Building schools with a need for speed approach

With pupil numbers on the increase and school places more contested, Jackie Maginnis, of the Modular Portable Building Association, looks at the fast capacity that modular buildings hold to construct more than just basic classrooms.

The Modular and Portable Building Association (MPBA) is urging schools to ‘act now’ to ensure that they can provide the best possible facilities as pupil headcounts grow nationally.

Both primary and secondary state‑funded schools are projected to require increased space for rapidly growing student numbers over the next eight years, according to research carried out by the Department for Education.

It’s been well documented that many schools will face increasing pressure on their infrastructure over the next few years. At the MPBA, we want head teachers and school governors to be aware that modular buildings have the potential to be more cost-effective than conventionally built projects. Furthermore, because the structures are made to the highest standards off-site, modular buildings can frequently be installed over school holidays causing minimal disruption during the term.

Modular building companies specialise in providing a ‘complete service’ to schools and colleges from undertaking the initial design and carrying out all necessary groundwork to construction and final fit out.

They can create standalone structures, single‑storey ‘cluster’ departments, two-storey schemes or whole‑school configurations.

Teachers greatly appreciate the possibility of sourcing these cutting-edge facilities both quickly and cost-effectively. Modular buildings can be manufactured with ultra-quick lead times and supplied as a complete school, an extension or an ‘add-on’ to meet peaks in demand. Sometimes, the education sectors are not aware that these structures are available as a permanent – as well as a temporary – option at a cost to suit their needs.

Other major benefits of modular buildings include energy compliance, meeting the latest regulations and the ability to create buildings that are designed to meet the precise specifications of those schools requirements.

Fully functional school buildings
Modular units are planned and designed to suit specific user requirements. Buildings are also created off-site in a factory, which enables urgent facilities to be delivered faster, resulting in minimum disruption in a school.

There is still a misconception – in some quarters – that once a modular building has been installed, it can’t subsequently be moved and used elsewhere. If the requirement for additional facilities is that of a temporary requirement the beauty of modular buildings is that they can be also designed to be removed and reused in other parts of that school complex – or elsewhere - as the need arises.

Modular buildings are constructed to the latest building regulations and encompass ‘Part L’ energy efficiency – which means new modular buildings also have lower carbon emissions. This also applies to temporary school buildings that are provided for hire by companies who specialise in this type of equipment. The industry is committed to energy efficiency. They can also incorporate specific requirements tailored to suit specific individual requirements.

Fast construction standards
It is a known fact that it’s the ‘flexibility’ of a modular approach that gives the education sector the greatest benefits. And this is particularly relevant when it comes to urgent and difficult projects. The length of time it takes to install new modular buildings will vary according to a specific requirements and the ease of access to the site are among many more considerations.

But it will always be quicker than ‘conventional’ construction projects. The benefits of a quick installation combined with minimal on-site disruption are not to be overlooked.

Whilst the groundworks are being dealt with on site, the building is under production in the factory. Both operations taking place at the same time. These are just some of the many reasons for the increasing popularity of modular buildings within the education sector.

The industry trade body strongly recommends that if there is a requirement for a new facility and they are thinking of going down the modular route they should talk to industry directly.

Engage with the supplier from the very beginning, companies have the skills to be able to design a cost effective building that suits the client’s needs and budget. This is obtained by designing a building that works around modular sections and only the industry that has that knowledge can make that work. All too often companies are presented with a design that has been drawn to suit a traditional building but can work better with modular. This will without doubt save money.

The MPBA has members who have been fully vetted before joining and have had many years’ experience in this type of buildings.

Further Information