Portland House, Exeter

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Portland House, Exeter

Light gauge structural steel specialist, voestalpine Metsec plc, has supported the renovation of Portland House – a 1960’s concrete framed building – as part of a £17m luxury student accommodation scheme for developer Select Property Group under its Vita Student brand, an experience led accommodation provider that places as much emphasis on customer service as it does offering stylish accommodation.

Located within the heart of Exeter’s city centre, Portland House, originally a four-storey structure, has been converted into seven-storey student accommodation, totalling 161 high-end flats with the use of Metsec’s load bearing steel frame structure (SFS) system. Create Construction converted the building on the site of Exeter’s former Theatre Royal, and the newly created flats sit proudly on top of a retail unit and cafe.

Metsec’s load bearing SFS system, which was installed by approved sub-contractor Mansell Finishes, enabled three additional storeys to be added to the original concrete building without impacting the structure due to its lightweight design. These structures are stick built on site, which ensures maximum flexibility of the structure. The project also benefitted from reduced plant costs, as there was no need for the use of cranes to build the SFS. With land expensive and scarce in city centres, buildings upwards on existing structures is key to solving the shortage issue and SFS has proved to be the most cost and resource-effective way to do this.

Ian Nuttall, Senior Quantity Surveyor at Create Construction, commented:
“Portland House has been a fantastic project to work on. It was so important to keep the load to a minimum to ensure that the original concrete structure of the building was not impaired, which is why we chose to use Metsec’s SFS Load Bearing product. Cost of labour on site has also been efficient, due to the system being constructed without the use of cranes.”

He continued: “What’s more, the new residential units were all let out to students in advance of the 2014/15 intake – an indicator of the continued demand for self-contained, high-end student accommodation.”

Dean Johnston, managing director at Mansell Finishes commented:
“We’ve worked with Metsec for some time now and rate their steel frame structure system very highly indeed. It was ideal for the Portland House development as not only does it offer a quality, high performance load bearing solution, but enabled us to ensure the quickest installation process possible - a key factor on the project due to the timescales involved."

Stephen Ginger, Managing Director of Metsec Purlins & Framing, commented:
“Portland House was a really interesting project for the team here at Metsec. The key goal was ensuring that the structure of the original building was able to take the load of the extra storeys. The Metsec load bearing steel frame structure (SFS) makes use of the axial capacity of specially designed SFS studs. The studs are designed as a series of columns, which provide complete load bearing wall panels. These are typically stick built on site – ensuring maximum flexibility to suit site requirements – a perfect option in this situation.

“Another significant factor in this project was the regeneration of the original building. We’re seeing a real trend – especially in city centres where land is expensive and there’s often a shortage – to introduce more storeys to original buildings, rather than starting a completely new project to save on cost and time from a planning point of view.”