Grand makeover

Birmingham New Street Station had originally been built to accommodate 650 trains and 60,000 passengers per day. By 2010 it had become the busiest station outside of London, operating at more than twice its intended capacity.

British ceiling manufacturer SAS International commenced work on the three-phase project in June 2012. NG Bailey and main contractor Mace installed SAS systems across the platforms, the shopping centre and the concourse.

The early design involvement of SAS International was beneficial to the refurbishment of Birmingham New Street – full scale, physical mock-ups of the bespoke ceiling solutions were built on site, ensuring that the design idea and the final product were in accord before installation. At this stage, changes could easily be implemented without time or financial loss.

The fit out of semi-exposed platforms was a first for SAS International. Wind loads from trains passing at speed, and the integration of fans for smoke extraction, all had to be considered for passenger safety. Bespoke ceilings comprising fixed angled bulkheads were placed in line with the platform edges, many of which are curved, and installed on the platforms. The bulkheads, typically trapezoidal in shape, were bolted end to end in order to form a faceted layout to follow the platform curves.

SAS International used a point cloud to measure the platforms and 3D model the panels, using shared data from the project’s BIM model. The model’s geometry revealed that the platforms were all non-uniform. This posed a significant challenge, calling for the data to be analysed in order to achieve a smooth curved line within the platform edge as to not obstruct the train driver’s view.

Eventually, the number of unique panel types had to be rationalised and only four different components were used to keep within budget, whilst ensuring the aesthetic result was not compromised. Electronic Total Station setting-out techniques were then used to set out the panels along the curve.

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The Birmingham New Street refurbishment also completely reimagined the Pallasades shopping centre situated above the station, restoring the building’s previous grandeur.

The stunning new roof brings natural light into the Grand Central shopping centre, which is anchored by the 250,000 ft² John Lewis department store, one of the largest outside of London.

In total, over 7,000 m² of SAS International fit-out material was installed inside Grand Central. Working alongside main contractor ISG, SAS International designed, supplied and installed several bespoke metal ceilings specified for the lower retail area within the mall:

  • A mall link feature installed below glass reinforced gypsum features in the mall’s access areas.
  • A lozenge shaped, ‘metal can’ ceiling with integrated lighting.
  • A slatted System 700 linear ceiling.

The aim was to create an ideal meeting place which would serve as a gateway to Birmingham. SAS International had to exchange some of the tiles and plasterboard to acoustic boards and perforated tiles to reduce reverberation levels by absorbing sound. This manages the noise in the demanding mall environment, allowing greater speech intelligibility despite the high noise levels from the 50 million expected yearly visitors.


SAS International
31 Suttons Business Park
Reading | RG6 1AZ
0118 929 0900