Levitt Bernstein’s rooftop extension to John Dodgson House in King’s Cross has successfully completed on site and is now fully occupied. The project has created an additional 49 new postgraduate study bedrooms for an existing hall of residence for University College London.
John Dodgson House is strategically located near to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations and the British Library, as well as being in close proximity to UCL’s main Bloomsbury campus. In response to this unique setting, the overall form of the extension was designed to make a positive contribution to the streetscape and roofscape, and complement the character of two neighbouring conservation areas.
The project enabled UCL to achieve an increase in high-quality study bedrooms to meet growing demand at its central London campus. As well as new bedrooms, a social learning space was incorporated into the basement podium of the existing building as part of UCL’s wider masterplan.
An important aspect of the project was ensuring minimal disruption to the availability of UCL’s student rooms. For this reason, off-site volumetric modular construction was used to keep the construction period within one academic year. The proposals were developed in BIM (Building Information Modelling), which enabled the modularisation of the designs to be tested three dimensionally early in the design process and integrated with the structural engineer’s proposals. A specialist modular construction consultant was part of the team who advised on the options for both the construction method and the approach to modularisation. It was important to the design to achieve some flexibility to the creation of internal spaces and the proposals were designed to allow the contractor a range of options without compromising the design intent.
The modules were constructed as the effective ‘inner leaf’ of the external envelope, with composite windows and cladding rails included. Each bedroom was fitted out in the factory with an en-suite bathroom pod, desk, wardrobe and light fittings. Over a period of three weeks, the modular units were then craned into position, onto a steel grillage structure with a number of new columns threaded through the existing building. Once in position, the modular units were clad with channel glass on the front facades, designed to create a layered appearance where the quality of light inside and out varies throughout the day and night.
Off-site construction was ideally suited to the construction of study bedrooms, while still providing the opportunity to create circulation spaces that enhance the social experience of students. Bedrooms are clustered around widened parts of corridors, which introduces spatial variety to the double loaded corridors. On the top floor rooflights above the door clusters draw natural light into the common areas. Shared kitchens are grouped around a lightwell which acts as a central orientating space, the glazed screens into kitchens creating a visual links and bringing borrowed light into the circulation areas.