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How modular construction can help school expansion

Marcus Sutcliffe, Technical Director of Elite Systems, discusses the advantages of modular construction

Posted by Lucinda Reid | March 01, 2017 | Facilities management

Britain is in the midst of the worst shortage of school places in decades, and headteachers around the country are looking for ways to accommodate additional intake – without breaking the bank.

School expansion projects are restricted not only by incredibly tight budget constraints, but also by the need to create additional classrooms without allowing construction to disrupt the day-to-day life of staff, students, and parents.

Such is the pressure to expand, some schools have had to divert money away from essential repairs in order to create temporary classrooms, but this is not a sustainable way for schools to grow.

A speedy, solid solution

Schools are turning to off-site construction for a cost-effective answer to the expansion conundrum, and one that offers speed as well as flexibility. The success of the schools that have pioneered this approach in recent years has led to rapidly increasing demand for modular school buildings all over the country.

Many schools don't know what their intake for the new school year will be until March or April of the same year. That leaves as little as four months for headteachers to assess the school's requirements in terms of space and formulate a plan for any new classrooms, communal areas or other facilities.

Fortunately, the foundations for modular classrooms can be constructed within a week, while the rooms themselves are constructed away from the site in a controlled environment. The installation of the classrooms and finishing of the work then usually takes an additional week or two, and the total project time of most modular classroom installations is no more than three weeks.

Safety first

The speed and convenience of modular classroom construction means that most expansion projects can be comfortably completed within the school holidays. However, when this isn't possible it is vital that modular classroom installations can take place without jeopardising the safety and wellbeing of students or staff.

For example, while modular classroom construction lends itself to the tight timescales of school holidays, at Elite Systems we have also completed a number of major construction projects at schools during term time. From a practical perspective, this requires a careful fencing off of the working area, clear signage and rigorous safety checks. However, the key to our success in the delivery of term-time construction projects is the way our team communicates with school staff.

At every school project we work on, we present a thorough plan of work that informs staff of what we will be doing at every stage of the process, and we hold regular meetings with school leadership teams throughout the duration of the work.

Many school expansion projects are driven by a simple shortage of space, as was the case at Blenheim Primary School in Southend, where we installed a new 300 square metre quad classroom complex with toilets and groundworks. The school urgently needed space for an extra 100 pupils, and the Elite team installed foundations, drainage, access and a 10-bay modular building.

Providing for everyone

Modular construction is also playing an important role in the provision of facilities for students and staff with special needs, enabling schools to develop accessible spaces for disabled people without the disruption of on-site construction.

As the capability to deliver high quality classrooms and school buildings quickly and cost effectively improves at firms across the country, it is expected that many more schools will take advantage of the benefits of modular construction and save themselves the headache of overcrowding.

For more information on Elite Systems, visit


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