Understanding modular buildings

The prospect of undertaking a modular building project can be daunting, therefore ESPO has created this guide and a time-saving procurement framework to help schools and academies navigate the modular building world.

The phrase ‘modular building’ may not bring the most pleasant images to mind – a clinical, cold, closed space filled with drafts, cracks and constant instability. All rickety steps and wrong temperatures (too hot in the summer, never ever warm enough in the winter), but thankfully the passage of time means that future generations won’t view their ‘mobile classrooms’ in the same vein.

Today’s modular buildings still includes all the benefits that the old-fashioned ‘mobile classrooms’ had; a relatively pain free, quick and easy expansion of the premises in a cost-effective manner. However, now they are far more comfortable and encompass a more modern, practical and eye-catching design quality.

The prospect of undertaking such a project can be daunting, and understandably so, therefore here at ESPO, we have created this guide and a time-saving procurement framework to help schools and academies navigate the muddled waters of the modular building world.

What is a modular building?

Manufactured in a factory environment, they are then constructed off site to a desired specification, before being transported to the final destination for erection by an on-site installation team. This is unlike traditional buildings, where all the materials are transported to site for on-site labourers and tradespeople to complete the construction using more traditional building methods.

What are the benefits of using a modular building?

So why should you choose a modular building over a traditional extension? Well one of the most stand out benefits for schools and academies is that they are, of course, significantly cheaper – a big bonus at the moment, where schools are so pushed to stretch their budgets. With capital expenditure closely monitored and additional funds in short supply, this makes this type of building incredibly popular for many in an educational setting.

However, there is more than just cost to consider. The bounty of other benefits may also appeal and help swing the balance in favour of a modular building. The flexibility of the current modular systems is impressive and the buildings themselves all the more so. Modular builds are classed as ‘prefabricated’ buildings for the purpose of differentiating from regular buildings, but they are a world away from the stereotype that may come to mind. Today, they are modern, light-filled spaces, all properly insulated, and are airy yet strong, reliable structures.

Even the way they are constructed might help contribute to your school or academies’ environmental goals, which is an often under-recognised and underappreciated benefit.

In summary, there are many advantages of choosing a modular building, including their speedy delivery and assembly, which equals less infringement on the campus, a reduced impact of construction on-site and a lower chance of delays due to the unfortunate British weather.

Factory conditions ensure a higher quality of product; workers operate in a comfortable environment where they can closely monitor the construction process throughout.

Waste (and subsequently cost) is minimised as material supplies are easier to control, and virtually all waste is recycled.

Manufacture of the modules can begin while foundations are being prepared on site, significantly speeding up the build.

Finally, modular builds are easy to expand and can be relocated.

How can ESPO help?

Schools looking to buy, or even hire, modular buildings, could do well to consider ESPO’s Modular Buildings Framework (953). In developing this framework, the specialist procurement team have conducted a wide market assessment and as part of its conception completed lots of engagement with potential customers to fully understand the needs of your schools and academies, along with other public body organisations. This has resulted in a comprehensive procurement framework which includes many of the leading providers and well-respected suppliers on the market.

The reality is that there is a myriad range of building options for you to choose from – a whole metaphorical chocolate box, where they all look the same but have completely different fillings. And this is where ESPO can help you sort the caramel from the praline. Our framework, like a chocolate connoisseur, sorts out the endless options into five key building types – one of these ‘lots’ is education. The other four comprise of healthcare, catering, accommodation and ‘other’, the aim of which is to cover virtually all popular modular building eventualities.

Within the framework, we can provide you with further flexibility with the option to either hire or buy outright. If you are fairly clear about what type of building you need and whether you need to hire or buy something, then the framework’s easy-to-access direct award process is a fast and simple route to purchase. Our handy User Guide can help you navigate this process so that orders can be placed with suppliers, using our pre-agreed pricing and terms and conditions, to ensure that you benefit from ESPO’s buying power.

The framework can also help with more tailored needs via its further competition process. Perhaps you’re looking for a unique design, or have unusual requirements or setting that needs to be accommodated? If you do, we can provide a template document to help you run a further competition and guidance to ease you through the process. Furthermore, to help you get the result best suited to your needs, our specialist procurement team are only a phone call away and always more than happy to help.

Furnishings and equipment

Now that you’ve got your building sorted out, what next? Another endless maze of thousands of options - do you want the lime green chairs or burnt orange? And is it better to have a whiteboard and a touchscreen board or just one? This is where our Furniture and Equipment Projects (F&E) team can help. They have years of experience working with schools to deliver projects on time and on budget. They also understand that just like turning a house into a home takes more than simply bricks and mortar, making a warm, supportive, welcoming learning space takes so much more than four walls.

Our team of experts can provide advice and support, free of charge, for furniture and equipment projects covering key areas including: Budget control; Product selection and ordering; Timings and deadlines; Delivery and installation; and Procurement compliance. Using their strong supplier links and industry expertise, our team can help manage your project workflow to ensure all aspects run smoothly from the first laid brick to the first step in the door. So, whether it’s a classroom refit or a whole school refurbishment, trust ESPO to support you every step of the way.

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