​It’s hard to imagine a tougher environment for building products than a prison, a psychiatric centre, a student apartment complex or a retirement village. 

Yet the same walls used in contemporary designer homes are also the preferred partition of choice for prisons, institutions, and multi-unit developments such as residential towers, schools and state structures, retirement developments and more.  

Waikato’s newest jail at Spring Hill and the Hawkes Bay regional prison’s new housing units built ‘outside the wire’ are designed to help assimilate prisoners back into society. 

Project Manager Steve Drake says the design saves on day-to-day running costs and it made good sense to align the design and build with best practice for cost effective, energy efficient, environmentally friendly homes. 

The density of Metrapanels makes them a natural insulator of cold, heat and noise. 

The four units built at Spring Hill were built from modular components assembled off-site and trucked in.  

Panels are pre-cut at the Metra factory in Huntly for a precision build before being delivered nationwide. 

Computer aided design ensures panels are cut for the perfect fit. 

Down time is minimal as even rain won’t slow down construction. Metrapanels are pre-primed for whether resistance. 

Huntly based contractors PLB built the two Hawkes Bay prison units, and managed inmate labor at Spring Hill.

Buildings using Metrapanel products generally go up 30 – 50% faster than traditional erections. 

An average sized project usually takes just one-day to position and secure walls and ceilings.  Because Metrapanels take up less space than traditional board over framing usable floor space is often increased up to 6%. That could be an entire room, at no extra expense. 

However space wasn’t the primary concern of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre which opened in December 1997. The facility provides inpatient care for people suffering a mental illness. 

The $20 million centre is a 108 bed mental health facility serving a population of more than 355,000 across the Waikato DHB region and the forensic service covers the wider Midland region which encompasses the Lakes, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty DHBs. 

Lesley MacDonald, In-Patient Operations Manager has been working at the centre since it opened. 

“The walls are constantly kicked and take a good beating, but they look as good today as the day they were installed. And we’ve yet to do any substantial refurbishment.  We’ve had doors kicked and damaged to the point the entire door jam needs replacing, but he walls themselves hold up really well.  During a restraint incident one staff member smashed his watch against the wall-boards and despite shattering the stainless steel time-piece, barely a scratch was left on the wall board itself.”

The strength of the panels comes from a 650kg/m3 density that is significantly higher than solid timber. 

A smooth Metrapanel finish needs little special preparation other than normal sanding. You can paint or paper directly onto it or hang pictures or fittings almost anywhere because surfaces are solid from edge to edge. 

When Sekta Architects were invited to design an eco-friendly building by Wise Group they chose Metrapanel partitions due to design flexibility, building ease and durability.

When installed by a licensed builder the panels meet New Zealand’s Building Code, 50-year durability.  

Stan Kingma, Architect says the panels were actually recommended by the building contractors Arro International due to the ease of construction. 

Because Metrapanels come precut up to 7.35m x 2.45m in one of three thicknesses construction costs are cut because they take less time to install. 

Solid core interior walls 36mm provide sturdy earthquake resistant environments and 25mm thick panels are ideal for ceilings and wall linings. For walls that need to accommodate plumbing or electrical cavities Metra supply 18mm thick panels that even a hammer hand could construct. 

Wise Group’s Kakariki House in Grey St Hamilton East has been a given a four-star energy efficiency rating, in part due to Metrapanels.

The four-star rating signifies that the building meets internationally recognised standards for energy, water, materials and emissions. 

Kakariki House  - which translates as green house - is only the seventh green building nation-wide to be certified. 

Wise Management Services joint chief executive Jacqui Graham said going green was not a difficult decision to make. 

Neither is using Metrapanel products. 

Metra Panels is a BRANZ appraised building material with a LifeMark standard of seven, a standard now demanded for any government project. 

The Lifemark trademark s an independent seal of approval awarded to homes that have been designed and built to achieve specific quality design standards which make them easy and safe to live in – for a lifetime.