This article comes from MTX Education, specialists in modular construction for the education sector. It firmly believes modular construction techniques offer solutions to many of the current issues facing the industry, including budget, time and flexibility.
In 2010, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) also recommended offsite modular construction as a cost-saving measure for schools.
Before drawing too many conclusions, it is essential to assess the facts, comparing modular construction with traditional methods.
There is an imminent and urgent need for space in education. There has been a baby boom, and the numbers now entering the education system outstrip the available places.
Schools are being asked to take more and more children into the same amount of space. Therefore, school leaders need new buildings quickly, usually before the new school year.
Offsite modular construction can be completed in a fraction of the time of traditional construction. To build with bricks and mortar requires a two-year commitment to a significant capital project.
With all the onsite disruption and potential delays, this makes traditional build techniques ill-equipped to deal with the urgent need for space. In contrast, the onsite work with modular buildings is minimal, and the work can be commissioned and completed within an academic year.
Schools get numbers for the following academic year in October. Therefore, with eleven months to go, the school will have a clear picture of the classroom space needed. Only modular construction can respond with this sort of speed.
Along with speed, the price is imperative in education. Budgets are limited in the public sector, as austerity measures continue to sting.
Therefore, it is essential to consider the relative cost of modular construction versus traditional construction methods.
Although the overall outlay is smaller with modular construction, so is the risk of the escalation of costs. Modular construction follows a factory-style model.
Therefore, managers of the supply chain can bulk purchase and have a ready supply of standardised parts. The bulk purchase with regularity means that prices can be driven down, and the savings passed onto the client.
On traditional construction sites, there is a necessity for a just-in-time style of delivery. One section of the build tends to need to be completed before the next supply of materials can arrive.
Project management of traditional construction modes is complete and often avoiding delay is impossible. When there are delays there are likely increases in cost, which will need to be covered by the client.
Add to this the potential for delays because of weather – then it is clear that additional charges will need to be covered with a contingency sum.
When you work in education, you are more likely to be conscious of the future of the planet. It is not just that the materials you use need to be carbon-neutral, but the building should be energy efficient once in use.
Add to this, and there should be a requirement to make the materials used recyclable once the building has served its purpose.
Traditional construction struggles with its environmental credentials in many ways. First, there is a higher potential for wastage of materials.
Not only can building supplies become weather damaged, as they are generally stored outside, but they can be surplus.
Project managers must naturally factor in contingencies, and when these extras are not needed, they usually go to waste.
Add to this the greater need for transportation, and these build techniques lack the same environmental sensitivity to modular construction.
Modular construction also produces buildings that are airtight and so energy efficient.
There is more natural light in a modular build. Therefore, the energy running costs are much lower, as are the demands on the planet’s resources.
Where modular construction excels is at the end of its life. A school building built in this way has a life of 50 years or more.
However, once done with, it can be a) moved somewhere else, or b) deconstructed and recycled. A traditionally constructed building will likely be demolished, and the components materials lumped together in landfill.
With almost ten years passed since the EFA released its recommendations, the change to modular construction is sluggish.
There is an immediate demand for space that requires speed and budgetary control, which can clearly be addressed by modular construction methods.
Tradition may keep us fixed on bricks and mortar construction, with fears about quality and longevity.
However, modular construction has been proven as a sustainable building mode and one that could fill the demand from the education sector.
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