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Modern Methods

posted: 10th May 2010

ClassroomThe Modular & Portable Building Industry, still continues to grow, from strength to strength. Even in these uncertain times, one thing we can be certain about is that our industry as ever will be keeping up with the requirements to provide buildings that meet the criteria of which we are all aware:

  • Sustainability
  • Embodied Energy
  • Reduction in Waste
  • Reduction of Carbon Omissions

The original concept of Modular Buildings historically was basic, cheap and cheerful and useful to help out when funds were low and budget restraints in place. The good news for the industry and end users alike, is that this is no longer the case.

Projects for modular construction are becoming more common as the market of modular buildings has changed. Central to this trend has also been the slow dawning realisation that modular construction does not always result in the buildings being of a temporary nature. Today's modular buildings are constructed to extremely high standards; in factory controlled conditions, most are steel framed and have a design life of 50 years. In all probability they will last longer than that- longer in fact than some, so-called permanent buildings constructed in traditional materials.

Designs for the End User

ClassroomNew buildings, for example can now have pitched, tiled roof, brick walls with brickwork style that is sympathetic to the original structure or structures in the required area. This could apply to offices, schools, hospitals – the list is limitless. Again, with suppliers appreciating the need, the industry is now in a position to provided windows and doors to match other buildings. Soundproofing was always a concern in particular when buildings were being used as classrooms, as was the appropriate heating and lighting. This with new developments is no longer an issue.

Controlled Waste and Costs

Economies of scale plays a part in the benefits generated by assembly line production that are passed on to the client. As a general rule modular construction is sold on the basis that customers can have their buildings quicker, to their specific requirement with the knowledge that the waste and down time is under control.

Architects today have to satisfy their client's need to design buildings that will meet all the requirements - 'State of the Art' modular buildings are all around. In most cases the public are unaware that buildings are no longer always built of traditional methods. Clients are also becoming increasingly aware of this. Why pay more, when you can have a cost-effective modular building in a shorter time scale. The quality is as high and it will last as long.

Fast track solutions have become increasingly more in demand over the years alongside the considerations that we need to make on reducing waste. With buildings manufactured in a controlled factory, the industry has the opportunity to take control of this. A recent government funded study by the BeAware project to which the MPBA contributed, clearly identifies that the industry has far less waste than traditional methods. Information on this report can be obtained from www.beaware.org.uk

It is also a well known fact in our industry sector and not well publicised that the use of pre-owned modular buildings is the most environmental friendly method of construction and a highly sustainable alternative to new build and to the demolition and disposal of buildings in landfill sites. Generating less than 10 per cent of the carbon omissions and using less than 3 per cent of the energy during construction compared to a newly manufactured building of the equivalent size. We talk continuously about sustainable solutions in these current times, what better example with modular buildings that are relocated – the embodied energy in them is preserved.

The Education Sector

The Education sector has always featured strongly in the volumetric business generated by our members. In recent years the business has developed from single classroom units to more sophisticated structures, encompassing specialist laboratories and teaching areas to complete new schools. Working with the education authorities and architects-members provided for speedy 'off site' fabricating with a minimum on site installation period.

The Healthcare Sector

Several member companies specialise in the fabrication of modules for use in healthcare sector. Many examples of again 'off site' fabrication can be seen in nursing homes, doctor's surgeries, medical centres and accommodation for nursing staff. These types of building have provided a successful market in recent years and it is anticipated that there will be a greater use in the future.

The Housing Sector

Over recent years there has been a projection for a significant increase in the building of houses, the increase being in both flats and houses. With the ever-decreasing shortage of skilled labour in the construction industry, off site fabrication was the way forward to resolve this problem.

Off site skill for fabrication are no less than on site craftsmen but work carried out in a factory environment enabling easier quality control, production schedules are easier to maintain and health & safety issues are more readily dealt with. All of these are very significant factors enabling the unit cost to be more controlled. The key to all of what we do as an industry is that we are able to supply all market sectors.

Direct Purchasing

There is a misconception that the only way that large complex school buildings can be obtained is through a tender process or main contractor route. Our member companies, both manufacturers and experienced suppliers know more about the type of building that would suit a client's requirements. Companies now have either dedicated construction divisions to deal with groundworks and installation; alternatively they would work alongside specialist companies who would undertake this and the mechanical services element.

Planned Delivery to suit clients when there are requirements for additional or new schools. Consideration needs to take into account term times, to avoid disruption and it is always worth remembering that with modular building, ground works and production can be taking place at the same time. Many temporary schools are required today, as an industry, we have designed suitable buildings that work.

The Modular & Portable Building Industry has many companies who will be able to meet the quality and needs of any project and will perform to a high standard of service and reliability. Many suppliers of school buildings hold a fleet of equipment, which again makes them more instantly available, particularly in an emergency. Consider all the factors and you have an ideal solution to solving your problems of new or replacement schools. If in doubt the industry is supported by its very own industry association and will answer any questions that you may have.

Article written by Jackie Maginnis for www.B4ED.com - Building 4 Education