HI-MACS for award winning university project

News /
6 December 2013
HI-MACS for award winning university project
Photo: Cadzow Pelosi.

The highly durable and extremely versatile solid surface material HI-MACS has been used extensively in the high profile refurbishment of the five storey Students Union in a listed building on the 180 year old Newcastle University campus.

The contract was awarded to leading architects Faulkner Browns Architects who worked closely on the specification and design with Newcastle University project chief and executive of the students union Simon Gerry. His brief was for a material that would be highly durable and stand up to heavy use over a number of years. He was also looking for a material that would not wear, look tired or deteriorate in terms of appearance or performance. Both wood and decorative laminates were rejected and Faulkner Browns then put forwards HI-MACS based on their own experience with the product.

HI-MACS® is a natural stone acrylic which is easily machined, thermoformed to any 3D shape and can be joined without any visual seams. It is non-porous and impervious to moisture, colour fast and very easy to clean and maintain making it totally hygienic. It met all the criteria for the specification at the student union, which called for a modern and contemporary material that would endure round the clock use in social, working and IT environments, which included clubs and designer bars.

A major challenge to FaulknerBrowns and fabricators Multi-Surface Fabrications (MSF) of County Durham was that the refurbishment was being carried out in a listed building therefore the integral structure and fabric had to remain intact so, for instance, the cladding of the main staircase was only allowed if it retained the original feature. HI-MACS® was used as the ideal cladding choice.

To create a clean and contemporary style, most of the work in HI-MACS was in Nordic White although some striking and dramatic Cima from the HI-MACS Volcanics Collection along with an amount of solid black was also used.

Four hundred sheets of HI-MACS® were supplied to MSF and they set to work to create the two bars including the main feature bar. MSF also worked with shop fitting specialists Newman Scott to install over 40 columns including 4.6m tall columns spanning two floors in the main bar area. Other HI-MACS® installations for the refurbishment project included the main reception desk, a number of computer desks and print stations, coffee shop counters, 50 coffee table tops, shop fittings in the Union shop and radiator casings throughout the building.

Two noticeable projects were the 2.4m tall “T-cup” circular seating and conversation points and the spectacular “Spine Wall” which is a multi-function random pigeon hole storage system which runs the full length of the building and clearly demonstrates the superb finish that that can be achieved with HI-MACS® with CNC machining.

For this highly successful and prestigious project Faulkner Browns were awarded the top prize in the Education Interior Design Award category at the 2011 National Mixology North Awards in November, and they also won Design Practice of the Year.


Gunnersen’s wood-based panels, timber and decorative surface products include plywood, MDF, particleboard, Masonite Hardboard, cladding and flooring.

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