Podcast | Season 1 | Episode 23: Modular Building that Improves Your Estate
Sarah Denton guides you through some great examples of implementation of modular building, showcasing how they represent an effective and efficient alternative to traditional building.
📂 You can access the presentation at this link.
📎 Modular Matters: Keeping Learning on Programme
- Making your school estates improvements more efficient
- Ensuring there is minimal impact on pupils during facilities improvements through modular build
- Reduce time on site and disruption to pupils through the use of turnkey school solutions
- Meeting Department for Education requirements for primary school halls
- Ensuring your facilities are compliant with acoustic, lighting and floor finishes
💡 Sarah Denton, Education Specialist, Portakabin
📘 The episode is sponsored by Portakabin.
🏫 This session was recorded live on 13th November 2019 in the Buildings & Estates Theatre of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Morning. Thanks for popping along this morning. My name is Sarah Denton. And I'm going to be taking this session for the next 20 minutes. So what we're talking about this morning is how we've consistently learnt on programme. This is really important when we're delivering projects, especially when you've got the general public coming to site. It's essential that you do it in an efficient and effective manner. So hopefully we're going to teach you a little bit about that today and how we've achieved that. I mean, what Portakabin are absolutely passionate about doing is delivering educational buildings and that's not only for teachers, but it's for the staff and for the pupils as well. And this is why it's important that we consistently learn from the projects we've previously been on.
So hopefully, I'm going to take you on a bit of a journey this morning, the journey that we take our key stakeholders on the journey that the teachers take all those people that have a vested interest in the product to actually create a real quality learning environment. And we're going to do this by looking at four key areas. And the first area that we're going to look at is some of the projects that we've delivered some of the challenges that we've faced, because I think that's really important to understand that at the outset. The second area, we're going to look at his innovation. How have we innovated what have we learned from those challenging programmes to take forward for future? Third one, I'm hopefully going to change your perception a little bit on modular builds, because I'm going to show you a complex building that we've done, and how it actually performs in essence. And the very last section is to the future. It's not to the future, what should we do to make sure modular is used in the right circumstances. So, without further ado, first, I think it's important to tell you a little bit about Portakabin. People know the name a lot, but I don't think they know what we do, essentially, Portakabin is an iconic brand. That's why it's well known, but we actually have a lot of people across seven countries. So I think in total, we've got about 1830 employees across those seven different countries. And they span across sort of the UK. We've got a manufacturing facility up in York. We've also got a manufacturing facility in France, and also Germany, so it spread from mainland Europe and off up in York, we service Scotland, Ireland, Southern Ireland, England and Wales. So it's quite a big sort of, you know, sort of beast Portakabin now and it's come a long way in its 60 year history, in essence.
So what does modular offer for the build and you build programme? There's a couple of things that are key to this. And for me, it's timeframes. When you think about module and think when should I involve modular, you should think about your time scales because we can create builds 50% quicker than traditional construction is less disruption because of that, because the less time you're on site, the less disruption you're going to have to teachers, and more importantly, pupils and their learning time. So I think that's really key when you're in an education environment, and it can create some outstanding performance as far as builds are concerned. And that's probably where we need to change perception a lot, is show you how the performance of modulars actually are happening right here right now. It's delivered in a far more effective and efficient way as well then when you look at traditional because there's a lot of upfront design done within that particular process, there's a lot of forethought goes into a modular building. And because of that, because you've set your stall out early doors, when you're delivering on site, you know exactly what you're getting. It's all been pre planned. So that gives you a bit of an insight as to modular and some of the sweet spots where you want to utilise modular to its best advantage. So kind of want to talk about some of the challenges now on site that talks about earlier on programme times, as I say a massive for us, you know, when you've got real concertina timeframes modular can absolutely help you deliver that specific project. When you're developing a live school site, especially in some of the areas that we have done. Again, that lack of disruption is key to this particular build process. So that takes a massive box as far as much as concerned as well. When you look at areas being developed, in fact, there's a specific example of an area that's been developed that was very, very difficult for traditional build to actually create something for the school because it was working on a live site and we'll go into detail on that later on. So I think you've, you've got all three of these elements in place it kind of, as I say, you start thinking about modular and how it can start, assist you with that particular project or programme. So the first thing I'm gonna do is take you through to school projects.
Now we delivered these for the ESFA. They were part of the Priority School Builds Programme. And in total, the six schools came to about I think, was 28 million pounds worth of contract value in there. So, you know, it was some serious work, all to bring up to speed schools that weren't performing as well as they could do mainly because of age. The one that you see here was in a very sort of countryside environment, so it was key to get this right because not only were we on the live site, but it wasn't a really busy area in itself anyway, so you have to keep things really, really tight. Or one of the key drivers here was to make sure they got an operational school extremely quickly. So again, we go back to thinking about timeframes. And it was key to them to get out of the building that they were in and into a new build. It was a 1960s build. So you can imagine they've been working in that for for 60 years and it becomes unmanageable after a time. And obviously you think about backlog maintenance on that older estate as well. That again, becomes unmanageable. So that's why they wanted a speedy programme really, to resolve some of the issues that they got.
This is inside the completed school. What we actually created for them was some light, airy classrooms and it was actually delivered in half of the programme time that you would have with traditional build is really important. You know, you've got bums on seats with that reduced programme time. Again, really key to when you're looking and thinking about modular in essence. As I say that disruption is very minimalist as well on site. You don't want people walking around in hi-vis disrupting teaching time or learning time for pupils. So there's two main teaching wings to bring them into 21st century and these are organised around a central street. This allows really great passive supervision and it also allows great breakout zones as well for the teachers so they can utilise the footprint of that particular build itself. And even the outside as you can see, it complements its role surroundings that was key to this project as well. They want to get the internals right. Obviously planners want us to get the externals right as well. So you try and step away. As much as you can from it looking modular, which you see here, render and brick lends it more to the traditional build. So it's great when you do one of these projects. And it's great with all the people you work with, and you get feedback. But it's even better when you get feedback from the school itself. Now, because we're actually working on their site, we're encroaching on their teaching time. So for us, this is key. So we kind of close off a project by understanding how it's been and how it's impacted on that particular school as well. The second project I want to talk to you about is the challenging project that I mentioned earlier on. And the challenges here were levels. It was on a multi level site, very, very complex indeed. This has Priory Fields. It's not far from Dover. And you can imagine there's a lot of chalk on site. So what the school wants to do was take the multi levels away and actually form something that was on a single single level, quite frankly, so quite complex to do that. waited four years, four years for a contractor to come along and facilitate this particular build. And what we were able to do with this site was actually get it to a level, that meant digging out 16,000 cubic metres of chalk before it even got buildings onto the site. But again, the advantage of modular there is that you can start digging out on site at the same time that you're creating the build up in the factory in York and you're putting it together when you're fitting it out, you know, with almost 97% fit out in there. And you can see where that timeframe is really gained because you can work in parallel and in tandem with one another. Again, the school itself, it was surrounded by houses, it's a really heavy residential area. So again, you've got less vehicle movements on site with modular builds. And again, that's a really great game because less disruptions teaching time yet again, pupil learning time, but also you improve your health and safety on site. you've not got as many people going in and out of site as you would do normally with a traditional build. And as you can see, the inside is no different from a traditional build either it performs just as well. So we've had some challenges on site, whether or not it be working on the live site, whether or not it be sorting out levels and concertina in that time frame.
What do we learn from it, in essence, because I think that's really important. What we've learned is teachers clearly aren't architects, and neither would we expect them to be, you know, so what we've done is we've put standardised components that you can almost lock together to form your school building. So you don't have to be architects but you can kind of think about the way you want your build to work for you. So you can slot these together in a manner that suits the end users which to us is really, really important and key to a successful project. So that's what we do each time we come to site, understand how the school is going to work when it's up and running. In essence, we've also looked at how we can speed up the build process, modular is quick, but it can be quicker when you do standardise components. And this is an example of a lunchroom going in a we've standardised that with the majority of the fit out and okay, it makes it heavier to move. But at the end of the day, again, it speeds up the process when you're on site, because you can click this unit in to wherever it is to go on the site, you know, with that pre planned, you know, upfront design process. So again, we're always consistently thinking of ways that we can speed up the process with modular, we had a massive issue as well with double height. And it was an area where we had to rely on traditional build to to give us double height at the end of the day. So what we've actually done is developed this units that we can put together in a matter of days make watertight extremely quickly, and it actually shaves 10 weeks off the build programme which is massive amounts. If you think about it in terms of builds programme, and when you want a school up and running extremely quickly, it's all within DfE guidelines, I think it's 6.8 metres, something like that total height. So it jumps to all those necessary hoops that you need for sports or for a dining hall or anything like that. So it kind of shows where we're thinking and where we're going. We've got a quick modular process, but we want it to be even quicker. And again, I said, great to get comments from the school. But it's also great to get comments when you're working with the ESFA or the DfE. As well, you know, to understand again, how that project went, and how we can make it better for future reference as well.
The next one I want to talk to you about is a specific site because I often get asked the question, how does modular perform, you know, when you compare it to a traditional builds, you know, they can't get a handle on it in essence, so think this particular project which is Global University Technical College, It really shows off capabilities well. It's a hybrid project, so it was done part modular and and part of it is traditional build, I think you'll see the traditional build but here there's two modular sections. And in fact, it's spanned over by traditional build. So what modular delivered in this particular build with a complex areas, you know, the ones that traditional couldn't deliver really, really quickly, often get asked the question about acoustic performance in modular builds, how can you build in acoustic performance? Well, this one is a great example to show that off a little bit because this development was in Hayes and Hayes is right next door to Heathrow, in essence, and because of that, you've got a lot of planes going over. And when you think about what this building's for, it's for recording studios, you've got to get sound attenuation, absolutely right from the outset. So I think as far as acoustic performance is concerned, this is a great project to make reference to Because it's close proximity to Heathrow, and because what it's there for, in essence, you can see part of the recording studio there. So there were triple glazed, those units to stop sound coming in, obviously sound getting out as well more importantly, we've got specialist air conditioning systems within there as well. So they remain pretty tight within the building a modular created these particular complex areas, because it was easy for us to do it in a quicker short, shorter timeframe. In fact, it actually shaved a year off the programme time when they were looking at traditional build. So that's quite a substantial amount of time when you think about it. This is just a picture of the outside because again, people say that we're modular to look modular. Hopefully this doesn't look module we had to give it a bit of a nod towards it, its history. It was the old EMI recording studios, so we've given it a bit of nod towards it history that as you can see, that lights up when we're doing recordings as well. So you can see it's live almost and the recordings are done by Global Academy over that Smooth FM people like that, you know, so quite big radio stations there. But I think it's a it was a really complex site, she got district heating systems to put in, you know, in a really concertina site, I think it was four metres from the boundary to the site. So again, it was really, really tight, you'd have to think twice about doing traditional build there, and the amount of sort of space you're going to take upon it.
This is an example of one of the theatres of course, that got in there as well a retractable stage area, it got a sports hall also edited lecture theatre. So it's quite a complex requirement that we delivered here. And that's an example of, you know, some of the feedback we got from that particular project itself and again, so we learn on projects and learn going on to the next programme. I think also, it's a great accolade when we win an award for it. This building was was created back in sort of 2017-18. We say, no finer accolade then getting an off site award for that specific project. And the reason I'm telling you about this project as well is because it was created a couple of years ago, they've had two cohorts go through the academy since then, and 85% of their pupils actually went on to work in media, you know, so it's a great, resounding success for them and they were able to do that because we cut that programme down time from two years to one year.
So the future what's the future hold for modular? I think, you know, we've really got to change perceptions on modular and get people to understand what we can achieve with modular builds. In essence, I think we need to be enlightened from the outset. When modular ticked those boxes and when you can use it and when you should use modular and that goes from you know, part of the manufacturers responsibility is going from engagement initially, all the way Through to delivering a turnkey package. I think we've got a massive responsibility to do that, and do it in a responsible, capable manner. You know, and so it really does live up to what we're saying and it gets programmed time for you. I'll put a note about their four main contractors and as being transparent, open and honest because again, I think that's a way to make your projects a lot slicker. I think it's essential going forward, you know, that we remain honest and open with the contractors that we're dealing with on site as well. That's just a bit of a quotation because you know, really want to innovate for modular itself. We really want to move forward with modular and tell people what it is capable up. That's it. That is the end. Hopefully, you've learned a little bit about modular and it's give you a bit of an inside story to it and how we've learned off programme.