Founded nearly 65 years ago, CATS College is an innovative independent education provider with four campuses across the UK and USA, and provides 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 features of the new building complemented the existing architecture and blended in.

Atkin Trade Specialists was awarded the framing element of the contract, and used voestalpine Metsec plc’s Metframe solution to overcome the complex structural design challenges as well as achieve the 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 bolted together off site to form panels providing the benefit of speed of build, with Metframe structures regularly taking under two weeks per floor to construct. Each structure is bespoke to allow flexible architectural design as well as to complement the surrounding buildings on campus. The building design incorporated several traditional features such as large bay windows with castellation, feature stone-work and mansard roofs, inspired by the existing architecture of the adjacent 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. Internal walls were left out in the build to provide flexibility and enable rooms to be opened to form larger ones if required. This element had to be accounted for in the design and hot rolled steel beams were integrated into the design to provide this flexibility.

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 its components according to the agreed design. Manufactured at its UK facilities to the design specified lengths, even the holes in the product are punched that are required for both off-site panel assembly and on-site final build. Atkins selected the Metframe solution for its ability to be prefabricated off-site enabling the onsite construction 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 material 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, the structural components are manufactured to the precise length required reducing site waste.

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

“The modern design provides flexible additional space for the college, coupled with the architectural reflection of existing buildings on campus meaning that it blends in with the style of the surroundings buildings.”

Ryan Simmonds, sales director of Framing at Metsec, adds “This project challenges the common perception of the type of building which is suitable for off-site construction. With special design elements such as the mansard roof at CATS College, installers will often disregard the off-site option, but our project with Atkin Trade Group shows that off-site can not only be an efficient and cost-effective solution, it can also provide solutions to complex architectural designs.”

For more information on the Metsec product range visit Alternatively, connect with Metsec via @MetsecUK or
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