The Printworks Exeter

The Printworks, Exeter

Metframe Makes Steel Ideal for Student Accommodation

The complex design of a new 500-room student accommodation building in the centre of Exeter dictated a very tight footprint. Cold rolled steel specialist, Metsec, offered the ideal solution with its Metframe System for The Printworks. This enabled the flexible delivery of a pre-fabricated system according to the strict timescales of the construction programme.

Built on the site of an old print works and designed by Bristol based architects Stride Treglown, The Printworks has been dubbed ‘the best student apartments in Exeter’ by the University of Exeter. The challenging site is not only located on a busy arterial road but also next to a number of existing buildings, dictating a very specific footprint. The tight site meant on-site fabrication was not an option for main contractor Morgan Sindall and approved Metframe installer, Atkin Trade Specialists.

They needed a framing solution that could not only be fabricated off-site, but that would also be compact enough in its design to maximise the available space of the three, four and five storey buildings. To make best use of these alternating levels Stride Treglown designed a courtyard to maximise the perimeter of the building, allowing as many bedrooms as possible to be included.

Metsec’s Metframe system, a pre-panelised system used to provide the load bearing structure for low to medium rise buildings, has been widely used in the construction of buildings for various applications, including tall buildings – to date the system has been used for buildings up to 11 storeys. The Metframe system allowed Atkin Trade Specialists to fabricate panels off-site, having these ready for installation as soon as the main contractor released each section of the substructure.

During construction at Western Way, composite concrete floors were incorporated with the Metframe system, helping to ease speed of construction within a tight programme. Concrete floors ensured a high level of acoustic and fire performance to meet both the legislative and application requirements of the project. Speed was also a driver in the inclusion of elements such as bathroom pods, installed directly onto the concrete floors as the building progressed, helping to save time for following trades later into the programme.

The team at Morgan Sindall commented: “Metsec provided a good service on Western Way, they looked into detail options for us at tender stage, which assisted our sub-contractor package.”

Atkin Trade Specialists said: “Metframe’s slender structural wall and floor zones were important in optimising the space available for this project. One of the main benefits of the Metframe system is its rapid build, a key feature for this student accommodation project.

“The system was also ideal in realising the architectural design elements of the project. Upper storeys that overhang the storey below, with large corner windows and tall brickwork parapets are all features of the building design. The Metframe system enabled these features to be incorporated into the realisation of the building.”

Stephen Ginger, Sales Director at Metsec added: “The Metframe system uses studs in the same way as load bearing steel frame applications, except these are bolted together offsite to form panels. The incorporation of heavier gauge studs to create bespoke designs allows structures to be constructed with multiple storeys. In fact, the system has so far been used to build up to 11 storeys high. Ultimately though it is the speed of construction that sets Metframe apart. Typically Metframe structures take under two weeks per floor to construct. We worked closely with Atkin Trade Specialists throughout the design process to ensure the Metframe system met all the project’s requirements.”

This collaboration is the unique benefit to specialist contractors when working with Metsec. The majority of building designs can be accommodated within the system, which is designed and modelled within BIM and offers a zero waste solution. Providing excellent acoustic performance and high thermal efficiency, Metframe provides main contractors and developers with a proven structural solution and peace of mind that the Metframe system will be on site at the right time, according to the requirements of the build programme.

For more information on Atkin Trade Specialists visit

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