Caledonian gets Top Marks for Modular Buildings

Steve Wightman, Managing Director of the Caledonian Group explains how modular construction is light years ahead of traditional methods when it comes to school building projects!

How would you feel if your new car was delivered to your house as a kit of parts and assembled in your front garden in the rain? When you think about it, thats exactly the process which takes place on a traditional building site. So whats the alternative and just how is modular construction far more favourable?

First of all forget those flashbacks to dingy temporary cabins in far flung corners of the school playground. Both the exterior and interior of a bespoke modular construction project looks in every way just like a building thats been constructed on site using bricks and mortar. It too is an engineered permanent structure, but thats where the like-for-like comparison ends as it actually offers a better level of quality than its site-constructed equivalent. How? Its faster, cost effective, sustainable and all importantly, flexible in building design and use.

So what exactly is offsite modular construction? Offsite modular construction offers all of the design flexibility to create a quality, aesthetically attractive, sustainable building to your own specification. It is built from modules which are manufactured under factory conditions to exacting standards. Modular is streets ahead on reducing the construction timescale of a new school building. Two phases of construction take place simultaneously, so generally speaking, we can deliver a project in around two thirds to half the time of an equivalent traditional project.

Groundworks and foundations are prepared on site while the buildings modules are being manufactured elsewhere. Also at this stage, various fit-out elements such as plumbing and electrics, furniture and WC facilities are all installed. The modules are also decorated before they are transported to site ready for assembly to complete the envelope.

Trends in school building Two key trends are emerging in the construction of independent school buildings. Theres growth in the demand for weekly boarding so that pupils can enjoy all the extracurricular enrichment that a boarding school provides while enjoying family life at the weekend. Also top of the agenda is providing state-of-the-art facilities for the science and technology curriculum. One key difference in modular construction is that should a school plan to phase its investment over say a decade, we can design buildings to be extended both out as well as up in subsequent years, as well as reducing the timescale for potential further works.

Modular construction is very scalable and modules can be as small as 12 m2. Disruption Disruption to school life is not something that any parent wants let alone in the independent sector. Modular construction projects can be managed so that all the major works take place when the school is in recess. We also need a smaller site area so the school doesnt have to give up its precious space for lengthy periods of time. Weve just finished a 120 bedspace student accommodation block for the Bishop Grossteste University (BGU) in Lincoln. We needed to demolish part of an existing building to build the new facility but the students still needed living quarters. When half of the new block was completed, the students decanted into their new residence, the old block was demolished and the other half of the project was completed.


Modular construction is also a far safer option for the school site because dangerous and difficult operations such as demolition or deliveries can be factored into the building programme during holiday periods. For example, at Tolworth School, Surbiton in the Royal Borough of Kingston, Caledonian Modular was appointed supply chain partner for the construction of a creche and dining facility building. Before the building project could commence, Caledonian needed to undertake demolition and site remediation work which included the removal of a large quantity of buried asbestos. This planned work took place during the summer vacation while some 28 individual steel and timber framed modular units were being constructed off-site in Caledonians quality controlled factory site.

When the new school year began in September, we restricted our construction works to within the site boundaries and many deliveries to site were curtailed. During half term, the modules were brought to the school and craned into position. Its a fact that when a modular project is underway on site, we are less noisy or dusty and produce significantly less waste than traditional building methods. This September, we handed over the last Building Schools for the Future project to be built in Nottingham so it was essential to finish the programme on time.

A landmark project for us, the Farnborough School & Technology College is new state-of-the-art school building for over 1,000 pupils. With a total floor area of 7,005m2 the new school building was assembled from 141 modules, which were built and fitted out to an exacting specification. In less than 12 months, we provided a complete off-site build, on-site construction and fit-out package. We built a full height assembly hall, science labs and music rooms, plus a dining hall and commercial kitchen. A showcase for modern methods of construction, Farnborough demonstrated all of the time and cost saving advantages of offsite. But more importantly, it showcased our ability to design and build permanent modular structures without compromise on good looks and building performance in-use.

A schools green credentials have never been more important than they are today. Offsite construction is a highly sustainable method of building and school buildings can achieve very high standards of energy efficiency once occupied. Reducing waste is factored into our design processes and we recycle 96% of waste materials from our factories. Projects require far fewer traffic movements and in one three storey 54 bed accommodation unit that we built, we saved 33 tonnes of CO2 which is the equivalent carbon footprint of three UK residents over a whole year!

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