Natural slate has been a popular roofing material for centuries, and it’s no surprise why.
When people choose to work with natural slate, they do so for many different reasons; for some, the attraction of this material lies in its rugged, beautiful appearance. For others, it’s selected for its durability and incredible strength.
However, while the popularity of natural slate hasn’t waned, it has become increasingly difficult to source indigenous slate in large quantities.
In March of 2023, Southampton University’s library, Hartley Library, was in need of a roof replacement. Although indigenous slate had been originally used in the library’s roof, obtaining it from the UK’s last few active slate quarries proved a challenge due to high costs and lengthy waiting lists.
Luckily, there was an alternative – imported natural slate. Geologically and visually, there is very little to differentiate indigenous slate from imported natural slate. They both come from the same time period, and their geological makeup is virtually identical.
In March of 2023, Spetisbury Construction Ltd begun work on the library’s roof, choosing SSQ’s natural slate, Del Carmen, as the ideal material.
Del Carmen slate, imported from Spain’s Cabrera mountains, has all the makings of a superior roofing material. With a distinctive blue-black colour that retains its vibrancy over time, Del Carmen has achieved W1-T1-S1 classification (the highest possible result) in the UK’s BS EN 12326 testing.
SSQ’s thinnest grade of Del Carmen, Ultra-grade, measures only 5mm-6mm thick and yet still retains its phenomenal strength. Robustness of roofing materials was essential in order to ensure that the University’s financial investment would prove worthwhile. To date, there has never been a single registered failing of a Del Carmen roof in the UK, underscoring SSQ’s commitment to sourcing the highest quality natural slate from its quarries.
To highlight SSQ’s confidence in Del Carmen Ultra-grade’s longevity, the material is covered by SSQ’s Ultra Cover – an assurance that the roof will not fail for at least 100 years.
Hartley Library, the heart of Southampton University’s campus, was required to remain open for the entire duration of the reroofing process. Despite the challenges of restoring a building on a working campus, care was taken by the entire team to minimise disruption where possible.
As the library is located within a conservation area, the objective of the project was to retain the historical features and style of the roof, while carefully balancing out the original aesthetics with improved durability and ventilation.
The original features of the roof were carefully replicated to ensure that the building’s style was protected as much as possible. Lead hips, valleys, and ridge detail were all incorporated into the design, with step flashing added to ensure that water would run off down the roof and into the gutters. Ventilation was added to encourage air circulation in the building.
The project was fully completed within both the required time frame and budget, and was celebrated as a huge success. The University of Southampton’s library roof renovation with Del Carmen slate exemplifies how quality and aesthetics can be seamlessly combined.
Not only did Del Carmen Ultra provide a distinctive finish that pays homage to the original roofing material, but it has also, thanks to SSQ’s Ultra Cover, provided the University with an assurance that their library will continue to inspire students for decades to come.
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