The merits of modular building methods

With schools up and down the country under pressure to provide extra pupil places, Jackie Maginnis from the MPBA explores how modular buildings can be the solution that the sector is searching for.

The education sector faces continued pressure to provide high quality learning environments to the growing population. It has been estimated that more than 250,000 new school places will have to be created nationally by 2014/15 which will have a huge impact on education facilities across the country. With this urgent requirement for additional school places, and the continued change in standards and regulation, the modular building industry has risen to the challenge. This coupled with the expectations of suitable school facilities, the modular building industry is there to help.

With the experience and knowledge that companies have, they are able to provide modern comfortable and functional facilities that comply with current building regulations, and crucially, take into account carbon reduction alongside ?green? issues.

With the ever increasing demands for?energy efficiency, the industry can supply buildings that?are available for both purchase or hire from many of the MPBA?s member companies.

Moving away from the stale image
The modular industry has embraced changes to meet the requirements of new regulations, and buildings that are supplied today need not look like boxes or the old image of site huts without any character. Today we have reached a point where it is difficult to tell them apart from traditional developments. These buildings can be designed to meet both needs and budgets restraints that are all too important today.

When looking at either replacing, extending, or adding to existing structures, modular buildings can meet any criteria set by the client, high quality modular accommodation is flexible enough to meet all applications.

Layout and design services are available from suppliers including expert advice on planning issues, building?regulations and safety requirements.

Site preparation and fast installation with minimum disruption can be achieved using modular systems. All transport, site work, and commissioning can be?part of a turnkey package by using just one company and one contact.

And crucially, the industry offers guaranteed delivery dates with buildings that are quality controlled in a factory.

Manufacturing off-site
Off-site construction has become a buzz word in the building industry, but it is not new to modular building sector. The industry has been manufacturing for in excess of 75?years in an off-site capacity. Modern factories now produce hi-tech buildings with?quality control in place. Delivery dates are met with no delays due to weather conditions.

When planning a building, talk to the industry direct, all too often companies are approached after a design has been agreed. It is much easier for all parties to?involve the sector at the beginning, you will be amazed at what expert advice can save you time and more importantly money.

Meeting the needs of the sector
The education sector, when looking for new buildings or adding to existing buildings, need suppliers that will complete each project precisely on programme and meet the deadline for completion on time. A vast majority of work undertaken in many cases is undergoing during school closure. It is therefore critical that buildings have to be completed for the start of the new terms. Buildings can be designed and constructed to permanent building standards and comply with the latest Department for Education guidelines for teaching and learning.

The use of modular construction radically?reduces both disruption to teaching?and time on-site, both which are essential factors when schools have an urgent requirement for additional school places.

It has been estimated that more than?250,000 new school places will have to be created nationally by 2014/15 which will have a huge impact on education facilities across the country.

Classroom buildings using the modular building method can be fitted out to suit the requirements of the school in question. Buildings can be designed to accommodate a wide range of applications, such as laboratories, art rooms, dance studios, technology rooms, IT suites, general classrooms, receptions, kitchen and dining facilities, and offices.

Modular in the real world
With pressure on schools to house a growing number of new pupils, Darlinghurst Primary School in Leigh on Sea is typical of many schools that were looking to?provide new accommodation quickly and cost-effectively for the influx of children. Their solution was a single?storey, low?maintenance modular building established to provide two classrooms, a foyer and toilets for their year three pupils.

Both the teachers and the eight year?olds were all delighted with their new accommodation which is warm, bright and contemporary combining functionality with sublimely clean detailing.

With the UK experiencing the largest?increase in demand for primary school places since the 1950s, it is estimated that?in?the next two years, 250,000 new places will be needed in primary schools ? 37 per cent in London alone.

Darlinghurst is a typical example of a school that needed urgent additional classroom accommodation. Portable accommodation or modular buildings offer an ideal turn?key solution to new build needs with fast turnarounds of just six to eight weeks.

Another example of a school that has taken the modular approach is Selworthy, a co-educational special school for children and young people with learning disabilities aged 4-19. Special features in this building included a ceiling track for hoists for the physically disabled. The exterior cladding will be fire protected Siberian larch in a tongue and groove finish.

The capital’s modular approach
Albion Primary School in Southwark was completed in August and has welcomed its first pupils at the beginning of this term.

The classroom sits directly above a London Underground tunnel, which presented some challenges for the team. It had to submit foundation plans to Transport for London to ensure the loadings didn?t compromise their underground structure and that any vibrations emanating from the tunnel wouldn?t affect the classroom. The design was eventually approved, and even though the delay affected the programme initially, this was overcome and the building is now in use and looks great.

The second project is a new building for Dog Kennel Primary School in East Dulwich and it is just a month away from completion. The old building was demolished and removed, and extensive ground works have been undertaken, including ground reduction, building an 80 metre retaining wall, putting in new drainage, and duct work.

Large amphitheatre steps are currently in production, linking the existing nursery playground to the new facility. When this has been completed a large multi-coloured canopy will be erected spanning the front elevation of the new building and the adjacent building. It has been designed to highlight the aesthetic qualities of the finished classroom building which, when complete, will have a black render combined with thermowood cladding external finish.

Throughout the project, the design team has been in constant dialogue with the client and the school governors, who have been very involved in developing the design and making regular changes to the external package.

A third school within the London Borough of Southwark that is adding a modular construction is the Charles?Dickens Primary School.

The project is awaiting secondary planning approval which is due shortly. The modular building that will be added to the school is a double modular classroom which will be clad with horizontal site-fixed cedar cladding, featuring a large decking area and a canopy clad with a green ?sedum? roof.

Interestingly, during excavations the archaeology team found the remains of medieval chalk footings. Southwark Planners required an archaeologist to be appointed to keep a watching brief on the excavations and report on any archaeological findings as the site is in an archaeological ?hot spot?, going back to Neolithic times.

Details provided by Portable Offices and Danzer Limited–sp-508/3816-t

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