Article on demountable buildings for the education industry for Lauralu
With pupil places in crisis and school budgets being squeezed harder than ever, the question of how to create educational buildings which are both well-equipped and financially viable has never been more relevant. The logistics of educational building construction can often be challenging with work scheduled for outside of term time.
Being fit for purpose should be the absolute minimum specification for a school or further education building, yet many schools are failing to reach even this low standard, with Headteachers reporting crumbling buildings suffering leaking roofs and mould. These dilapidated buildings pose both the threat of disruption to the school day, and potentially a risk to health.
What makes a great school building? It needs to be not only accessible but welcoming, with enough space that pupils and staff can move freely through the area without being crowded or confined. Natural light is a must, however, care should be taken to ensure that glare from the sun is reduced – one of the complex design challenges that must be carefully undertaken. The building must fit its surroundings and the community, to whom it belongs, allowing for a sense of pride and ownership for pupils and staff, something which can be difficult to maintain with shabby or poorly maintained spaces. This may be especially important in schools which are underachieving, in special measures, or in particularly deprived areas.
Other challenges include poor acoustics, difficulties in maintaining temperatures, and a simple lack of comfort for pupils and staff, however one of the biggest challenges to overcome is that of the false economy of choosing, for example, materials with a smaller up-front cost which then need to be replaced within a matter of one or two years, rather than investing in pricier materials which could last for a decade or more. These decisions can be difficult to make when faced with budget cuts year on year and ever-increasing pressure to tighten the purse strings, but educational facilities and their pupils will benefit in the long term if this can be viewed as a wise investment rather than an extravagance.
This is backed up by research carried out by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which found that better outcomes are possible within the current budgets as long as existing funds are allocated wisely. RIBA’s Better Spaces for Learning report also found that the poorest quality school buildings “experience higher running and maintenance costs, poorer pupil performance and behaviour, as well as lower staff productivity”, while good design had the opposite effect with increased staff productivity and retention, and vast improvements in pupils’ behaviour, their engagement with learning, their overall wellbeing and their educational attainment. This seems intuitive – our environments do impact on how we feel and subsequently behave – but being backed up by RIBA’s figures will certainly help the case for long term investment in excellent building design.
In cases where educational building must be constructed entirely from scratch, time is a huge factor, with traditional bricks and mortar buildings potentially taking many months to complete, from the planning stages to digging foundations to finally opening its doors. This is time which few schools can afford to have large areas of their premises closed for business while building work is undertaken. It is useful to think outside the box in situations where time pressures may be preventing significant changes being made, and looking to demountable buildings which can be erected in a matter of days or weeks, and which spend considerably less time in the planning stages.
Despite being called temporary structures some demountable buildings may be functional for 20 years or more due to their construction using the most up to date technology which conforms to the highest standards in the building industry. This, alongside the option to spread the costs of the build over varying periods of time to suit the buyer, plus a long-term maintenance service certainly makes them another wise long term investment worth considering.
Lauralu UK Ltd can provide a full turnkey solution, from the construction of the demountable building to arranging heating and cooling systems and even arranging PA systems.
There is no doubt that schools and further education colleges face significant challenges regarding their educational buildings, but using innovative solutions and taking a fresh perspective can lead to all-round benefits without breaking the bank.