Acell composite panels match existing architecture

Composite panels with a stone finish transform a tennis pavilion in southwest England.

The High Bullen golf and spa hotel, located on a former country estate in Devonshire in the southwest of England, was looking to expand its scope of activities, and wanted to build 100 additional bungalows for guests as well as convert a little-used tennis facility into flexible space for weddings and meetings. But, local authorities are very strict in that construction or renovation must be consistent with traditional materials and styles. The hotel’s owner contacted Acell Industries Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland) for help with a cost-effective building solution that avoided having to use 19th-century traditional “Devon stone” to match the existing stately main building.

“To reproduce the original building’s appearance with natural stone would have been very costly, and taken a very long time,” says Acell’s executive director Michael Frieh. “We photographed buildings in surrounding villages to get the feel of the local architecture and the variance in the Devon stone material.” Acell’s patented molding technology, which combines sheet molding compound (SMC) skins and a core of frangible yet fire-resistant mineral foam in a low-pressure compression molding press, uses custom aluminum molds that are cast from a fiberglass master model. The model can be layed up directly on any selected natural material, such as brick, wood or stone. This makes it possible for Acell to replicate virtually any planar architectural design or surface in the mold surface, for classical finishes such as stone, brick, or very contemporary designs, says Frieh. Color is duplicated through the use of in-mold coatings, natural sand or even printed fabrics (see an earlier article about Acell panels and doors, here: http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/smc-sandwich-panels-lean-process-opens-doors).

The hotel asked for an accurate copy of the stone used in the 150-year old main bulding’s stone façade. Frieh says Acell chemically analyzed a Devon stone sample, and used powdered iron oxide and sand grains in developing the composite textured wall panels, so that they feels and look exactly like authentic stone. The samples were readily accepted by the owner, builder and permitting authority (see photo). A second facsimile of slate tiles, also reproduced by Acell, was accepted for the roofs of the planned structures. According to Frieh, after completion of the tennis pavilion makeover, a model bungalow will be constructed with the Acell composite building panels, followed by construction of the 100 planned units. “The speed of installation and the panel price were very attractive,” he concludes.