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Cohen Quad, Exeter College Oxford: case study

3 mins

The stainless-steel roof is the most striking feature of a modern interpretation of the university quadrangle, taking a 700 year old institution into the 21st century. It won the Hard Metals category at the Roofing Awards 2017.

Exeter College Oxford
Alison Brooks architects Exeter College Oxford University

Located in the heart of Oxford, next to the world-famous Bodleian Library, Exeter College, which was founded in 1314, is the University of Oxford’s fourth oldest college. Much of the college occupies the original medieval site on Turl Street, however, in 2011 the college selected Alison Brooks Architect to design a new building 10 minutes away.

The new 6,000 sqm Cohen Quad provides accommodation for 90 undergraduate and graduate students, along with an auditorium, seminar rooms, social learning spaces, archive, café, roof terraces, offices and fellows’ accommodation. The s-shaped design is organised around two courtyards, retaining the original listed Victorian frontage alongside with contemporary facades, with the stainless-steel roof folding across wall providing a stylistic link between the two.

Exeter college Oxford


This was the most complex installation that Roles Broderick Roofing has undertaken to date. The roof construction was developed in close conjunction with Alison Brooks Architects to create a curved shingle rain-screen cladding with the waterproofing layer below. The entire roof build-up, from secondary steel supports to the finished stainless-steel shingles, was installed by the team. The design specified innovative products for the build-up, comprising a profiled steel structural deck, two layers of Foamglas insulation with hot bitumen layer, perforated aluminium acoustic decking, with contrasting champagne and bronze, diamond-shaped stainless steel Rimex Paladin shingles. The total roofing envelope also included anodised aluminium dormer window cladding in an interlocking panel system, with green and felt flat roof areas.

Roles Boderick Roofing says

“Roles Broderick are proud to be the Winners of the Hard Metal Roofing category 2017 for this prestigious new college block, which maintained the original listed Victorian facade while incorporating a contemporary new curved stainless steel roof that used innovative products.”


Careful workmanship was required to successfully bond together the build-up to the curved structure, particularly as access was difficult and time-consuming. The installers had to embed the galvanised plates into the insulation to suit panel geometry, with a bituminous sanded felt laid over. The 2mm aluminium top hats and angles then had to be fixed through to the plates in order to allow the acoustic aluminium perforated deck to be secured, before arranging final champagne and bronze-coloured stainless-steel shingles in a 340x340mm diamond chequered pattern. The internal gutter lining and fascia also had to be fitted. To ensure quality, benchmark testing and handovers with the main contractor had to be set on each element and block.

The challenges

Installing within the confines of a small site in central Oxford, hemmed in by residential, commercial and educational properties, presented a major challenge. The team had to deal with limited space for site deliveries, restrictive working times and noise restriction, plus just-in-time procurement. The complex nature of the build-up and the many interfaces with other works, also meant that constant checking and re-checking was required throughout.

  • Client: Exeter College
  • Architect: Alison Brooks Architect
  • Main Contractor: Mace
  • Roofing Contractor: Roles Broderick Roofing
  • Building type: Public, Non-Housing
  • Location: Oxford
  • Completion: 2017
  • Roof type: Hard Metals
  • Finish: Champagne and bronze-coloured Rimex Paladin stainless steel shingles
  • Insulation: Two layers 130 mm thick Foamglas Insulation with PC11 adhesive. 180 mm Foamglas insulation with PC11
  • Underlay: Bituminous felt
  • Battens: Structural deck, 1.5 mm RD200/750. Steel trapezoidal deck, 0.9 mm. Aluminium web perforated RD38/152/914. Acoustic deck

About Roles Broderick Roofing

Roles Broderick Roofing offer a supply and installation service that aims to provide a tailor made solution for all aspects of your traditional hard metal roofing and cladding requirements. We have extensive product knowledge, specialising in Copper, mild Steel, Stainless Steel, Aluminium and Zinc. We cater for all types of build, from planning to installation, the whole process is looked after by our team of experts that draw upon over 50 years’ experience.

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