Modular Steel Framing - Case Study Hall Of Residence - University Of Wales College Of Cardiff

Topics Covered

Project Team

Project Overview

Technical Details

Project Team


Director of Estates, University of Wales College, Cardiff


Gale, Stephen, Steiner

Structural engineers:

Ove Arup & Partners

Quantity surveyors:



Mowlem South West

Modular unit manufacturers:


Project Overview

A 64-bedroom, four storey Hall of Residence using a total of 80 modules, was the prototype for the TMT modular building system developed by Ove Arup & Partners.

A unique system including a special connection detail meant that the units were capable of being stacked up to 12 storeys without any structural frame.

The box modules were formed of Durasteel walls and profiled metal decking on a cold formed steel framework. The load bearing rolled steel angle corner posts were attached to each module corner via acoustic pads. The modules were simply bolted together on site using splice plates at each level, taking advantage of the high geometric accuracy achievable under factory conditions. The stability of both the modules and the assembled building was provided by the diaphragm action of the module walls.

The unique connection detailing, together with the Durasteel wall construction, produced acoustic insulation greater than 52 dB and excellent impact insulation. Fire testing of the wall construction proved a maximum fire resistance of 3 hours, justifying construction up to 12 storeys.

The modular units were clad with a traditional brickwork outer leaf and a tiled roof. Returns within the façade eliminated the need for unsightly expansion joints. The fast-track construction of the four-storey building took four months, which was important for the University client.

The interior, designed by Gale, Stephen, Steiner, was also modular in its concept. Fully-fitted prefabricated GRP modular units, incorporating toilet, shower, basin and accessories, were delivered to the factory ready for installation.

The interior fittings were designed to be delivered to the factory 'flat packed' to minimise storage. They provided a combination of furniture, painted panels and pinboards, hung on a split batten system.

The installation utilised a close butt joint system that could move independently during transit. The completed room was locked in place by the door frame, which was fixed to the module with screws and caps, allowing the removal of damaged panels or the refurbishment of the room at a later stage. This installation procedure took approximately 30 minutes.

The fully-fitted modules were delivered to site, tested and commissioned, requiring only the final connection of services.

The project was successful in proving the innovative construction system, high quality factory finishes, production tolerances and off-site commissioning. The modules have proved popular with both students and the University, being robust and easily maintained.

Technical Details

Application benefits:

1. Self supporting units capable of being stacked up to 12 storeys.

2. Rapid erection – 4 storey building completed in 4 months.

3. Fully fitted interior CRP modular units.

4. High acoustic ratings between the units.

5. Good fire resistance.

6. Vibration isolation between units.

The individual modular room units were 2.4m wide x 4m long x 2.6m high and were placed on either side of a separate corridor. The framework comprised cold formed steel sections with hot rolled steel angles at the corners that provided the vertical support. The connection detail allowed for a neoprene joint that reduced acoustic and vibration transfer between the units.

Additional stairs and communal areas were also provided. The brickwork was laterally supported by the units. A low roof pitch was constructed conventionally.


Source: Corus

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