Metsec Metframe Cats College

CATS College, Canterbury

Metframe completes project ahead of tight schedule


Founded nearly 65 years ago, CATS College is an innovative independent education provider with four campuses across the UK and USA providing residential education to students studying GCSEs, A Levels and International Baccalaureates.

With the continued success of CATS College and its growing number of students, the Canterbury campus identified the need to expand its accommodation facilities as well as its social and catering spaces.

A new student accommodation block was commissioned to offer 87 en-suite rooms, a café, common room and flexible social areas for the students. The project had a tight timeline to ensure a handover date to coincide with the academic year, and needed to be completed within just 14 weeks, so speed of build was paramount.

Another key consideration of the project was the design. With CATS College’s prestigious locations and buildings, it was important that the design and features of the new building were sympathetic to the area, blending in with the local environment and complementing existing architecture.

Atkin Trade Specialists was awarded the framing element of the contract and used Metsec’s Metframe solution to overcome the complex structural design challenges and meet the project’s tight timescales.

Metframe is a pre-panelised system which is used to provide the load bearing structure for low to medium rise structures. The system uses stud, track and zed ledger sections, which are assembled into panels off-site. The complete panels are then transported to site according to the project’s schedule, ready for immediate installation.

The solution delivers a number of logistical, environmental and efficiency benefits, not least of which is speed of build, with Metframe structures typically taking less than two weeks per floor to construct.

Metframe’s versatility also provides architects with enormous flexibility in the building’s design, something which was highly valued at CATS College, Canterbury, where the new building needed to complement other buildings on the campus.

The building design incorporated several traditional features, such as large bay windows with castellation, feature stone-work and mansard roofs, inspired by the styles of the surrounding buildings.

The complex mansard roof configuration had multiple valleys and hips that needed to be incorporated into the design and the flexibility of the Metframe solution meant that the roof for the project could be formed using steel. It’s a competitive solution; rather than needing to commission a second company to design and form a roof, Metsec could supply one package, including a steel roofing solution, which added value and provided significant time savings to the project.

Inside, the building was designed to be future proof with hot-rolled steel beams used in some areas to accommodate non load-bearing studwork, providing the potential for future adaptation of wall/room configurations.

The detailing process involved in the design began with the import of the architectural CAD modelling into a bespoke 3D environment. This determined all setting-out and allowed structural components to be fully modelled in this environment.

In turn, this enabled Metsec to precisely manufacture all of the components according to the agreed design. Manufactured at its UK facilities to the design specified lengths, even the holes required for off-site panel assembly and on-site erection are punched before the components leave Metsec’s factory, further contributing towards speed and cost efficiencies.

Main contractor, Jenner selected the Metframe solution for its ability to be prefabricated off-site, enabling the on-site installation to be completed by only five personnel in just 13 weeks, a week ahead of schedule.

The CATS College project demonstrates a broad range of environmentally friendly materials and processes. The cold-rolled steel used in Metframe offers an excellent strength to weight ratio meaning that not only did the project require less steel overall, but the lightweight structure required shallower foundations to be installed, providing material, time and cost savings. In addition, precision manufacture of the structural components significantly reduces material wastage.

James Gallear, of Atkin Trade Specialists, says: “This project not only meets the client’s current design requirements, but exceeds them by providing a future-proof solution.

“The design approach has created a building which combines the traditional exterior appearance necessary to blend in with existing buildings with a flexible modern interior space which can be easily adapted to meet future needs.”

Steve Ginger, Director of Framing at Metsec, adds: “The CATS College project challenges the common misconception that off-site construction is only suitable for square, box-like buildings. With an attractive, traditional-looking exterior and special design elements, such as the mansard roof, installers will often disregard the off-site option, but this project shows that off-site can not only be an efficient and cost-effective solution, it can also cope with complex architectural designs.”

Take a look at Metsec’s pre-panelised steel-framing Metframe system