Methodist College, Belfast

Ganson UK delivers a master class on how to sympathetically balance preservation ideals with modernisation demands for 150-year-old school…

Castlewellan-based construction company Ganson UK completed the design and build project at the Methodist College in Belfast.

Methodist College is a Grade B1 Listed Building built in 1865 with a gross internal floor area of 4400m2 and was refurbished with an 800m2 gross floor area two-storey new build extension constructed to the rear. A portion of the rear of the existing building was demolished to allow construction of the rear extension.

The facilities comprise: classroom teaching spaces for various subjects including but not limited to English, maths, RE, drama, IT and psychology. Additional accommodation will provide resource space, multi-purpose space, pupils cloaks/lockers/WCs, administration, medical inspection, learning support, staff accommodation and staff WCs. Circulation, plant space and ancillary accommodation will also be provided. 

As befitting a building of this age, care of the existing fixtures and fittings is paramount. For example, the Victorian era entrance leads into an ornate oak-lined reception area featuring an original central staircase with a heavy timber balustrade. These features were protected and preserved. Many other elements of the building such as the original panelling and staircases were also returned to their original glory.

Other facets of the project include the Heritage Centre, which was redesigned into a multipurpose hall, along with the installation of a new staircase, while the Drama Room was reinstated with its original high ceiling and beams after the removal of the old dormitories.

Externally, the brickwork walls and stonework were refurbished as necessary on all facades as well as refurbishment and restoration of the original sliding sash windows.

Hidden extras
As the stripping out works proceeded it became apparent that there was significantly more timber rot in the building structure than was first anticipated. What was initially considered a small item of remedial work eventually required numerous surveys throughout the building by specialist property surveyor Ray McCleery, structural design work by Taylor & Boyd, treatment advice from Stronghold Preservation and consultation with Hamilton Architects and HED. As a result, extensive timber treatments, stitching, replacement and resin repairs were required throughout the timber structures of the building and its roof. 

The timber rot and damp repair work, which was carried out highlighted a weakness in the original parapet flashing design. If this was not changed it was likely that all the benefit of the repaired building would be undone by future water ingress through these wall/roof junctions. This would lead to the return of timber rot and further water damage to the building fabric.

The client and construction teams agreed that a redesign of the original parapet flashing system would be required to mitigate probable future water ingress, but as this was a listed building, close consultation with HED due to its visual impact was a necessity. 

Several design proposals were drafted by Architects RPP in collaboration with HED and Hamilton Architects which led to a two-design solution for the 28 parapets/gables around the building. 

Repairs to the plasterwork internally uncovered extensive cracking to the existing brick walls throughout the building. Following consultation with our Structural Engineer, Taylor & Boyd, it was decided a Helifix crack stitching system would be the most appropriate method to repair the walls. A team from Stronghold Preservation led by David Boyd carried out exhaustive surveys, followed by detailed designs and then meticulous stitch works. This repair work has restored the structural integrity of the walls within the building.

These significant additional remedial actions along with the originally intended refurbishment works will leave the School House building ready for the next generation of pupils and staff to use at Methodist College.

Commenting on the completed project Enda Brady, Contracts Manager for Ganson UK said, “The successful refurbishment of the School House building is a superb example of design and construct collaboration between the client and construction teams and illustrates Ganson UK’s commitment to continue delivering high quality construction solutions in the complex areas of both heritage/conservation and education sectors.”

Client: Methodist College
Main Contractor: Ganson UK Ltd
Architect: RPP Architects
Structural & Civil Engineer: Taylor & Boyd
Site Managers: Mark Quinn and David Coulter
Site Assistant: Niamh Maguire
Contracts Manager: Enda Brady
Health & Safety: Lyndsey Thompson
Contracts Director: Gerard McClelland
M&E Consultant: Troup Bywaters & Anders

Ganson UK, Clarmont Avenue, Castlewellan, Co Down, BT31 9BX
T: +44 (0)28 4377 1022


Proud moment as Belfast firm completes iconic project during milestone anniversary year…

Electrical engineering specialists, JD McGeown Ltd carried out the full electrical installation to the prestigious Methodist College renovation project.

As with most construction projects, coordination and programming were key to a successful delivery. However due to the building’s listed status, a sensitive approach to the existing architecture and structure was also required, as David Geddis, Senior Projects Manager for JD McGeown explained, “This was a major conservation project which created its own unique challenges, but thanks to a concerted effort from all members of our team we delivered a future-proof electrical installation for this iconic, 19th-century, Belfast landmark.

“Students and teachers will benefit from the state-of-the-art audio visual systems which will greatly enhance their modern day education experience.”

JD McGeown manages expansive projects like this across all industry sectors. Clients appreciate the simplicity, ease of management and cost efficiencies gained through engaging with them as a single, specialised contractor delivering bespoke, end-to-end solutions.

Formed in 1961, this is JD McGeown’s 60th anniversary year and it’s fitting that the completion of such a prestigious local project marks this milestone for the business.

James McGeown, Managing Director said, “As a Belfast business, it has been a hugely proud moment for us to be so deeply involved in the restoration of such an iconic education establishment in the city. It’s a big credit to everybody involved who have all worked incredibly hard during a very difficult time period to get this project over the line in time for the new school year.” 

JD McGeown Ltd, 16-18 Lower Windsor Ave, Windsor Business Park, Belfast
T: +44 (0)28 9068 1176

Delivering bespoke, quality workmanship is ingrained at Loughview Timber…

Working in partnership with main contractor Ganson, Loughview Timber supplied the full internal joinery package on the Methodist College project. This included, fire-rated door-sets, fire-rated glazed screens and external door-sets, consisting of oak veneer doors from their standard range of doors and also bespoke fire doors to match the historical character of the building.

For the bespoke doors Loughview had to carry out additional R&D work with the fire certifying bodies in order to provide a fully certified product. 

In addition to the fire-rated doors Loughview Timber provided external doors and screens to replicate existing doors in the building, which allowed the historical integrity of the building to be maintained. In order to produce the external doors and screens they combined the skills of their traditional craftsmen with modern machinery. 

Founded in 2009, and situated on the shores of Kernan Lough, outside Gilford, Loughview Timber manufactures a full suite of joinery products for their partners in the construction industry. Combining traditional joinery skills and knowledge with modern equipment and software allows them to manufacture specialist joinery products to a consistent quality and impeccable finish.

Commenting on the project, Decky O’Dowd, Operations Manager said, “The most satisfying aspect of this job was being able to provide a high standard of bespoke products to a nationally recognised institution. 

“Once again it was great to be involved working with a contractor of Ganson’s status who we have worked with across many projects throughout Ireland over the years. Ganson’s professionalism, efficiency and willingness to assist Loughview throughout the Methodist College project and previous projects is a credit to them as a contractor and we look forward to working again with Ganson on future projects.”

Kernan Technology Park, 4 Kernan Rd, Gilford, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, BT63 6BU
T: +44 (0)28 3883 1199

Secret rooms, hidden doorways – it’s all in a day’s work for RPP Architects…

RPP Architects were responsible for delivering the technical design support on the restoration work carried out on the 150-year-old Methodist College.

The old Listed building revealed some secrets when the contractor began opening up the existing works, as Alan Shields, Director for RPP Architects explained, “Amongst the discoveries uncovered behind dry lining and plasterboard was a fantastic original stone door arch, timber trusses and we even discovered hidden rooms that didn’t appear on the original drawings.

“It was wonderful to uncover the forgotten features but it did require a lot of creativity in how we could make use of them. The Historic Environment Division (HED) was critical in this aspect as we assessed how we could preserve the original features and make the most of them within the new facility.”

Technical challenges included the dismantling and reassembling of stone stairs and pillars at the front of the building to facilitate a disability hoist, and also the careful integration of the new extensions into the historic fabric.

In addition major repair and replacement works had to be undertaken on the roof timberwork, which hadn’t been envisaged. Alan added, “The detailing of how that was carried out was very important in order to maintain the integrity of the original building as much as possible.”

Commenting on the completed project, Alan said, “It was immensely satisfying to be a part of turning a building that was beyond useful state in its former condition into workable space fit for the requirements of a modern school. 

“The co-operation of everyone involved was key to our success; the school, the contractor, HED, ourselves and the ICT who had the design intent. We think it’s a great facility for the school and we’re delighted to have been involved in this regeneration and extension project.”

T: +44 (0)28 9024 5777

An award-winning company that works closely with clients to bring technology to design, and design to fruition…

S McConnell & Sons Ltd combined laser-scanning technology with traditional hand-carving skills to create original stonework along with restoration work at Methodist College, Belfast.

Stonework included cladding on columns to the rear of the building with restorations carried out on other parts of the building such as copings, windows and repositioning the front steps.

The specialist stone company, based at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, is expertly skilled at combining the detail and colouring of stone with outstanding effect to enhance the architect’s design.

Selecting the correct stone to match the existing building was the biggest challenge on this job, which S McConnell & Sons surpassed with professionalism and great craftsmanship. Not surprising, considering they were the first Irish company to win the highly acclaimed UK Stone Awards in the restoration category for their work on the Albert Memorial Clock in Belfast.

The Kilkeel-based company has developed into one of the leading exponents in the specialist stonework industry sector over the last four decades. Previous projects include: The British Normandy Memorial, Normandy; The Armed Forces Memorial, Staffordshire; Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London; Princess Diana Memorial Fountain; private houses and many restoration projects on churches throughout the country.

Commenting on the Methodist College project, Alan McConnell Managing Director said, “It’s always satisfying to see the end result looking so well and the client being happy. We had a good working relationship with the contractor, which helped the job run smoothly and efficiently.”

S McConnell & Sons Ltd, 184 Carrigenagh Road, Kilkeel, Co. Down, BT34 4QA
T: +44 (0)28 4176 3717

Chris Quinn Bricklaying Ltd was responsible for the stripping out of the existing structure and bricklaying the two new extensions at Methodist College.

Around 150 years of out-dated building materials were removed by Chis Quinn’s team of hardworking operatives in the early stages of the project. They returned to lay block and bricks for the new buildings, ensuring a high standard of craftsmanship as they carefully matched the existing brickwork to its modern day equivalent.

On site for a total of two years, Chris is full of praise for the skilled work carried out by his operatives. “They are a very good team and delivered a great job. This is a prestigious building and it was important that their work is top notch, and it is.”

Based in Co. Down, Chris Quinn Bricklaying works across Northern Ireland and has been busy since Chris started the business after leaving school nine years ago. During that time he has worked on many projects with Ganson and other main contractors.

T: +44 (0)7716 138547

McAteer Paving provided a smart new first impression at Methodist College by laying a block paving to the roadway at the front of the building.

Their skilled team of four laid the Tobermore Tegula ‘Heather’ concrete paving blocks in two weeks.

The vintage-themed Tegula block was the perfect choice for this project. The blocks’ antique appearance blends smoothly with the original 150-year-old brickwork of the main building.

The McAteer Paving crew has vast experience in all aspects of concrete, brick, and natural stone paving along with kerbing, groundworks and construction.a The Coalisland-based firm is Ganson UK’s preferred paving contractor, working on commercial, residential and education projects right across Northern Ireland for the leading building company. They also carry out work for domestic clients.

Commenting on the project at Methodist College, Ryan McAteer praised the finished work. “This was a very nice project to be involved in. To have our work on display at such a prestigious location is a great honour for us and a great testament to the quality of workmanship carried out by our team.”

T: +44 (0)7835 860722
Facebook: Mc Ateer Paving

J&N Joinery Ltd provided specialist joinery services for the Methodist College renovation project.

These included major roof repairs – replacing of rafters and slating; relaying all existing floors and applying plywood for final floor finishes; refurbishing all sliding sash windows and general second fix – doors, skirting, architrave and ironmongery.

Jim Campbell, Director at J&N Joinery Ltd, said, “It was a pleasure to work on this building; although it was challenging at times due to it being a listed building. You always uncover unexpected issues when refurbishing older properties.

“But we are experienced in tackling these types of projects, so we worked as flexibly as possible for the main contractor, making sure everything we did was finished to the highest possible standards.

He added, “It’s satisfying to know that the work that we carried out will help protect and extend the lifetime of the building. Ultimately we’re very proud of the finished result.”

T: 07845 048275

MS Decorating Ltd delivered the finishing touch for main contractor Ganson to interior and exterior walls for the renovation project at the 150-year-old Methodist College.

The highly skilled team at MS Decorating cover the whole of Northern Ireland, providing superior quality interior and exterior painting services for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. They have a wealth of experience working alongside other trades and understand the need for flexibility, always willing to adapt their project schedule to fit with the overall plan. 

Although based in Kilrea, MS Decorating regularly work on projects throughout Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK. Their services include wallpapering, paint spraying, dry lining, fire protection painting, property maintenance, hygienic coatings, performance coatings as well as graphics application.

A long-established, family-run business, MS Decorating take great pride in delivering quality workmanship and a flawless finish for developments and renovation jobs, no matter what the size.

T: +44 (0)28 2954 1625

Stronghold Preservation delivered a range of structural and timber truss end repairs for the Methodist College project.

The full scope of work included structural repairs of the masonry. Also, many of the existing decorative trusses were affected by fungal decay.

The truss ends were repaired using conservation methods of repair. 

For over 35 years, Stronghold Preservation has built a reputation as a leading specialist in the preservation sector. It has expanded to include a wide range of structural and timber repairs, including restoration services for listed and historic buildings and structures, while also specialising in new build basement waterproofing.

Stronghold Preservation places particular emphasis on the repair and restoration of heritage and listed buildings and has a wealth of experience within the conservation sector. With a commitment to excellence in their field, they are always striving to improve and develop their range of products and services, seeking out new and innovative solutions.

T: +44 (0)28 8674 8572

Troup Bywaters+Anders provided full MEP RIBA Stage 4 detailed design for the new facilities constructed for Methodist College, Belfast.

The major challenge to this project was the protection of the building’s heritage; to keep the architectural impact to the façade minimal, whilst delivering a contemporary teaching facility. 

For example, the ventilation within the drama room was routed under the floor instead of high level. This allowed existing openings from the basement to be used, as there were no options at high level without forming new openings, which would have impacted upon the building’s character.

Commenting on the project, Stephen Crosbie, Senior Mechanical Engineer said, “With Methodist College being such a prominent building within Belfast’s history and landscape, we are very proud to have been involved in this sympathetic restoration and it will add to our extensive heritage sector portfolio.”

“Ganson UK have considerable experience within the education sector so they understood the nuances of applying BREEAM to the scheme which can be very building services focused. They developed a sense of open communication between the design team and the construction team to resolve the developing issues sympathetically to the building.” 

T: +44 (0) 28 9068 7955

Steel Lintels Ireland Ltd specified and supplied Catnic CG90/100 lintels for the prestigious Methodist College project. 

The company’s technical team reviewed the architectural and structural drawings and specified the lintels to suit the applied load and wall construction.

Barney McConville, founder of Steel Lintels Ireland, said, “Catnic lintels offer many benefits to specifiers and builders through a combination of their design, thermal efficiency and corrosion protection. These major features ensure Catnic lintels are widely used and respected throughout the building industry.”

Steel Lintels Ireland are the sole importer of Catnic Lintels in Ireland and stock a wide range of standard Catnic products. Itemised schedules are produced, listing a lintel for each individual opening. Designed in house by their engineers, the firm manufactures bespoke lintels in their Co Down factory.

Commenting on the project, Barney said, “Ganson (UK) Ltd is one of our established contractor partnerships and we have worked with them on a number of school projects. We look forward to working on many more with them.”

T: +44 (0)28 4062 3996

Flamma Ltd – specialists in conservation fire protection – upgraded the original doors and frames at Methodist College to nominal 30-minute fire-rated doors.

Using Envirograf products, their specialist installation service applied intumescent veneers to the doors – paying particular attention to the beads – as well as intumescent wraps and pads to locks and hinges. The door frames were also upgraded with intumescent coatings and appropriate fire stopping, where possible.

Formed in 2018, Flamma’s aim is to install quality certified passive fire protection installations.

“We certify the workmanship as well as the systems we install and provide bespoke solutions for all building types, in particular for historic buildings where standard approaches are often not suitable,” explained Siobhan Brown, Director of Operations and conservation architect.

Commenting on the project she added, “Because of the decorative nature of some of the architraves, a bespoke approach had to be used to upgrade some of the frames to ensure they complied. We are pleased to have been involved with Ganson on this restoration project.”

T: +44 (0)2891 310202