School buildings are in crisis. With many UK school buildings in poor condition and requiring urgent attention, funding for schools to refurbish and rebuild is also in short supply. But modular construction using structured insulated panels systems (SIPs for short) offers a fast, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution.

Quick construction

Usually prefabricated in a factory and delivered fully-formed to the school site, classroom buildings constructed using modular SIPs panels are ideally suited to busy schools. Although the factory line approach suggests a rigid and uniform construction process, SIPs panel construction is in fact a flexible method – schools don’t have to stick to a one-size-fits-all template but can work with architects to design a classroom building that will meet their needs.

Importantly for schools requiring urgent refurbishment, the off-site construction method has several advantages that can help schools to get their new buildings up and running speedily.

Classrooms prefabricated using SIPs panels can be constructed and installed in a matter of weeks, because the site preparation work and off-site construction stages can be carried out simultaneously. With the prefabrication process taking place under cover, the project can go ahead whatever the weather. And by reducing the amount of time spent on-site, noisy and disruptive building work that might interrupt the school day can also be kept to a minimum.

Cost savings

A building project that is quick to complete and does not involve intrusive construction work translates into cost savings for the school – a vital concern in these cash-strapped times. Modular buildings are likely to provide a better return on investment than traditional builds. With excellent insulation properties, construction using SIPs panels also results in lower energy bills, because the classrooms retain warmth well and require only minimal heating.

For schools looking to the long term, durability is an important concern. Built using high quality, sustainable materials, modular SIPs panel classrooms can be expected to serve the school for as many as 50 years – providing a solution that offers real value for money and can be relied upon to last well into the future. (Modular buildings can even be uprooted and installed at another site, if the school relocates).

Comfortable learning spaces

Why is the state of our school buildings such an important issue? As well as being a potential health and safety concern, constructing comfortable learning spaces is vital for both teachers and pupils. According to a 2016 RIBA survey reported by Building Specifier, as many as 1 in 5 teachers have thought about leaving a school because of the environment they have to work in. So, creating a pleasant teaching space is high on the list if schools are to improve staff morale and retain valued teachers.

Learning environments can have a big impact on outcomes for children, too. From issues like lighting and air quality to factors like natural light and classroom structure, pupils do better in well-designed classrooms built from high quality materials.

Classroom construction using SIPS panels helps to address some of these issues, resulting in comfortable learning spaces that promote better engagement from all classroom users. Due to their structure and composition, SIPs panels offer excellent thermal performance, eliminating draughts and keeping out the cold and damp. The slimline profile of a SIPs panel also means thinner walls – and therefore more space inside the classroom. Finally, modular buildings constructed from SIPs panels have an aesthetically pleasing, modern appearance.


Author biography

Steve Warr is the Director of Green Modular, a company which supplies unique and environmentally-friendly outdoor modular buildings as effective space solutions. Each modular building can be tailored to suit every space or budget and they are perfect for school buildings, mobile classrooms, meeting rooms or offices. Steve is passionate about the environment and creating sustainable and stylish solutions for extra space.

30 years ago, most windows were timber and maintenance was a major bug-bear. There was almost no requirement for thermal or sound insulation, glass was single glazed, little concern existed for the environment, or security – and the concept of ‘whole life costs’ and thus, ‘best value’, was just a dream in the minds of the more enlightened.

Since then, the introduction of PVC and aluminium windows to reduce maintenance, worked well for a while, but then, these new window materials began to struggle under the inexorable rise in performance requirements under Building Regulations, ecological considerations, global warming, architectural preferences and clients wishing to exceed these performance standards, even further.

Thinking outside the box and using synergy, a ‘smarter’ solution was developed by some industry innovators, exploring better uses of current materials.

Timber, despite its susceptibility to water, has many benefits of sustainability, inherent insulation and acoustic properties, ease of workability, and a desirable appearance – and when engineered into laminated profiles, becomes extremely strong and dimensionally stable (Example: Structural “H” beams).
Aluminium on the other hand, is a very poor insulator, and lacks the appeal of a warm internal finish, but makes an excellent water barrier.

So, combining the two and making an engineered timber window, with all those added benefits, but protecting it from water, by fitting an outer shield of aluminium – and the “Composite” Window was born – which has since become a legendary revolution in the industry, outpacing the growth of all other window types, in recent years. This applies equally to progressive designers of Schools and Student Accommodation, since long life, minimum maintenance, low U values, high acoustic attenuation and competitive pricing are all essential.

One of these leading pioneers, in the mid 1980’s, was the Uniform Group, in Italy, who manufacture exclusively, the uni_one® Composite Window System, which, today, sells all around the World.

Introduced into UK, in 2014, through Uniform Architectural Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uniform) the many benefits of the uni_one® system, even over other composite windows, have been welcomed and appreciated by clients, architects and contractors, alike. Many unique features set uni_one® apart, as follows:-

Examples –
A) Structurally bonded glass to improve strength and rigidity allowing much larger sashes to be produced, which architects and clients often prefer.
B) Vulcanised gaskets providing a continuous seal around the glass corners for much better and more durable weather-sealing.
C) Internal timber profiles are veneered in a variety of finishes, to provide significantly longer life, durability, appearance and protection from wear and tear, especially in heavy duty applications.
D) Unusually high acoustic performance, avoiding the need for secondary glazing is available beyond Rw50 and especially suited for traffic noise attenuation.
E) Triple glazing can take U values down to well below 0.8 W/M2K.
F) Sheer quality of manufacture of the finished product, cause many customers to ‘adopt’ us as their preferred window supplier, recommending us to their clients on future schemes.
G) Cost advantages over others on Tilt & Turn windows, due to economies of scale from high volume manufacture across Europe.
H) Cost advantages over aluminium-only windows, whose increasing raw material prices now make them more expensive than our composite windows, very often! Ironically!
I) An enthusiasm and passion by all within this Italian family owned business, to make the best window on the market; to embrace customer’s special requirements and strive to meet their needs.

For more information please visit, call 01275 217227 or email

Thousands of new school places will be created across the country following the largest wave of free schools approvals this Parliament, giving more parents the choice of a good school place for their child.

This week the Department for Education has approved applications for 131 new schools, creating more than 69,000 places. These schools will be led by high-performing institutions, including a grammar-school-led multi-academy trust (MAT) and the largest state boarding school in the country, demonstrating how existing high-performing schools can help raise attainment more widely, as set out in the government’s education proposals.

Free schools are one of the highest performing groups of non-selective state schools, with 29% of those inspected rated outstanding by Ofsted. Since 2014, more than 80% of mainstream free schools have been approved in areas where there was a need for more school places, while others are opened in response to parental demand to create competition and drive up standards where existing provision is not adequate.

Today’s approvals build on the government’s strong record in creating more good school places. Already, there are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010. The new approvals also demonstrate the government’s determination to tap into the expertise that already exists within the school system to ensure standards continue to rise.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said “We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are.

“That’s why these new schools are so important – they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child.”

New free school proposals approved this week include:

  • Stone Lodge Academy – a new secondary school for 11- to 19-year-olds in Dartford, proposed by Endeavour Multi Academy Trust. The trust already runs 2 highly successful grammar schools and will use their expertise running selective schools to open a new non-selective free school
  • Barton Court Academy Trust Free School – proposed by the Ofsted-outstanding Barton Court Grammar School, a new non-selective free school providing 1,050 school places for 11- to 19-year-olds in Canterbury
  • The Flagship School – a parent-led special school to provide 56 places for 9- to 6-year-old pupils in Hastings, which was identified as an opportunity area earlier this year
  • City Enterprise Academy – proposed by the successful City Learning Trust, the school will provide 100 much-needed alternative provision places in Stoke-on-Trent, which was identified as an opportunity area earlier this year
  • Sapientia Primary Prep School – proposed by The Sapientia Education Trust, which runs Wymondham College – the largest state boarding school in England. The school for 5- to 11-year-olds will benefit from the expertise and facilities the trust has to offer, and provide 450 primary places in Norfolk
  • School 21 Campus and School 21 Sugar House – 2 new schools from reception to sixth form in Newham, East London, creating over 2,400 places. The schools will be operated by the trust behind School 21, which has been rated outstanding by Ofsted
  • Rushey Mead Free School – will provide 1,200 new secondary places in Leicester. It will be opened by the trust behind the Rushey Mead Academy – rated outstanding by Ofsted and consistently one of the highest performing schools in Leicester

124 free schools have opened since 2015, with a further 376 set to open by 2020 – including the schools announced today – which means the government is on track to meet its manifesto commitment of opening 500 more new free schools by September 2020.

As part of its work to open more free schools, the government has created a new body – LocatED. The organisation is made up of experienced property specialists to help speed up the process of acquiring sites for new schools and get the best value for the taxpayer.

There is growing demand for improved safety within the education sector, especially in relation to refurbishing school and academy buildings. In response, flat roof manufacturer Bauder has developed various high-performance waterproofing solutions over the years that can be installed using flame-free methods; removing the need for a naked flame or hot bitumen at roof top or ground level.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 place specific duties on designers, contractors and building owners to take fire safety into account throughout a building’s life cycle, making sure that all people on site are protected if a fire does ever occur. By utilising flame-free roofing solutions it not only eliminates any risk of fire from hot works but also means that school buildings can remain fully operational throughout, causing minimal disruption to the school term.

Bauder has a comprehensive system portfolio that includes a choice of bituminous, cold liquid applied and single ply waterproofing solutions, which all deliver a safe, flame-free alternative to traditional application techniques without compromising on quality, performance or aesthetics.

Bituminous solutions

Bauder’s bituminous system Airtech has been specifically developed to meet the need for improved safety, combining the latest generation of heat activated self-adhesives, polyurethane adhesives and hot air welding for an unrivalled flame-free installation that is faster, cleaner, quieter and safer than traditional pour and roll or torch-applied methods.

The single layer elastomeric bituminous membrane features patented lap joint technology that is sealed using electrically driven hot air welding equipment, which can be powered from the mains supply or by generator where appropriate. This process is simple but precise and avoids operatives having to carry buckets of hot bitumen on site and having unattended pot boilers at ground level, removing risk to school staff, students and visitors alike.

The system has an estimated life expectancy in excess of 30 years, can easily withstand foot traffic and permanent loads and features elastomeric detailing membranes that make them practical for full bond application even during cold conditions. The membrane also includes expandable graphite fire retardant to prevent the spread of flame in the event of a fire ever breaking out.

Cold liquid applied solutions

Bauder’s cold liquid applied systems, LiquiTEC, are based on the most advanced PMMA (Poly Methyl Methacrylate) resin technology, combining ease of application, exceptionally fast cure and durability without using any hot works, making them suitable for use in all kinds of flat roof, balcony, walkway and terrace waterproofing applications.

All Bauder LiquiTEC products are solvent, isocyanate and halogen free; and unlike many other systems do not contain styrene and isocyanate, which are linked to serious health risks. The waterproofing products are resistant to ponding water and also incorporate a polyester fleece to provide increased membrane strength, life expectancy and resilience to cracking.

The fast curing times and cold application make this an ideal solution for refurbishing school buildings; as it causes minimal site disruption, the roof area can be accessed within hours of installation and it delivers a UV stable, seamless waterproof membrane of the highest quality.

Single ply solutions

Bauder’s single ply waterproofing systems, Thermofol (PVC) and Thermoplan (FPO), offer a lightweight, fast track, flame-free installation suitable for new build or refurbishment projects. The systems are installed using hot air welding techniques with mechanical fastenings or adhesive bonding to provide high-performance solutions, which are durable and give excellent fire resistance.

The membranes deliver strong and flexible polymeric waterproofing that is resistant to weathering, chemical oxidisation and UV radiation. They not only possess exceptional performance characteristics but are also incredibly versatile to meet the specific design challenges of each individual project.

Supporting YOU

Bauder can work with you to choose a roofing solution that is tailored exactly to your building’s requirements and school’s budget through its honest and expert roof appraisals. Its high performance, safety conscious waterproofing solutions are ideal for any school flat roof project, whether new build or refurbishment, and Bauder’s no obligation service means it can perform a comprehensive roof review to evaluate the condition of the roofing area entirely free of change.

For more information visit the Bauder team at the Academies Show at The NEC in Birmingham November 23rd or access its website at:

More than 2,000 new schools must be built within the next four years to accommodate the rising number of primary and secondary pupils in England, according to Scape Group’s latest ‘School Places Challenge’ report.

The research has revealed that local authorities are expecting an additional 729,000 pupils in education by 2020 – a rise of 8.6% in primary school pupils and 12% in secondary school pupils in England alone. To tackle this increase, the equivalent of two new schools must be created each working day.

London, the South East and East of England are experiencing the highest growth with more than 375,000 additional primary and secondary pupils expected to be added to the registers in four years’ time.

Of the total 2,122 new schools needed, the equivalent of 12,209 primary classrooms and 12,078 secondary classrooms, London requires 507 new schools. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham will see the biggest increase in pupil numbers, requiring a total of 28 new schools, followed by Lambeth, Newham and Greenwich, which need 21, 37 and 25 new schools built, respectively.

Outside of London, the Northern Powerhouse city of Manchester will see numbers rise to almost 19,000 extra primary and secondary pupils by 2020 – a 27% increase that will require the equivalent of 57 new schools. Rapid growth in the cities of Bristol, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Leicester and Nottingham will also mean that new schools will become highly sought-after should the necessary amount not be built in time.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group Chief Executive comments: “As the growth of the primary school population gathers pace, the pressure on school places will soon transfer to the secondary population, requiring a new wave of advanced school building. The government’s preference for free schools has created uncertainty for local authorities, who are tasked with planning and building new schools, but will not be responsible for running them. Proposals for new grammar schools has further muddied the waters.”

Leaving the EU could have a profound effect on the UK population – we could see a short term surge in migration from Europe or a drop off in numbers if migrants are put off coming here. It is very difficult to predict what impact Brexit will ultimately have, putting even more pressure on local authorities who are planning how and where to prioritise school-building.

“In a post-Brexit economy, with all of the uncertainty this brings, the construction of new schools must be a top priority for government and local authorities must be given the tools and funding necessary to deliver extra places in time. Creative solutions including standardised design, classroom extensions and larger ‘super-schools’, as well as more effective use of land to deliver mixed-use developments, are all options we need to look at to deliver more new schools.”

Download the full report here.

This summer, we’re offering three Secondary or Upper schools the opportunity to take up one of our sensational School Urban Transformer Grants. In each week-long program in the summer holidays, Building Transformation will provide the tools, training and expert knowledge to transform your school environment with founding partner Reece Wood and his expert colleagues.

The program, for six enthusiastic students, will offer a fun, skill-building opportunity to engage with, develop and improve their school’s space, as well as offering the following skills:

  • Environmental evaluation
  • Developing a plan of action
  • Selecting and meeting deadlines
  • Performing risk assessments
  • Analysing and understanding safety checks and construction plans
  • Taking instructions from supervising experts
  • Working as a team to produce agreed results

All these skills and more will be developed by the staff of Building Transformation, at no cost to the participating schools. All safety equipment and materials will also be provided by Building Transformation.

“When I pick my own kids up from school, it’s obvious that the classes enjoy activities most in those well-maintained, well cared-for areas; I can see how the school environment has a direct affect on their engagement with it. Any external building fabric plays a big part in influencing the emotions and even behaviour of the building users: a school landscape should be positive, feel safe and reflect the school’s culture and values, as a space that inspires students and teachers and makes them proud.

“However, maintenance issues can be costly, and low on the list of concerns as more pressing items taking priority; problems are often allowed to build and impact the school’s environments, negatively influencing students’ feelings about their school over time. This can result in an imbalance between the core values of a school, and its physical appearance. The problem isn’t down to people not caring, but rather that both budgets and time are limited.

“Yet the simple solutions that make a real difference to the quality of a school environment shouldn’t be expensive or difficult to access. Algae, carbon, environmental pollution, chewing gum & graffiti, are all easily removed with the correct equipment and approach. This year we aim to give the know-how and control back to schools and students, to help create school environments of the future. The School Urban Transformer Grant is our way of making a difference in our own communities.

“We want to create a fun programme, that builds the students’ skills, values and education, plus uses their enthusiasm and energy to give something back to the school environment that has helped shape their future, at no expense to the school. And by developing and completing the process with the students, they’ll take ownership of their space, feeling more protective, and viewing it with a new set of eyes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts — please get in touch, and I can answer any questions you might have.”

What is the purpose behind the School Urban Transformer program?

“To work with three schools for one week each, to help them create a more inspiring, valued and more sustainable environment that they are proud of and is in line with their standards of performance; to breathe new life into the tired or challenging-to-manage school environment; and to give the knowhow, pride and ownership back to the students, and back to the school. We want students and schools to feel that the cleaned and restored environment is a closer reflection of their values, ethos and vision.

“The grant includes one week’s Urban Transformation program within your school, as well as one day’s initial planning and development three to four weeks prior, working with your chosen students and your school’s maintenance staff.”

Why is Building Transformation doing this?

“We’re constantly thinking how we canwhat make real difference, both to environments and people, by bringing to life the real purpose of our business with our skills and assets. Having been asked to provide solutions to schools over the past few years, having looked at the varying condition of school environments, listened to the issues around budgets and maintenance limitations, pressures, priorities and how all of this impacts on the school, we believe that we can give schools the knowhow and solutions they need to create an environment and space that fits with their ethos and vision for the future.

“It’s important to us to help create communities of people that take ownership and pride in their environment.”

Who is Building Transformation?

“We’re an international building façade maintenance and consultancy service, working with major industry and education institutions across the UK and abroad, with over 15 years’ expertise in design, environmental sustainability and building regeneration.”

What do the schools need to do?

“Complete the application form by 17th June. The chosen schools will need to select six Y12 students who have the enthusiasm and energy to take part in the program for a week during the summer holidays, and who will be eager to learn new skills and develop their CVs and UCAS applications while also protecting their school environment for the future.”

For more information please visit, email or phone 01234 964 019.

RIBA have highlighted the urgent need for school refurbishment in a new report into the state of school buildings, entitled ‘Better Spaces for Learning.’ The report revealed:

  • 1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the wretched condition of the school buildings they have to teach in
  • The Government’s Education Funding Agency’s new school building programme is too rigid and is leading to waste and poor value for tax payers
  • Over 90% of teachers believe well-built and designed schools improve educational outcomes and pupil behaviour
  • Over-engineered schools, with Government-specified equipment that only costly consultants know how to operate, is costing £150 million per year which could have been avoided if schools were designed better

A new report on the state of school buildings in the UK has been published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Using the largest ever analysis of primary and secondary school buildings in the UK, a nation-wide poll of teachers, and extensive engagement with school buildings experts, RIBA’s Better Spaces for Learning report makes the case for an urgent review of the Government’s Education Funding Agency’s current school building programme.

The report emphasises the importance of well-designed school buildings on young people’s wellbeing, behaviour engagement and crucially, attainment.

RIBA has identified that good school design can reduce running and maintenance costs, in some cases by more than several times a teacher’s average salary a year; it could have prevented the English school estate from spending upwards of £150m annually on unnecessary operation and maintenance costs.

The new report is further insight into the Government’s own assertion that just 5% of the nearly 60,000 school buildings across the UK are performing as intended and operating efficiently.* The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.

Better Spaces for Learning reveals that the Government’s current programme of building new schools is inefficient – with a lack of flexibility to make the best possible use of resources, and little opportunity for school staff to input into the design of their own new buildings. RIBA believes that the Government programme must be improved to guarantee better outcomes for our public money.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said “This country is in the grip of the worst shortage of school places in living memory. Our report highlights the vital importance of school design and how it affects the general health and wellbeing of their users, our children and their teachers. As limited funding is available to deal with the growing problem, every penny spent on schools must deliver maximum value for money. Award winning well-designed, successful schools with happy pupils and productive staff like Burntwood School in London shouldn’t be the exception, they should be the standard.

“How can we expect our children to compete with the world’s best when too many of our school buildings are substandard? Educational improvements resulting from the current programme of school building are not reaching the basic standards that British taxpayers and our economy expects. We need to do better for all of our children and their hardworking teachers. We urge the Government to review its programme of building new schools.”

To read more about buildings and construction within the education sector, subscribe to our sister publication School Building Magazine. School Building magazine is aimed at the key named buyers and specifiers with Local Authorities, LEA’s, Universities, Architects and contractors responsible for the design, build and refurbishment of educational facilities.
Read the latest edition here.

Important legislative changes have impacted on the use of lighting control systems within the education sector. Contractors must now provide controls which deliver greater energy savings in line with increasingly stringent regulations around sustainability. Additionally, these must be designed to meet each institution’s precise operational requirements, making decision-making around lighting and controls more complex.

Meanwhile, lighting controls have become significantly more sophisticated in functionality and quality. This allows specifiers and installers to select the most appropriate products for each customer, with expectation from end users around lighting controls increasing considerably.

There is now greater emphasis within BREEAM on consultation to truly understand client needs. Similarly, the implementation of BIM requirements means specifiers, armed with this in-depth understanding, must select fully compliant products.

A valuable lesson

As in any sector, it makes sense to select a lighting controls partner with significant experience in educational projects. Where schools and educational facilities differ from commercial spaces or offices is that the primary objective is to create an environment optimal for learning.

Budgetary constraints in the education sector cover both initial cost of purchase and delivering ongoing reduction in energy usage.

For instance, occupancy-sensing controls ensure lighting is used only when required, creating a well-lit classroom suited to effective learning while minimising unnecessary energy consumption and cost.

The best of both worlds

Typically, there will be three or four banks of lighting in a classroom – one close to windows, with another at the front where the whiteboard is. A lighting control system adjusts lighting accordingly to account for varying levels of artificial and natural light.

Typically, this means the lights nearest to the windows will be dimmable, and on a sunny day may dim down to as low as 25% of full output. Further into the space, depending how far the daylight penetrates, other rows may dim down to, say, 75% – or even remain at 100% output.

With widespread use of interactive whiteboards and projectors, dimmer switches help focus students’ attention as these can be used to dim light elsewhere within the teaching space.

Many classrooms, particularly in secondary schools, are used by numerous teaching staff and support staff outside teaching hours. This means the control interface must be easy to use by individuals unfamiliar with that classroom and with varying degrees of technical competence.


Classrooms are often also used for extra-curricular and community-based activities. To optimise energy use, it makes sense to implement flexible systems which can cater for this. The absence of such measures can lead to wasteful energy consumption and increased cost, as lights are left on when only a few classrooms, connecting corridors and stairways are in use.

Similarly, rooms in universities and colleges are occupied sporadically, highlighting the need for automated systems ensuring lights are kept on only when in use. Selecting the right occupancy detection can deliver significant savings. In a classroom, for instance, a single microwave detector may offer the same control as two or more PIR detectors, reducing capital costs and cabling requirements.

The same applies to corridors, where the directional qualities of occupancy detectors can provide maximum coverage with the minimum number of sensors.


Lighting controls are continually evolving to meet the precise needs of the education sector. Correctly chosen solutions can help create the optimal learning environment. Seeking advice from those with specialist knowledge and experience in these crucial areas can help ensure clients receive the best solution.

The new Vitesse Plus, a seven-channel lighting control system by CP Electronics, has been specially designed with BIM and EFA guidelines in mind, as well as a growing need to find a cost-effective solution which is easy to set up. Features such as graduated dimming and corridor hold are simple to set up and control, with photocell detectors making adjustments that take advantage of natural light levels.

To find out more visit