Caledonian Modular awarded for school building achievement

Stephen Wightman, Managing Director of the UKs largest modular manufacturing company Caledonian Modular says that by choosing modular, you dont have to compromise on school design, aesthetics, sustainability or occupier comfort. And you can be sure that your school will be open for term dates. Whether youre refurbishing or extending an existing school facility or building on a new site, the opportunity to achieve bespoke, aesthetically attractive school design, energy efficiency and occupier comfort is well within reach using modular construction technology.

Building offsite also confers project certainty, sustainable construction, quality control, shortening of the construction process and reduces weather dependency so you can be sure that your school will be open for term dates. At Caledonian Modular (CM), we also aim to enhance occupier comfort for the building users. We specify phase change materials in the design to provide thermal mass to help when a building has heated up due to its occupancy and solar gain. While these innovative materials do not physically melt, they absorb heat created by use which is then gradually released back into the building during periods of lower temperatures so it can be dissipated through natural ventilation.

The use of rooflights can also optimise the opportunity to deliver good natural day light without the glare factor. Our biggest challenge is getting people to understand just how superior our buildings are! So we were delighted when CM won Education Project of the Year in the Builder & Engineer Awards 2014 for the complete secondary school we built for Farnborough College in Nottingham. As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility programme to education, CM regularly invites school staff, governors and pupils to visit the factory in Newark, Nottinghamshire, to walk through their new school during its construction process. Each building is laid out in as built configuration before being transported to site.

What is modular building? Modular buildings can range from simple single storey structures through to high rise multimillion pound buildings. They are permanent structures which are designed, manufactured and approximately 80 per cent fitted out offsite. Individual modules are transported to site where the project is assembled and completed just like any onsite construction. This method of offsite building typically reduces programme time by a minimum of one third so while your site is being prepared, your new school accommodation is being manufactured in a quality controlled factory environment by a stable experienced workforce. Modular is also less disruptive to the local community which is especially important in education projects.

In a recent scheme, a brand new school was built only two metres from the fully occupied St Jamess Church of England Junior School at Barrow in Furness, one of the top 100 performing state establishments. What are modulars biggest misconceptions? The biggest myth is that to minimise costs one-sized modules have to fit all types of building projects. In fact, standard sizing has little to do with delivering cost benefits; its quite the reverse actually as theres no point in using a standard module because building sites, including schools, never come in standard sizes or shapes. It stands to reason that its more cost and materially effective to manufacture modules for a specific project.

There is no wasted space and compromises are not made to meet a perceived standard in terms of construction or size. The overall cost of modular construction is equivalent to traditional methods. But it is also important to factor in the lower risk and savings in other areas of the project budget that offsite construction delivers everytime. At the end of the day its the figure on the bottom line that actually matters.

Other misconceptions include: Not being able to offer a full range of external finishes - we can use any traditional materials and our buildings are indistinguishable from those constructed traditionally;

 Low performance levels - typically CM buildings achieve air tightness results below 3m³/m²/hr; three times better than building regulations require, meeting enhanced insulation specifications and utilising insulated cladding systems; 

Poor site operations - we have a large experienced professional construction team with experience in both traditional and modular construction management.

How does offsite support sustainability? Over 25 per cent of the module can be manufactured from A+ rated products of which 25 per cent are from recycled sources. Working to the BRE Green Guide, Caledonian Modulars waste is designed out, materials optimised and waste segregated. Some 97.5 per cent of CM factory waste is recycled and all remaining waste is reused or converted to energy.

Modular building projects also involve up to 80 per cent fewer traffic movements to site. In one project, a 1000 square metre 54 bedroom accommodation block, using modular construction provided a 33 tonne reduction in CO2  thats the equivalent of the annual carbon footprint of 3 people. Why engage on design early? Delivering a bespoke layout to a good educational standard design to meet your specific requirements can best be achieved through engagement with independent architects and the manufacturer at the very earliest opportunity. We work from the architectural drawings to break the building down into a series of transportable elements i.e. modules that we can manufacture in the factory, put on a truck and transport to the site and assemble in-situ. A module is rather like a Lego block thats roughly up to 18 metres long, four metres tall and five metres wide. If we are engaged early in the process we can look to bring our skill sets to bear and develop the design in the most cost, time and technically efficient manner. This ensures that projects run smoothly through all parts of the process and that all parties are fully engaged

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