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Tampere University Hospital to be clad in ceramic tile


The façade of the B-wing of the Tampere University Hospital is being renovated in a way that has never before been seen in Finland. The dilapidated concrete surface with a protected appearance will be replaced by a ceramic tile surface – one that mimics the original concrete surface. The tiles have been designed and manufactured specifically for this project.

The renovation of the façade of the Tampere University Hospital's B-wing, which was completed in 1961, has been underway for a long time. The old concrete surface is badly soiled and in poor condition. The crumbling of the white concrete surface has posed a constant risk for the building's users. The renovation has been complicated by the fact that traditional repair solutions cannot be used in Tampere.

- The concrete element has a two-layered surface, and its surface of white concrete is crumbling now that is has reached the end of its service life. There is a layer of lightweight concrete acting as insulation underneath the surface, and its removal is practically impossible, because the windows are located on that floor. And because the hospital is full of patients in need of treatment, the windows cannot be removed for the duration of the renovation, says architect Mika Suihko from the architectural firm Tähti-set Oy, illustrating how challenging the project is.

As the old surface is too fragile for traditional repair solutions, and since they would not even have been possible because of the patients treated inside the hospital, new alternatives had to be sought. The new façade needed to be a light, easily installable, flexible solution. Requirements related to the appearance of the façade made the project even more challenging. The Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum had set strict conditions for this largest section of the hospital in its plan: the appearance should remain unchanged, and the nature of the building, representing post-war hospital construction and modernism, should remain faithful to the old model.

TAYS renewing proect 2020. Architecture studio Tähti-Set Oy and UKI Arkkitehdit Oy.

Solution: custom-made tile

- We looked through many different solutions, and Composer by Teräselementti, Florim and ABL-Laatat that had entered the market fulfilled the needed requirements. It was clear to us already at the presentation of the product that the renovation would now be possible, Mika Suihko recalls.

Florim ceramic tile was chosen because of its lightness and the patterning possibilities of the surface material. What was unique was that the surface of the selected tile mimicking the old concrete was specifically designed and custom-made for this project.

Custom made Composer-tile from Florim that mimics the color and pattern of an olf concrete.

- We measured the old façade’s surface and chose the tile size based on those numbers. We also needed to preserve the seam type of the concrete elements. We took some sample pieces from the old surface, and ABL used those as basis when supplying the sample tiles to the site. After a few sample tiles, we managed to get the colour and structure of the tiles just right, says Suihko about the progress of the project.

In order to give the green light, the construction supervision and the Provincial Museum required a full-sized model to be built on-site. This was done in order to ensure the desired outcome and to refine the final solutions.

New tiles are already being fixed in the worksite.

Other benefits of the tiles

Using tile as surface material also solved the problem of additional thermal insulation that designers often face when renovating old valuable buildings. Additional thermal insulation is usually not a very viable solution – it more often tends to ruin the appearance of building. The usual pitfalls can be avoided in this project thanks to the flexible solution.

Composer-tile also solved the heating problem.

- The new shell tile is supported by the bearing internal framework of the building, and the cladding covers the old surface and fixes the crumbling shell into place. The entire façade will be thermally insulated, improving the energy economy of the building significantly. The new additional thermal insulation, which is approximately 7,000 square metres in size, will pay for itself in two years, Suihko sums up.

The renovation process, which started three years ago, has now reached the stage where tiles are already being installed. Getting to this point has been a result of long, hard work.

- The process has required fast and flexible cooperation from all parties. There have been lots of negotiations, and we were given permission for the project only after everything was ready. The parties needed courage to create and develop the solution at their own risk. It is fantastic that this kind of activity is possible today, Suihko praises.