing developments at Penrith New Square and Forest Rock mean superficially similar projects had differing solutions.
“The north of England can experience temperatures which are on average 5 to 7 degrees lower than those in the south, for example, and receive higher rainfall. Your roof, which is in direct contact with these conditions, must use slate that will withstand this or the consequences can be dire. Meanwhile, the demands of working within conservation zones or on listed buildings present a different kind of challenge – often requiring slate with specific looks and suitable for more detailed work.
“As a supplier, you need to adapt to these different situations, while still offering quality, continuity of supply – often at short notice. We need to offer durable solutions, which look great while also protecting against the elements, while also providing the breadth of choice needed by the very specific needs of conservation areas.
“Along with this, we must offer traceability, particularly in light of the recent change in law stipulating that all products much be CE certified and marked.
“The two developments are now complete, and they leave us with a great example of how initially similar projects often require marked differences when choosing the correct natural slate product.”