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Investing in education with Explore Offsite

  • 25 May 2017

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The National Audit Office found in February 2017 that a large number of school buildings in England needed repairing.

Approximately £6.7bn will be required to return all school buildings across the country to a ‘satisfactory or better’ condition, and a further £7.1bn to bring parts of school buildings up to a ‘good’ condition.

In 2004 a Department of Education property data survey was completed that determined these figures – four years after the launch of the £4.4 billion Priority School Building Programme. The Programme aims to rebuild or refurbish 537 primary, secondary and special education needs schools across England and will run until 2021.

£2.4 billion of the original budget has been allocated to PSBP2 to rebuild and refurbish individual blocks at 277 schools. The task needs a serious asset management programme to deliver the required short and long term benefits.

For the Priority School Building Programme to be delivered, innovative construction methods are required.

Keith Waller, Senior Advisor at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority understands the challenge: “Infrastructure is not only about new projects – ninety five percent of the assets we are going to need in 20 years’ time are here already. We need to keep that focus on the performance of the current asset base as well as how we deliver new assets more effectively.”

The programme is now in the second phase and presents an opportunity for offsite construction to play a role to help meet the challenging targets. Offsite construction offers fast delivery, with the time required to construct and commission an offsite building being typically reduced by 50-60% in cases where large elements can be prefabricated.

The programme relies heavily on standardisation to reduce costs. Richard Crosby, Director of Education at management consultant Blacc, believes the use of offsite manufactured classrooms and other education facilities will increase.

Richard says: “I see modular construction playing an even greater role in PSBP2, this phase represents one of the biggest opportunities for modular construction in the market. The ESFA understands the need to design and procure for offsite construction and they are working on a component solution of standard blocks that can be assembled to create bespoke schools without compromising on quality of design or specification. The ESFA’s modular schools will look and feel like traditional build schools in a fraction of the time onsite.”

Richard Crosby maintains that the volumetric modular systems that have made such recent and significant inroads in low-cost housing construction will also be more apparent with PSBP2, summarising:

“This type of construction makes sense as it minimises disruption to live learning environments and offers reduced construction periods.”

Richard Crosby and Keith Waller will be presenting at the Explore Offsite Education conference, taking place on 11 July 2017 at Westminster, London. Rachel Stephenson, Programme Director Education & Skills Funding Agency and Bryan Evans, PSBP2 Project Director and a host of experts from the offsite sector will also join them on the speaker platform.

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