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Last edited 08 Mar 2021
Why are schools investing in modular classrooms?
 Great aesthetics
The resurgence in belief in modular construction came when Heads realised it didn't mean pre-fab huts. There was a period of instant classrooms that were too hot, too small and overall a little rickety. They also made a school site look dreadful as if its community were fractured.
Thankfully, this is not a modular design. Today construction methods are dictated by the latest educational research about what makes sound learning environments. Spaces are adaptive and flexible, full of light and air, with all the facilities neded to assist teachers and other staff to deliver top-quality education.
Kerb appeal is not something head teachers like to openly admit is vital to school numbers. However, the drive-by of future parents and the feedback about the school's exterior from the local community are one of those essentials to a school reputation. When you choose modular construction, you are extending the site, so it appears the same as the rest. With traditional cladding and roofing, the modular extension can easily merge with the whole site.
The increase in popularity of modular classrooms is mostly down to cost. Budgets in schools are tight and as numbers rise traditional construction poses a real challenge to the school's business manager. The investment in modular construction offers an impressively quick return.
The flexibility of a modular classroom also guards against potential future changes. If in a few years, a school may need to grow again, the modular class can move to become part of a new configuration.
 Quick and disruption-free
A building site and a school site are not the best bedfellows. The noise, dust and health and safety concerns of a construction site in a place where learning requires listening and speaking can create problems. Modular classrooms can give additional space in a matter of months. Start in the summer term and have the extra space by the Autumn term.
 The best learning environment
The most important reason that modular design has become more popular is that the learning space created is outstanding. No longer in the world of the pre-fab, classroom spaces are cutting edge and adaptable to the latest teaching and learning techniques.
It is also the best construction method for the environment. As well as being energy efficient, the techniques used are part of a sustainable project with a minimal carbon footprint. The amount of construction traffic, and so air pollution to the site, is massively reduced.
Modular buildings (sometimes referred to as volumetric construction, or prefabricated buildings, although strictly speaking, a prefabricated building need not be modular) are buildings made up of components manufactured on assembly lines in factories then assembled on site in a variety of arrangements.
Modular building became popular after the Second World War when there was a need for the rapid construction of buildings (in particular dwellings) to replace bomb-damaged buildings and to accommodate returning troops. They were initially well-received, but as they often remained in use well beyond their design life (for example, 'temporary' classrooms, some of which are still in use), and were sometimes aesthetically less attractive that traditional buildings, they fell out of favour.
More recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in modular buildings, with a recognition, not only that they can be aesthetically pleasing, but also they can achieve a very high buildquality and can be both long lasting and sustainable.
A new fleet of modular buildings has emerged that includes a wide variety of sizes and configurations, with sector specific building types and styles and options for variable plans and multi-storey configurations.
The gap between modular structures and traditional buildings has narrowed, and there has been an improvement in performance driven in part by regulatory standards but also by the availability of new materials. Recent, dramatic examples of the evolution of modular buildingsinclude the 30-storey Tower Hotel in Yueyang and B2, a 32-storey residential tower in Brooklyn, 60% of which was construction off site.
Other examples of modular buildings include:
Showrooms and marketing suites.
Ministry of Defence buildings.
Cruise ship accommodation.
Improved quality control (achieved through repetition, inspection and operating in a factory-controlled environment). NB Build quality is increasingly important in achieving environmental standards such as BREEAM. Buildings very often fail to achieve their designed performance because of poor quality control on site.
Reduced time on site.
Greater control over the full supply chain.
Restricted flexibility. Module sizes and shapes can be limiting.
Difficulty transporting and handling modules.
The supply of modular buildings may simply include manufacture, delivery and installation , or it can be a full 'turnkey' package including site preparation, planning, commissioning, maintenance and even buy-back for re-sale.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Construction problems avoided by using a modular approach.
- Design for deconstruction.
- Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA).
- Factory-made housing
- Kit house.
- Modern methods of construction.
- Modular buildings.
- Modular buildings in the educational sector.
- Plug and play skyscrapers.
- Prefabricated structural panels.
- Structure relocation.
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