Off-site construction battles the on-going school place crisis in Greater Manchester

We were first made aware of the school place crisis we were going to encounter back in 2009/2010. On the back of this strategic plans were put in place in terms of school extensions, new builds, academies and free schools. So where are we now?

Well in Greater Manchester the problem continues to grow with a 12.5% increase in primary school place requirements from 2013 – 2019 and a 19.3% increase in secondary school place requirements from 2013 – 2020. 1 in 10 infants are now being taught in oversized primary classes. So what is the solution?

One solution is the use of off-site construction. As the manufacture of the building is taken out of the critical path on the programme, site works including foundations, services and external works can be completed simultaneously with the construction of the building itself, taking place in the factory. Off Site construction works on a Lean production process with materials and labour in place and the buildings moving down the flow line, far faster than walking round a building site. And as construction takes place inside there are no rain, frost or snow delays. All of this means that programmes are dramatically improved.

Premier Modular Ltd has a factory site in East Yorkshire giving 130,000Sqft of manufacturing space, operating out of five factories. Working a single shift they can produce a minimum of 1800m2 of building per week. This equates to a 2FE primary school every two weeks.

Acceleration of programme doesn’t mean compromise in other areas though:

Modules are constructed to exacting quality levels in the controlled factory environment, thermal values are around 30% higher than building regulations and exceptional airtightness ratings can be achieved.

As much as 75% of the buildings are manufactured offsite using overhead cranes rather than working at heights therefore the risk of accidents on site is greatly reduced.

Disruption is minimised, transport to site is reduced and waste minimised as materials can be cut to size, returned to store or recycled more easily.

Premier Modular Ltd has recently completed a standalone classroom block extension in conjunction with ISG Construction for Manchester City Council. A further form of entry was required at St Margaret’s C of E Primary School therefore a two storey building of approximately 270m2 was required to accommodate the nursery and foundation stage classes. This meant that space was freed up in the existing building to extend the sports hall facilities.

The building was finished in modern coloured panels fitted off site and finished with canopies and a linkway. As the building sat in the existing school playground off site construction was considered the best solution to minimise disruption.

On the back of this successful partnership a dining school extension has also just been completed at St Matthews RC High School, eight modules with a large glazed front provided the necessary space whilst leaving the dining hall operational. This will be followed by further education buildings required for the September 2018 term

In a market where an increased rate of build is required, building standards are increasing, sustainability is of growing importance, a reduction of accidents and incidents is expected despite the increase in activity and we have a diminishing pool of skilled tradesman. Offsite construction has to be a big part of the solution.

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