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Schüco systems help project achieve Outstanding BREEAM certification

The Catalyst is an eye-catching centrepiece found in Newcastle Helix, a £350m, 24-acre vibrant innovation quarter in the heart of Newcastle’s city centre. The building is instantly recognisable due to its diagrid design.

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Architect: GSS Architecture

Specialist contractor: Charles Henshaw & Sons Ltd

Schüco systems: FWS 50 SG, FWS 60, ADS 65, ADS 65 HD

Picture credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

The Catalyst has become the first commercial office building in the Northeast to be awarded the certification of “Outstanding” by BREEAM – an internationally recognised standard for sustainability.


Simon Rennison-Rae, Partner at GSS Architecture, who were Lead Designer and architects for the project, explains why the external envelope and use of Schüco products were so integral to the project: “From a visual, environmental and longevity perspective, the external envelope was incredibly significant for this nationally recognised project. We always want to deliver the best solution for our clients and as we felt that Schüco were the market leader, we worked collaboratively with their team to ensure that we could deliver a technical solution that eliminated thermal bridges on the exterior of the building and yet created a crisp and unique visual aesthetic. Our client, Newcastle University could not be happier with the end result”


The Catalyst incorporates a range of sustainable technologies, such as siphonic drainage feeding into the rain garden, a green roof, a central air handling plant and photovoltaic panels, which will generate up to 27,000 kWh of electricity per year.

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Simon Rennison-Rae, Partner at GSS Architecture

“From a visual, environmental and longevity perspective, the external envelope was incredibly significant for this nationally recognised project. We always want to deliver the best solution for our clients and as we felt that Schüco were the market leader, we worked collaboratively with their team to ensure that we could deliver a technical solution that eliminated thermal bridges on the exterior of the building and yet created a crisp and unique visual aesthetic. Our client, Newcastle University could not be happier with the end result”

Specialist contractor, Charles Henshaw & Sons, elaborates on why Schüco was specified: “We suggested the Schüco curtain walling system for this project due to the high quality of the company’s systems. The building envelope was delivered successfully on time and to an extremely high standard. We worked collaboratively with Schüco to ensure these achievements were possible.”


The holistic approach to the fabric, services and management of the building fits perfectly with Newcastle Helix, which was designed as a sustainable urban regeneration development. Helix is home to prestigious commercial and residential space with outstanding opportunities for innovation and commercialisation, as well as first-class research, education and engagement facilities in the heart of the city.


The Catalyst is home to the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA), the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) and the National Institute for Health Research Innovation Observatory (NIHRIO). The development is a purpose-built centre enabling local and international researchers to take a global approach to the multi-faceted issue of an ageing population.


The six-storey, 100,000 sq. ft. building provides a mix of tailored and shared facilities including an interactive double-height public exhibition space, a 75 capacity TED-style theatre, shared workspaces, Grade A commercial spaces and an impressive 22 seat boardroom with panoramic views of the Newcastle skyline.


The Catalyst won three awards at the 2020 Constructing Excellence in the Northeast Awards: Integration & Collaborative Working, Sustainability and Project of the Year. The building design promotes a collaborative working ecosystem, built on communication and interaction between the innovation centres and commercial industry experts.

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The Catalyst
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