The advantages of using Conventional Modular and Off-site Modular construction for school building projects.

HomeBe PreparedThe advantages of using Conventional Modular and Off-site Modular construction for school building projects.

Conventional Modular and Off-site Modular construction can suit schools looking to increase or improve their facilities for many reasons.  The differences between the two types of construction are not always apparent, as companies try to straddle the advantages of each, and remove any disadvantages which may arise, helping the customer to get the best of both worlds. This is not always possible!

Conventional Modular construction generally refers to units which are delivered either whole or in sections or for immediate installation, and which are usually sized to suit production facilities. Off-Site Modular construction refers to buildings whose components are machine manufactured to very tight tolerances in a factory setting and then delivered in packs for assembly on-site: the building having been “erected” on the supplier’s CAD system beforehand, and each component having a specific location in the structure.

Both systems hugely reduce the amount of construction time required on the school premises thereby minimising inconvenience to the school and reducing costs.

The choice of construction system is often affected by the suitability of the delivery method:

Conventional Modular buildings take up a considerable amount of shipping space, and usually require multi-vehicle deliveries with crane off-load. Craneage is logistically challenging, specialist, and expensive.

Off-site Modular buildings are delivered in pack form, and can generally be offloaded by telehandler, sideloader, or all-terrain forklift. Because the packing density is increased the customer does not need to pay to haul as much fresh air, thereby reducing the number of deliveries, and as a consequence, the cost. Environmentally, fewer deliveries = lower carbon emissions.[singlepic id=2168 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Delivery in pack form, each pack having been collated such that components come out in the order required, offers an ideal solution for restricted sites. If necessary, components can be walked from the storage are to the build. This almost always obviates any need for craneage.

Speed of construction is important for a variety reasons.  Not only is there the inconvenience  and disruption of having work going on, and the consequent loss of focus that may be experienced by pupils, or even staff, during this time, but there are also financial benefits to a shorter construction time.  Naturally the reduced man-hours on site mean lower labour costs, but don’t forget that with the new CDM regulations there are also increased professional costs on projects which extend beyond 30 working days.  The addition of the CDM controller to the project whilst greatly benefiting overall project management in larger projects also brings with it a bill which needs to be paid.  Well managed projects based on Conventional Modular and Off-site Modular systems can often be completed well within this 30 day timescale: obviously depending on the scale and complexity of the build.

Traditional construction methods usually involve the use of heavy, noisy machinery for the excavation of trenches for foundations, mixing, and multiple deliveries of materials: sometimes on a daily basis. Site traffic can also generate dust.  All these factors can disturb school life.

Much of this disruption can be removed, or minimised using Modular construction systems, as components/building elements are produced in the factory, and simply assembled on site. Off-site Modular builds usually only require mechanical handling for the first day or two to off load, and perhaps briefly during the construction phase if the design involves large roof beams. As mentioned above, Conventional modular projects will usually require craneage, but only for relatively short periods.

A key attraction to many schools is that Modular builds require less staff time to supervise.  Modular system suppliers can offer ready-made design packages, incorporating comprehensive M&E (plumbing, electricals etc.) packs as “turnkey” solutions. Off-site Modular systems, such as that used by Cabinco Ltd, generally afford a client far more design flexibility than Conventional Modular systems: which are constrained by factory fixed element dimensions.

Off-site Modular suppliers have more flexibility to design the building to meet your school’s requirements, giving the advantage of a Turnkey Solution without the need to settle for a “best fit” from a fixed choice of designs.

A key disruption, to even well-planned construction projects, is the British weather!!!  Many operations associated with traditional construction methods, such as concreting and plastering, cannot always be completed where wet weather / freezing temperatures occur as time to set is essential.  Conventional Modular, and Off-site Modular projects can make use of screw pile foundation systems (or similar).  These systems are precision driven into the ground over a 2 -3 day period reducing your risk of weather delays, and minimising ground disturbance.

Finally, price!  – often the decision maker in the procurement process.  All the advantages of Conventional Modular and Off-site Modular construction systems have a cost benefit.  A good supplier will reflect these savings in the price quoted to you, enabling you to keep your project within budget.