The Portable Offices approach is a sensible solution to Mobile Classrooms

Adrian Witty, Managing Director of Portable Offices, looks at how portable accommodation can provide a solution for school buildings and expansion needs.

Read article at : Building Services and Environmental Engineer Magazine – December Issue

A couple of years ago, the education capital building expenditure programme was looking rosy – Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’(BSF) initiative was approved aimed at improving the infrastructure of British schools with £2.2 billion committed to the project and over 55% to be covered by Private Finance Initiatives (the funding of public infrastructure projects with private finance).

Mobile Classroom – Brick Clad

But, the Coalition government’s collapse of the BSF programme hit schools and construction companies hard and with capital expenditure by government departments projected to fall 29 per cent between 2011 and 2014-15*, including cuts to schools and other education building projects of 60 per cent, many UK schools found themselves under increasing pressure to find other means to fund building and expansion works.

In this climate of austerity, increasing numbers of schools are funding their own projects with privately funded investment and are shopping around keen to ‘buy more for their buck.’

Portable accommodation is one solution which offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional building methods, which can sometimes be expensive and disruptive. It has come a long way from the traditional ’pre fab’ approach and can even mirror a traditional brick-built façade with an enduring longevity and a high degree of ‘kerb appeal.’

With a committed team of dedicated professionals used to working alongside local government departments, we develop and construct all types of structures from the every day extension to the more revolutionary facility. But all accommodation fulfils a specific need, whether that is for more teaching accommodation or changing rooms or staff facilities.

In the past 18 months, we have developed a growing number of education based solutions. and the need is growing as more schools look at ways of making their budgets go further.

Finance and timing were top of the list of priorities for one Chester School where the need for a clean, warm nursery environment led to a massive fundraising initiative to fund a new building. But there was only a small window of opportunity for the development to take place – literally over the summer holiday shutdown.

So, when staff and pupils from Hartford Manor CP School in Cheshire left a depressing, decaying nursery and returned from their summer break to find a gleaming, bright new modular building in its place it was celebrations all round.

Mobile Classroom storage

The striking new single-storey building reflects an ingenious redevelopment of the land of the former nursery and combines functionality with sublimely clean detailing and is the result of several years saving by the education team at Hartford Manor who funded the £125,000 nursery project.

The Portable Offices team worked in tandem with teaching staff to develop a design and room plan that incorporated all the elements necessary to provide an ideal teaching situation for young children.

This included interactive circular windows with low-emission glass at child height level to frame outside elements for educational discussions, low-energy lighting and fitments all to conform to the latest legislation.

An over-riding concern of the school was the need for a speedy construction to take place during the summer holiday period.  This dictated a six week turnaround to include demolition of the old building and erection of the new 135 sq metre modular building.

Portable Offices’ team provided a ‘turnkey’ service for the school enabling the education staff and pupils to return after the holidays to a new, warm and bright open plan classroom, kitchen, toilets and office complete with disabled access.

Hatford Manor CP School Business Manager, Laura Williams, commented: “We went for a modular approach because it was the most cost-effective building method.  However, we don’t feel it is a compromise at all. The rooms are warm, bright and airy. It is actually a very flexible space.

“The Portable Offices’ team was fantastic. They involved us at every stage and allowed us to make our own design decisions which resulted in the ultimate, flexible teaching situation.

“It was vital to us that we were able to open the new building when we returned in September and they really pulled out all the stops. We had a few small snags that emerged after we started using the building and they sorted them out straight away without any fuss.”

Mobile Classroom – Children learning

Produced from galvanised coated steel, the new low-maintenance building serves as a nursery in the morning, a free school in the afternoon and will soon provide an area for an ‘after school club’ too.

It is particularly rewarding for us to come up with a design solution that is proving so effective in meeting the needs of the education sector where budgets are now squeezed so tightly.

* Source: Guardian Newspaper 29/09/11




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