COMMENT An education in MMC

Imran Kassim from architecture and building consultancy practice AHR discusses the opportunities ‘modern methods of construction’ offer the education sector in meeting its tough building targets, and the architect’s role in delivering successful projects

emand for high-quality new schools and improvements to existing facilities are growing, in line with an increased demand for pupil places. The Department of Education cites that the required renewal rate is 400 schools per year, just to maintain the existing estate. However, addressing this is a complicated task. Any solution must provide these critical school places with minimal disruption and offer futureproof, sustainable facilities. In order to provide modern buildings for education that can accommodate a growing population – while maintaining a high level of quality for pupils and staff – procurement is turning toward modern methods of construction (MMC), like prefabrication. MMC encompasses a range of disciplines that improve upon the


traditional building process. These include modular, in which units are constructed entirely off-site before assembly onsite, and hybrid techniques that combine prefabricated structures built offsite with traditional on-site construction techniques. Support for this mode of construction is growing, and the UK Government is promoting the adoption of these methods through a £1.2bn framework that supports prefabricated developments in the education and healthcare sectors.

What opportunities do MMC offer to education? Using prefabrication in the education sector can shorten time onsite and increase speed of delivery. Often schools operate on a tight opening schedule, and minimising disruption to pupils and staff is of paramount importance. By utilising prefabricated and modular construction when building new facilities, schools can massively improve the speed of delivery.

This can be achieved because manufacturing a large proportion of the build offsite means onsite construction can take place within a much tighter timeframe. This is an invaluable advantage when taking into consideration the need for minimising disruption to teaching and learning. Reducing the amount of time construction work takes while a school site is in use to a minimum also delivers considerable health and safety benefits.

The build process itself promotes high quality by constructing self-contained units and component parts in a factory environment, with materials and tools immediately to hand for workers, schools can achieve turnaround speeds that are up to 50 per cent faster than traditional methods. Prefabrication means the entire construction


SALFORD SCHOOLS The Walkden High School project in Salford, designed by AHM and built by Laing O’Rourke, was one of several modular schemes in the Salford Schools project

Architects must lead the way in driving innovation in this field, encouraging schemes that deliver attractive, site-specific design solutions

processes is more controlled, leading to more predictable outcomes both in terms of cost and programme.

These benefits also extend to the quality of the final product. The use of a factory environment means quality control is enhanced, which leads to benefits for pupils and the schools themselves. Buildings delivered through MMC can provide industry-leading, design-led facilities with strong sustainability and energy efficiency


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