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FEATURE: SCHOOL MAINTENANCE & DESIGN


The importance of modular design in the school construction mix


following last year’s launch of the Department for Education (DfE)’s Offsite Framework. This signals a growing trend of school buildings being constructed offsite, with the DfE set to invest £3bn in modular renovation of multiple schools across the UK. A modular classroom is a permanent structure


that is designed to be constructed in component parts offsite, allowing for quick and easy assembly onsite. In the time taken to clear and prepare the site of the new classrooms, the manufacture of the new building itself can take place elsewhere. Much of the modular construction process can


T


he past year has seen an unprecedented shake up of the traditional school model,


but there have also been major developments in the often-unseen aspects of educational infrastructure – one of which is a move towards modular designs. In our final piece this month looking at school maintenance and design, we’re delighted to hear from Dean Pettitt, Sector Lead at Southerns Broadstock, who examines the benefits of modular construction for the modern school.


Modular design builds for schools are a Modern Method of Construction (MMC) which have become increasingly popular in recent times,


take place offsite in a controlled factory environment, utilising state of the art equipment for cutting, lifting, drilling and workstations. As such, the building can progress through phases of construction uninhibited by factors which can typically hinder traditional construction methods, such as weather conditions preventing the workers from being able to carry out their work on site and unexpected site problems. As a result, modular designs can be delivered


much faster. According to the National Audit Office, on-site construction time can be halved by adopting these types of modern methods of construction. It can enable new buildings to be built in a very short time, i.e. over the summer holiday period. Such a turnaround would be very difficult to achieve using traditional methods and would likely overrun into term time, forcing schools to find alternative locations for their pupils to learn. Whatever the timescale of a project, modular manufacturing gives a greater sense of certainty


32 www.education-today.co.uk


in terms of the overall project delivery. As mentioned above, the potential for unforeseen circumstances to hamper the construction, and therefore the costs associated with any delays, can be minimised. This is an advantage for decision makers when it comes to budgeting for the project and allows for greater predictability of the completion of the project. This is immensely beneficial when a building has a crucial, definitive opening date, such as the start of the school term. This is particularly important as the very


existence of a construction work taking place on a school premises can be disruptive for the day-to- day running of a school and the pupils' capacity to learn. The most obvious factor is the noise, which can of course be a significant barrier to teaching and learning. In addition, it raises some health and safety concerns with children mixing with the environment of a construction site for lengthy periods of time, whether that be during breaks or walking to and from lessons. As well as the health and safety interests of the


pupils, modular construction is also of benefit to those working on the building. The controlled factory environment reduces, and can even eliminate entirely, the need to work at substantial heights. Without being constrained by the surrounding environment of a school site, this can allow for greater mechanical assistance with the construction, as well as increased separation of workers and vehicles. With these workers not needing to spend


anywhere near as much time on the school site, a significant amount of space is freed that would


June 2021


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