Mortar Solution for Historic Radio Station’s Award-winning Repurposing
CPI’s mortar solution was integral to the dramatic transformation of a derelict First World War radio station into a smart, modern secondary school with an intake of more than 1,000 pupils.
The £39m project saw Rugby International Radio Station – a Grade II-listed transmitter building in Warwickshire – repurposed as Houlton School, which opened its doors to its initial intake of 180 Year 7 youngsters in September 2021.
The 20-acre site’s huge regeneration, which was carried out by Morgan Sindall Construction on behalf of developer Urban & Civic, has already earned a clutch of industry awards. The latest of which was at this year’s Brick Awards where Houlton School won best refurbishment. Judges acclaimed the restoration as ‘unique’ and ‘exciting’, with special mention given to the school’s distinctive brick campus in ‘carrying the heritage of the radio station into the future’.
Speaking of the award, Stuart Russell, Commercial Manager at CPI, said: “We’re immensely proud to have played a part in this historic building’s superb transformation. It’s fully deserving of the accolades that have come its way. For us as a dry mortar specialist, the Houlton School refurbishment’s win at the Brick Awards was particularly pleasing. Congratulations to all those involved in this exceptional project.” Rugby International Radio Station was established in 1928 to fulfil the government’s post-First World War requirement for a long-wave wireless station capable of worldwide communications. In 1927, the site transmitted the first transatlantic radio signal, and by the mid-20th century was reportedly the world’s largest transmitter facility. Following the station’s phasing out in the early 2000s during which time it was awarded Grade II-listed status, a proposal was drawn up to convert the derelict transistor building into a school as part of a larger redevelopment of the Houlton area.
Designed by van Heyningen and Haward (vHH) architects, the Houlton School project involved two distinctive phases: the repurposing of the transmitter’s two listed structures and the construction of three new buildings. A crucial part of the design strategy was to ensure the school, which contains a variety of specialist features including a Sport England-compliant Sports Centre and a professional-grade radio studio, used as little energy as possible within the listed buildings. An array of the radio station’s original features are retained within the new structure as a reminder to current and future inhabitants of its historical notoriety.
CPI’s involvement with the project amounted to supplying brickwork contractor, Caxton Builders, with its high-performance dry mortar for the school’s all-brick campus. A total of 360 tonnes of CPI’s E181 Med Buff mortar was delivered to the school site from its Bilston manufacturing plant. The siloed mortar arrived fully mixed and ready to install. This minimised on-site labour times, leading to a cost-effective installation that enhanced the project’s sustainable credentials due to the relatively small mileage involved in the mortar’s delivery. The Houlton School project is a superb example of modern design techniques and product innovation combining with dynamic effect to bring purposeful new life to a site that has long stood empty. CPI EuroMIx is delighted to have played its part in the site’s spectacular reimaging, with its specialist dry mortars bringing stability and a desirable aesthetic to the historic, refurbished buildings.
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