In 2016, the Scottish Government pledged to build and expand 750 nurseries by 2021. At the time of writing, 97 nurseries have been built, extended or refurbished – representing just 13% of the target.
By August 2020, the Scottish Government also intends to increase free childcare from 600 hours to 1,140 hours per year.
These ambitious goals are more than achievable if one of the Scottish Government’s preferred building methods is adopted. The Scottish Government, like the UK Houses of Parliament, endorses modular (otherwise known as offsite or volumetric construction) as an alternative to traditional building methods.
This preferred option cuts the build time in half. While site work is carried out, modules are built in a dedicated facility. They are then transported to site and installed within a matter of days.
However, at present, only a small percentage of new schools and nurseries are modular. In this post, we hope to explain the advantages and clear up some of the myths surrounding this building method.
A guide for progress
In 2017 the Scottish Government published ‘A Space to Grow’, a design guide for early learning and childcare and out of school care settings.
In it, they state: ‘Many local authorities have already used off-site manufacturing to develop their education estate and the use of this, where appropriate, is something that would be recommended when planning early learning and childcare and after school care settings.’
It also highlights the many benefits of modular construction including:
- Shorter build times
- Assured quality
- Minimised disruption
- Cost and time certainty
- Future flexibility
- Reduced waste
Breaking down barriers
Despite nudges from the Scottish and UK Government to take the modular route, some Councils seem reluctant to take the leap.
Understandably, procuring a school is a high-pressure activity. Getting the space right for the children and ensuring that funding is well spent are substantial concerns, and it’s not surprising that many decision-makers will stick to what they know i.e. traditional building methods.
Councils and school boards who choose a modular solution, however, rarely look back. Edinburgh and The Highlands Councils procured nineteen new modular buildings from Wernick in 2018 and 2019 is set to be even busier.
Modular school buildings have come a long way from the demountables of the past. Modern modular buildings are not only better insulated and easier to heat but with the right design, can look no different than a traditionally built school or classroom block.
Built to last
Modular buildings may be quicker to build but at no point is quality compromised. In fact, the opposite is true.
- The offsite manufacturing process allows for quality control and strict tolerances at every stage and building ‘offsite’ protects the building from the elements during its manufacture.
- Wernick’s buildings come with a 25-year structural guarantee (15 years longer than the average guarantee offered for traditional buildings) and a 60+ year design life.
- Whilst they are relocatable, they are built for permanence and longevity. Schools who choose a modular building gain a permanent asset that could solve future requirements.
- Buildings can be reconfigured easily: floors can be added or removed or the layout altered according to changing needs.
- Every Wernick building is bespoke – so even though buildings are supplied as ‘boxes’ there are few limits to the interior or exterior design.
Modular buildings are better for the environment too. A recent inquiry by the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) estimated that modular construction can reduce the energy used in the construction process by 67% and waste produced onsite by between 70% and 90% compared to traditional construction methods. It also estimated that modular buildings require 30% less energy to heat.
“Our preconceived idea of this kind of building was flimsy and noisy but the new building is the complete opposite. We are impressed with the soundproofing of the building which is important with these children, as any disturbance can cause an unwanted disruption.”
Julia Jordan, Senior Administrator, Stansfield Centre, Exeter
Procuring a modular building is not dissimilar to procuring a ‘traditional’ building. However, there are a few key differences.
Engagement – Early engagement is vital. The sooner you can involve a modular provider in the design process the better.
Design – This can be undertaken by Wernick’s in-house design team or if you prefer, Wernick can work in partnership with your chosen architect to provide consistency with your current estate or vision.
Architectural elements – Portal frames for entrance lobbies, for example, can be incorporated into the design and in some cases, a mix of ‘traditional’ and modular is used to achieve the desired result.
Frameworks – Wernick can be found on specialist modular frameworks as well as frameworks with both modular and traditional lots. We work with framework members who can choose to procure directly through single action or go through a mini-competition with other providers.
Insight – We invite visitors to our factory to see first-hand how our buildings are made. There is nothing like seeing the process up-close before making a decision.
We offer a full turnkey solution and expertise spanning several decades. From the ideas stage to installing the furniture, we work with you to ensure that your building, and its surroundings, suit your every requirement.
“Wernick offered a very competitive tender with a proven track record of delivery. Through contacts, we also heard excellent reports of other Wernick school buildings situated nearby.”
Clare Cormack, Vice Chair Person and Parent Governor of Stoke Rowe C of E School, Oxfordshire
Wernick are education specialists. We know how important it is to work to a budget and around the school timetable. We’re often told about the ‘wow factor’ of our buildings: they ‘appear’ in a matter of weeks.
We create inspirational teaching spaces in which to teach and be taught. Spaces that encourage ‘indoor-outdoor’ learning, and spaces to assist children with additional needs.
Choosing modular means a fast and reliable timetable and buildings that achieve the aesthetics of a non-modular building.
For plugging the nursery spaces gap, modular offers the perfect solution.
“Initial staff reaction to the new building can only be described as ecstatic. One teacher was seen dancing with delight at the size, specification and finish of her new room.”
Arina Hester, Headteacher of Godolphin Infant School, Slough