After the Covid pause, can offsite manufacturing create innovative solutions to the problems facing our schools?
The government has already pledged £1bn for green improvements and another £1bn to build 50 new schools. Increasing classroom capacity through modular building projects is the cost-effective, safe and sustainable way to meet the pressure on the UK's schools.
Offsite construction creates a safe working environment in factory conditions. Workers remain in one location and the nature of the work is less labour intensive than traditional methods of construction. In the new normal that is emerging after lockdown, this type of construction is ideally placed to protect worker safety with social distancing and hygiene methods.
MMC was a big winner during the height of the pandemic, with workers able to continue construction while prioritising safety and welfare. Another benefit of a centralised workforce is the ease of testing and contact tracing.
Focus on sustainability
Build back greener. It's a mantra for economic recovery and a focus for the construction industry that currently generates 40% of global carbon emissions. Coupled with 2050 net carbon zero goals for local authorities, academy trusts and schools, the need to find sustainable solutions for classroom capacity is a neat fit with modular construction.
MMC cuts waste by 90% over traditional methods of construction. It favours more sustainable materials that can be reused and recycled throughout the lifespan of the building, and classroom modules themselves can be redeployed where necessary if more permanent solutions are subsequently used.
The crisis in British classrooms is happening now and rapid solutions are critical. Predesigned, built and packaged buildings can deliver at speed, cutting time spent on site and disruption to schools.
Built in a quality controlled environment, modular classrooms aren't subject to weather and environmental delays and supply chain issues are easier to mitigate. Unlike onsite construction, MMC has remained productive throughout the pandemic and can deliver without significant delays caused by funding delays and stalled procurement. The example of the Nightingale Hospitals was an illustration of just how fast modular solutions can deliver in a crisis. To create capacity in our schools at speed, modular construction is an obvious fit.
Best in class
Modular construction is now delivering best in class solutions for schools seeking more capacity, greater energy efficiency and accessibility for all. As schools return to face to face teaching, modular construction can rapidly create the classroom space that allows teachers and pupils to distance safely.
But the speed of modular isn't just about meeting the challenges of our post-lockdown world. Schools that desperately need extra facilities can install them at pace, providing an environment where learning can be prioritised.
Shorter timelines, efficient delivery, re-deployability and attractive leasehold financing opportunities all make modular classrooms an appealing proposition for schools short on space, time and cash.
The government is prepared to invest in green solutions, school refurbishment and new build projects but it's only a part of the solution. Schools must look to innovative, sustainable, safe and affordable solutions to create the classrooms of the future.