Façade work spruces up Beaumont Street properties


In spring and summer 2017, members of the Conservation & Buildings team and external contractors carried out an extensive programme of external renovations to 34-36 and 37 Beaumont Street.

This is an example of the kind of work Conservation & Buildings staff carry out regularly – periodic planned maintenance that is not glamorous, but that prevents serious problems from developing and greatly improves the experience of working in a building and its environmental performance.

The challenge

The historic buildings that make up much of the University estate need regular maintenance to remain usable. Jobs ranging from replacing broken slates and clearing and repairing gutters to re-painting and refurbishing sash windows and re-pointing any gaps in the mortar help keep these buildings weathertight. If they are neglected, the eventual cost is likely to outweigh any savings. This is why the Conservation and Buildings team carries out regular maintenance.

34-36 Beaumont Street is home to the School of Archaeology, while 37 Beaumont Street is part of the Ashmolean Museum. The building’s façades had not been comprehensively repaired for almost a decade. Existing sash windows were deteriorating; many had been painted shut over the years so could not be opened in hot weather, and in general they offered poor protection against noise and draughts.

The solution

The team thoroughly inspected the whole front façade of the buildings and dealt with any problems that arose. The stonework had already been cleaned at the last renovation in 2008 so soot and other dirt were not a major problem, but they repaired damaged stones and brickwork, replaced broken slates and dealt with any guttering problems. They also checked roofs and chimneys for damage, re-pointing and making repairs such as replacing broken slates where necessary.

The initial plan had not involved renovating the buildings’ windows, but the team managed to find space in the project’s budget to carry out this work while the scaffolding erected for the other repairs was still in place.

The team fully re-conditioned all windows on the front of the building. They repaired sash cords and weights, so that the sashes can now be relied on to stay open. They also replaced broken panes and installed draught-excluding brushes.

Maintaining security for the priceless collections of the Ashmolean was essential during the works, so the scaffolding featured alarms and other temporary security measures to ensure it could not be used to enter the museum.

The impact

34 - 36 Beaumont Street / renovate

The renovated windows are now far better at keeping noise and draughts out when they are closed, making the building considerably warmer and more comfortable in winter. They can also be opened after having been painted shut for years – the team removed excess paint and made sure the sashes are properly balanced to allow safe opening. This will make an equally important contribution to user comfort in summer.

Project manager David Holt, Building Surveyor in the Conservation & Buildings team, says that even though this was not part of the original job specification he was keen to include it in the works as otherwise it would probably have been many years before another opportunity arose to work on the windows from external scaffolding. Combining the jobs minimised disruption to building users and enabled significant improvements to be made much earlier than would otherwise have been possible.

He notes that this was the third time he has worked on these buildings, so he has a long familiarity with the issues they face.