The demand for new school places and the crumbling state of primary and secondary schools is a pressing issue for Local Councils all over the UK. The situation, however, is starting to improve thanks to Government funding – in 2017 a pot of £2.4 billion was allocated for their improvement and maintenance.
Presuming that funding is in place, Councils still face a number of challenges before building can take place. For example, focus on the environment and growing energy costs mean that Councils are under more pressure than ever to deliver low energy, efficient spaces – all while sticking to budget. Safety of pupils and minimising disruption during term time of course remain pressing issues.
This need to focus on myriad issues, including the small task of ensuring the future sustainability of schools in their area, means that Councils are uniquely placed to take advantage of modern methods of construction.
Modular schools, delivered to site in segments over 2 or 3 days, such as those manufactured and installed by Wernick, are helping to solve many of the challenges presented by the education sector. And new frameworks are revolutionising the school building procurement process.
Wernick Buildings’ Divisional Manager for Scotland Chris Hart says that there is a “felicitous synergy between the education sector and modular construction”. Last year, the Wernick Scottish division experienced its busiest summer to date, tripling its turnover. Summer 2019 is expected to be even busier following the Scottish Government’s announcement of a £1 billion fund for rebuilding and refurbishing Scotland’s schools in November 2018.
Edinburgh, Inverness and Highlands Councils took receipt of ten new modular buildings from Wernick last summer. Installation, fit out and inspection took place over the summer vacation and the buildings were ready for pupils upon returning to school.
Ben Wernick, Director of Construction at Wernick explains “Modular building projects can be completed up to 50% quicker than traditional construction methods as the indoor ‘offsite’ construction process can take place alongside site and foundations work which also means very little delay due to the weather. Finishing buildings over the summer holidays means no disruption to teaching and no risk to pupils.”
More and more schools are switching on to the speed of factory manufactured buildings, but what about the aesthetic? The characterless demountables of the past have given way to digitally-led, modern designs, indistinguishable from ‘on-site’ constructed buildings and lauded by architectural firms such as ÜberRaum and Glancy Nicholls.
“The preconceptions are there but the reality is that when people walk into a modern modular building that Wernick has made, they realise this is a big step up from what they’re used to” commented Chris Hart, who has found that old feelings towards modular buildings die hard: “I’ve heard of teaching staff trying their best to avoid moving into the new building. Once the building has been handed over, they are trying to get in there first! They’re warmer, cleaner, bright and airy. From a teaching perspective, it’s a considerable improvement on a lot of the accommodation the teachers are currently working in.”
Constructing buildings offsite, in a controlled environment, means that a building can be made water-tight and weather resistant with quality controls ongoing throughout the build. Modern modular buildings are simple to maintain, are well insulated and achieve high EPC ratings – and green technologies can be easily incorporated into the design to further support their eco credentials.
Chris Hart says that the feedback on Wernick’s projects has been overwhelmingly positive, adding: “Using factory construction, we can build faster, to higher standards, and at any time of the year. There are also environmental benefits with reduced waste and less emissions. In modular construction we can really meet a lot of the requirements in the education sector – that’s why we think it’s a perfect match.”