Tony Woodstechnical manager at LHC, discusses how local authorities and education providers

can engage with the supply chain to maximise Government funding opportunities.




Back in February 2017, the National Audit Office estimated it would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition, and a further £7.1 billion to bring parts of school buildings from satisfactory to good condition.
Its Capital Funding for Schools report also predicted that the cost of dealing with major defects in the estate would double between 2015-16 and 2020-21 as many buildings were near the end of their useful lives, with 60% of school buildings in England built before 1976.
Four years on from this report, the Department for Education announced it was launching the first phase of its School Rebuilding Programme which aims to deliver 500 projects over the next decade as it looks to ‘build back better’ after the pandemic.
Projects range from replacing or refurbishing individual buildings through to whole school rebuilds and will provide improved facilities while also being more energy efficient, helping to meet the Government’s net zero targets.


The first phase will receive over £1 billion to fund the first 50 projects, more than 70% of which are based in the North and Midlands, and 21 new free schools. A further 50 schools were added to the list in the second phase of the programme last summer.
This £1 billion investment is on top of the Government’s £1.8 billion annual allocation provided to maintain school buildings, and the £560 million one-off funding injection announced last year.
However, securing funding for these types of projects is just the first step of the journey for local authorities and education providers. Once budgets are agreed, what is the best way for providers to engage with the supply chain to carry out the work?
By using trusted local frameworks. More and more education providers and councils are using procurement frameworks for these sorts of construction and refurbishment projects, tapping into the expertise of local teams who have pre-vetted and approved local suppliers.
Since launching our Schools and Community Buildings framework nine years ago, we’ve helped to procure works on everything from the construction of a new £30 million secondary school, to the painting and decorating of classrooms.
Education and public sector projects that have been successfully delivered through our frameworks include a three-storey new build for the Degree Apprentice Centre at the University of Warwick in Coventry. Delivered by Kier, the project was completed on budget and on time within 18 months of inception, including 54 weeks of onsite construction.
The Highland Council used our framework to work with Morrison Construction for the refurbishment of the grade-B listed Inverness High School. Fourteen classrooms, offices and a brand-new state-of-the-art biomass energy centre were built during the first phase of the project, with works ongoing in a live school environment.
Subsequently, the Highland Council reused our framework to procure Kier to build the new £15 million Ness Castle Primary School in Inverness.
The latest iteration of this framework is the Public Buildings and Infrastructure (PB3) framework launched in October 2020.
The PB3 framework allows local authorities and other public sector bodies to source contractors for works relating to the construction and refurbishment of educational, healthcare, emergency service and community buildings. It can also be used for residential properties within mixed-use developments, student accommodation, conversion of commercial building for residential use, and can include associated infrastructure works.
Refurbishment has been separated from new build in the lower project value bands to help with ease of procurement.
Suppliers have been assessed on their capability for delivering low energy and zero carbon buildings, including any prior BREEAM credentials, and for delivering Special Educational Needs Schools has also been factored in to ensure we have the right skills within the framework for such projects.
Our regional approach means that local suppliers, where possible, are appointed to the framework. While national suppliers are also on the framework, the local expertise of companies is considered as part of their application to be on the framework because of the social value it brings to a project.

Did you know that the UK has the highest mesothelioma death rate for teachers? Latest facts and figures show the effects of asbestos in schools have reached an even higher death rate with teachers dying from mesothelioma. School Building Magazine editor Joe Bradbury discusses:

After years of Tory austerity expenditure cuts, nearly half of teachers think their school or institution is no longer “fit for purpose.” In addition, 22% claimed the quality of their buildings makes them unsafe for students and staff.

When we first covered this back in 2019, 670 members of the National Education Union were polled, and they described leaking roofs, collapsing walls, moisture, and broken boilers and heating. It seemed that the impact of cuts since 2015, according to union leaders, put a “serious squeeze” on the ability of schools and institutions to pay repairs.

The survey also brought attention to the dangers of asbestos, which is found in 86% of schools, yet only 21% of instructors were aware that they were working in a school with the deadly dust particles.

Since 1980, at least 319 teachers have died of mesothelioma, with 205 of the deaths occurring since 2001.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous silicate mineral which was used in a variety of products for hundreds of years such as building materials. Inhaling asbestos fibres aggravates lung tissues, which cause them to scar and develop illnesses such as mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung.

The United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries outlawed the mineral’s use.

Last year 22 teachers died of mesothelioma, meaning the UK has the highest death rate in the world.

Children are particularly vulnerable to developing mesothelioma. A five year old child that is exposed is five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than someone exposed to asbestos in their 30’s. It is reported that between 200 and 300 people die each year from exposure to asbestos as school children.

Our children need to be taught in buildings that are fit for purpose. This dreadful downward spiral has gone on long enough.

According to a paper by independent think-tank ResPublica, an “asbestos audit” is needed to measure the level of the material in public buildings, schools, and hospitals. The think-tank also urges the government to undertake a cost-benefit analysis for the priority, phased removal of all asbestos from public buildings in the United Kingdom. In their paper, ResPublica recommends that the UK adopt improved monitoring technology to detect asbestos fibres, similar to those used in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The importation, supply and use of all asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999; the amphibole type has been banned since 1985. However, it is still claiming 2,500 lives a year.

Since the asbestos prohibition was enacted 20 years ago, we’ve allowed this hazardous material to sit and deteriorate in our schools and hospitals.

Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing an increase in mesothelioma deaths among teachers and nurses, which the authorities aren’t acknowledging; a devastating indictment of the current containment and control system.

If we do not act now, many believe we and our children will face a national health disaster.

In summary

Despite the fact that it is now well recognised that a well-designed and maintained school building is critical for a successful education, it appears that wet, leaky, outmoded, asbestos-ridden schools are still common. Too many students and teachers are attempting to learn and teach in hazardous environments that jeopardise their health and education… and this must change.

This country is experiencing the biggest scarcity of school places it has ever experienced. Because there is a finite amount of money available to address the expanding problem, every penny spent on education must be used wisely.

How can we expect our students to compete with the best in the world when so many of our schools are inadequate? The educational advances that have resulted from the current school construction programme do not meet the basic criteria that British taxpayers and our economy expect. For all of our students and their dedicated teachers, we must do better.

Young people inherit the earth. In an increasingly competitive society, we must do everything possible to teach our children to the best of our abilities, learning from our failures and improving on our own childhood education. Let us ensure that the built environment has a good impact on the society that inhabits it, rather than makes them sick or slowly kills them. When it came to COVID-19, we pulled out all the stops to keep people safe. It’s time to do more.

In a bid to tackle the skill shortage, the government have recently announced that there will be nine new Institutes of Technology, as well as a multi-million pound investment in skills and technical training, specifically targeted at upskilling Britain and creating opportunities for everyone. School Building Magazine editor Joe Bradbury investigates:

It’s no secret that the construction industry is suffering from a growing skills shortage. Due to the dwindling talent pool, the sector has long struggled with a shortage of experienced labour, making it more difficult than ever to meet deadlines.

This is a major issue for the government, whose goal of building 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s is becoming increasingly improbable. Indeed, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reports that the shortage of skilled construction employees has reached an all-time high since 2007. In short, the industry will need to hire more people. But those people will require substantial training. This is where the new Institutes of Technology come in.

The hope is that more high-quality, flexible education and training will benefit adults and young people across the country, levelling the playing field and assisting more individuals into higher-skilled, higher-wage professions.

Starting in September of this year, anyone wishing to upskill or retrain will have access to more than 100 short courses ranging in length from six weeks to a year, allowing them to spread their studies out and learn at their own speed. More than 20 universities and colleges will offer the courses in areas where there are skill shortages, such as construction, education, and healthcare, as an alternative to a typical three-year degree.

Nine more Institutes of Technology were announced just before Christmas in locations such as Blackpool, Derby, Salford, and Essex, increasing the total number of institutes to 21 throughout the UK and fulfilling the government’s campaign goal. Institutes of Technology are one-of-a-kind partnerships between employers, colleges, and universities that focus on providing high-quality Higher Technical Education and training in areas such as advanced manufacturing, digital and cyber security, aerospace, education, construction and healthcare in order to provide the skilled workforce that businesses require today.

A total of £150 million has been awarded to 100 colleges and universities to improve their facilities and equipment in order to increase access to higher technical training and flexible courses in key subjects like engineering, healthcare, and science, which will help to close regional skills gaps and boost local economies.

Speaking on the subject, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said “Ensuring everyone is given the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter their age or life stage, is a vital part of our mission to level up this country.

“These measures, including our new short courses and nine new Institutes of Technology, will boost access to more high-quality and flexible education and training – giving people the chance to learn at a pace that is right for them, while ensuring we have the skilled workforce needed to boost our economy.”

Why is the construction industry experiencing a skills shortage?

One in five construction employees are aged over 55. This means that now in the early 2020s, when the industry should be hitting its homebuilding targets, most have reached or are close to retirement age. An ageing workforce and an uphill recruitment battle are a combination that could have a detrimental effect on the industry.

Another key issue that is contributing to the skills shortage is that the construction industry as a whole is still battling with an image problem.

To keep up with demand, the construction sector has to recruit new workers, yet to many outsiders, the image of wolf-whistling workers on cold and muddy construction sites still persists. To attract new workers, the industry must shed its unfavourable image and demonstrate how far it has progressed.

What can we do as an industry to address it?

There are a number of ways that construction companies can reach out to the right candidates and ensure them that a career in construction is exactly what they’re looking for.

Young people need to be re-educated about what construction is truly like in order to ensure that the future workforce in construction is dynamic and engaged.

Only one in ten children between the ages of 16 and 18 would choose a career in construction, according to a survey conducted by L&Q Group. Their chief concern seemed to be that the job might be “difficult and unexciting.”

Therefore, working collaboratively with schools and colleges to promote the industry is an excellent approach to teach young people that construction offers a variety of employment options. Construction companies have the chance to assist in overcoming the skills gap with fresh talent by providing appropriate training programmes. The skills deficit affects more than just labour-intensive jobs; there is also an increased demand for tech and digital skills.

While it is critical to ensure that next-generation workers are aware about the sector, there are other talented groups that are waiting to be hired.

Every year, over 14,000 people leave the military, which means the construction industry has access to a pool of highly trained workers with transferrable abilities. A number of businesses have already reaped the benefits of military leavers, and some even offer specialised training and learning credits to help them get completely trained as quickly as feasible.

Addressing imbalance

Construction has always been a male-dominated business, which contributes to the problem. According to statistics, the number of women working in construction increased by only 0.7% between 2007 and 2016, ending in an exceedingly low 12.8% total.  Nearly half of all construction workers say they’ve never had a female manager.

Women in construction, regardless of their role, are undervalued. Given that women account for half of the population, it seems absurd that the sector is overlooking so much potential talent that could help close the skills gap.

In summary

Only a devoted and capable workforce can help the building sector deliver three million new social homes over the next 20 years to address the housing crisis and address the 11,000+ homes throughout the UK that have been vacant for 10 years or more. To do so, we must confront the skills shortage head on and fill the anticipated 224,000 positions that must be filled in order to meet some incredibly ambitious goals set by the government. We cannot do it alone. We need people we can trust. Therefore, e mployer within the construction industry should look for new and different ways to deal with the skills shortages. It is everyone’s obligation to show that construction isn’t only “hard hats and hi-vis” and that there are plenty of offsite opportunities to entice, intrigue and thrive in.

There were approximately 1.42 million unemployed people in the United Kingdom in the three months to October 2021, with the figure in December 2020 being the highest number since September 2015, when there were just over 1.76 million unemployed. It’s a simple fact that more people will be able to find work if their skills are improved.

Hopefully, along with assistance from the Institutes of Technology, as well as a multi-million pound investment in skills and technical training, we can raise everyone’s chances of making a living and deliver a built environment fit for the future.

Leading paint manufacturer Crown Paints has secured a prestigious agreement with Bournemouth University which will see products from across the Crown Trade range used for future new build and refurbishment projects.

As the University’s sole supplier of paints and specialist coatings, Crown’s specification team have worked closely with the Bournemouth University’s facilities department to devise a bespoke paint package and colour scheme that will provide long term cost benefits and reduce ongoing maintenance requirements.

The chosen paint specification, which includes Crown Trade’s high performance Clean Extreme Stain Resistant Scrubbable Matt and Acrylic Eggshell, and water-based Fastflow Quick Dry Gloss, will now form part of the University’s official Design Standards Manual.


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The new partnership between Bournemouth University and Crown Paints has already got off to a flying start with the announcement of two major new build projects. The painting work is already underway on Poole Gateway Building, a new state of the art teaching facility located on the University’s Talbot campus, and is being undertaken by SPP Fine Finishes from Weymouth. Crown Trade’s paints will also be used on the new Bournemouth Gateway building, which will become the new home for the University’s Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, as well as a new student accommodation scheme that will be designed and built on the same campus. Here the painting contract has been awarded to Dectech from Southampton and will commence in the summer.

As well as building a positive working relationship with Bournemouth University, the new solus agreement has also enabled Crown Paints to develop stronger links with the local community. Most recently, the Crown Decorating Centre in Poole donated paint and sundries products to the Stable Family Home Trust in Ringwood, which provides living and day care support for young adults with learning disabilities. The supplies were used to decorate the Trust’s drama room.

Commenting, Rick White, maintenance services manager for Bournemouth University said: “This is a very exciting time for Bournemouth University and we have a number of projects both in the pipeline and nearing completion. We are pleased to have Crown Paints on board as a key supplier and are confident that the close working relationship that we have already developed will bring numerous benefits going forward.”

Joanne Thomas, specification sales manager for Crown Paints added: “We are delighted to have formalised our working relationship with Bournemouth University and for Crown Paints to have been chosen as its sole paint supplier. Going forward we will be providing valuable specification and colour scheming advice as well as technical support and product advice in line with specific performance and budgetary requirements.

This is an exciting time for University, with several exciting schemes underway and more in the pipeline, and we are looking forward to seeing the schemes come to fruition.”

For more information and to find your nearest stockist, please visit, email or call 0330 024 0297. You can also follow @CrownTradePaint on Twitter, CrownTradePaint on Facebook or Crown Paints on LinkedIn.



For a while now, the government have been making their intentions known, encouraging offsite over onsite where possible when it comes to public sector projects. Why is offsite so crucial for the educational building sector? School Building Magazine Editor Joe Bradbury discusses:


The current state of affairs

There are 32,113 schools and 142 universities throughout Britain today. Whilst this might sound like a lot, consider the fact that overall pupil numbers are also expected to increase by 654,000 to around 8.1m by 2026. In secondary schools alone, the overall population is projected to reach around 3.3m in 2026, a 19.1% increase of around 534,000 more pupils.

Parents are already battling for placements in schools for their kids, with many having to compromise on where they ultimately send their child for education simply because there isn’t space in their local school.


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What’s more, alarming studies indicate that over 65% of these buildings are considered “not fit for purpose” by their head teachers and deans, who cite leaks, asbestos, faulty heating and damp as common problems.

Experts suggest that in order to keep up with this rapidly increasing demand for school placements, we needed to have been building 2,000 new schools each year between 2016 and 2020. This hasn’t been happening and with time pressing on, it’s clear to see we need a solution fast.

Speed of delivery

Fully kitted out and ultra-efficient offsite buildings can be completed in a matter of weeks, with minimal onsite disturbance. This is perfect in the school environment, due to the fact that work can be undertaken between term time, minimising disruption for pupils and teachers alike.

Traditionally, when the time comes to replace a school building, we have transformed the learning environment into a building site for months (sometimes even years) at a time, forcing teachers to educate from temporary, leaky and cold structures. This is unfair on the pupils attending the school during this period, it isn’t conducive to learning and is shown to adversely affect their attainment levels come exam time. Put simply, it creates a disadvantage for them.

Offsite construction, however, is far less energy intensive than traditional building methods, meaning it is better for the environment; surely a lesson worth teaching to the next generation!

The carbon footprint left by the many construction vehicles and machinery on the site of a traditional construction project alone is considerably larger than that of modular construction. The fewer vehicles involved coupled with the reduced time that they spend on site results in less greenhouse gases being released into our environment… as well as less disruption.

Arguably one of the greatest benefits of modular construction is the ability to design diverse buildings in a more efficient manner, allowing them to be used as multi-functional spaces. For example, it is perfectly possible to combine a new school with a community centre, library or any other public building for that matter. This means that offsite construction can actually help public sector organisations and local authorities enrich the lives of the people that make up their communities.

In summary

Modular construction can help us breathe new life into our country’s educational buildings throughout the country and create enthusing learning spaces for the influx of new students predicted to enter into education over the coming years. 

The success stories are prolific; the healthcare, policing, defence, housing and education sectors are all benefitting greatly from embracing offsite. 

Offsite construction ticks a multitude of boxes, offering a quick and cost-effective way to deliver the fit-for-purpose schools sorely needed throughout the UK. It isn’t just an option to be considered from a financial front, it must play a crucial role in tackling the school places challenge if we are to make any meaningful improvements in our society. It’s vitally important that the benefits of offsite are acknowledged and embraced by government and industry. It’s about more than money. Let’s do the right thing for our young people.


Around 90% of school buildings in England contain asbestos, often around pipes and boilers, and in wall and ceiling tiles. The Guardian recently reported that nearly 700 schools have been referred to the national health and safety body over concerns they are failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings, potentially putting thousands of staff and pupils at risk. Joe Bradbury of School Building Magazine discusses:


In 2018, the government began an asbestos management assurance process in a bid to better understand the scale of the problem of asbestos in schools. Information released following a freedom of information request discovered that of the 2,952 schools bodies that responded in full to the survey, 2,570 (87%) have asbestos in at least one of their buildings.

In response to this, the Department for Education (DfE) has now referred 676 state-funded schools and academies in England to the HSE as they did not provide evidence “that they were managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements”. The HSE now intend to carry out inspections of some of the schools affected.

The dangers of asbestos

All types of asbestos fibres are known to cause serious health hazards in humans and animals. Amosite and crocidolite are considered the most hazardous asbestos fibre types; however, chrysotile asbestos has also produced tumours in animals and is a recognized cause of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma in humans, and mesothelioma has been observed in people who were occupationally exposed to chrysotile, family members of the occupationally exposed, and residents who lived close to asbestos factories and mines.

During the 1980s and again in the 1990s, it was suggested at times that the process of making asbestos cement could “neutralize” the asbestos, either via chemical processes or by causing cement to attach to the fibres and changing their physical size; subsequent studies showed that this was untrue, and that decades-old asbestos cement, when broken, releases asbestos fibres identical to those found in nature, with no detectable alteration.

Exposure to asbestos in the form of fibres is always considered dangerous. Working with, or exposure to, material that is friable, or materials or works that could cause release of loose asbestos fibres, is considered high risk. In general, people who become ill from inhaling asbestos have been regularly exposed in a job where they worked directly with the material. If Asbestos exposure occurs, individuals should speak with their GP or doctor as soon as possible.

The most common diseases associated with chronic exposure to asbestos are asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that it is only a risk if it is disturbed or damaged, which releases fibres into the air.

However, both campaigners and unions are crying out for action, stating that asbestos in schools is often poorly managed and that staff are often entirely unaware of its location in the buildings in which they they work… so how is it being managed, exactly?

Even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres can cause cancer decades later. Research has shown that exposure to asbestos is more dangerous the younger a person is, raising concerns over the future health of children.

HSE estimates that there are around 5,000 asbestos-related deaths per year throughout Britain, many of which occurring many years after initial exposure.

Alarming ONS figures reveal that over the last 18 years 300+ teachers and education professionals have died of mesothelioma, a cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos. Another study from last year suggested that there were five times more deaths from mesothelioma in the teaching profession than outside of it.

This needs to change

Schools are much more than just buildings; they are the centres of communities, they are where children learn skills for the rest of their lives, and they are safe havens. That’s why it’s vital they are in the best possible condition.

Just 5% of the nearly 60,000 school buildings across the UK are performing as intended and operating efficiently. The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.

It’s time for a change. Our children deserve better.


We live and work in buildings; structures comprised of four walls, a roof and a floor. However, it is the technologies and products obscured within these walls that dictate whether a building is comfortable or not to be in for long periods of time. 


Given the fact that pupils spend 190 days per year at school, good acoustic performance in educational buildings is crucial for effective learning. The schools, colleges and universities throughout the UK are responsible for the creation and nurturing of future medical professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers and artists – it is vital that pupils are able to listen clearly to their teacher’s communications in order to foster the learning process.

It has been proven by many studies that poor acoustic performance within a classroom severely hinders learning and teaching. Let’s take a closer look at the subject of sound:

What is sound?

Okay, we all know what a sound is… but it is important that we understand how it works when discussing acoustic insulation. Sound is a form of energy created when air is disturbed in some way causing changes in air pressure that radiate from the source of the sound in waves. Sound can be airborne; typically that of a human voice.

Sound waves vibrate at different rates or frequencies as they move through the air and are measured in cycles per second or Hertz; the faster a sound wave passes a given point, the shorter the wavelength and in turn the higher the frequency. Vibrations in the air caused by the sound determine how loud it is; the stronger the vibrations the greater the ‘amplitude’. The length or duration of a sound i.e. it’s reverberation time or echo, is determined by the extent to which the energy is expended on contact with surfaces within a room.

How is sound measured?

Sound is measured in decibels using logarithmic scales; the human ear is incredibly sensitive and the scale needs to reflect this. The table below shows the increase in sound intensity in relation to decibel levels.

How are we affected by sound and levels of noise?

The human ear can hear sounds across the frequency range 20 to 20,000Hz; however it is most sensitive in the range 100 to 5000 Hz. There is a great deal of variation in the hearing abilities of individuals and the awareness of sounds can depend not only on physical but also psychological factors. Noise can be described as unwanted sound; however the level at which noise is tolerable is subjective – a specific noise that one person finds upsetting may go unnoticed by another.

Background noise

Background noise in buildings normally arises from sources like external traffic or equipment within the building. Machines like air conditioning units or fans can operate at moderate levels that make noise that is unobtrusive and is only noticed when turned off. This sort of noise is often unnoticed as it is steady and conveys little information about events around it. As an unintended consequence of normal activities, background noise can be beneficial in masking more sounds from an adjacent room without being loud enough to be noticed in their own right.

How does noise affect educational environments?

The three main sources of noise which affect classrooms are airborne sound sources, implact sound sources and general reverberation noise. Reverberation is a common problem and has a potentially significant impact on the classroom environment. Challenges such as background noise and group work where discussions and debates are encouraged mean that if a classroom isn’t properly soundproofed, noise levels will crescendo to uncomfortable levels and as a result will hinder any learning ability.

It is important to realise that there are a variety of educational methods and styles presented in the modern day classroom, each with their own noise issues. The more traditional teacher/lecture based classroom is where a teacher is located at the front of a classroom and leads any communication or discussion. This teaching function potentially suffers greatly from reverberation noise levels as pupils who sit toward the back of the classroom will suffer from reflected noise levels, where the teacher’s voice is at the weakest point due to reflected sound waves.


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A more modern approach to teaching focuses on a more interactive based learning where students are encouraged to work in pairs or groups to facilitate learning processes. This means within a classroom, reverberation and ambient noise levels will increase dramatically, and if a room is untreated the noise levels will hamper concentration levels and learning ability.

Airborne sound sources affect educational environments where sound travels from different rooms within a building, particularly through separating walls or floors. This is particularly relevant where a classroom is situated next to a music room or a library, which is next to a busy corridor. Airborne noise levels are determined by the use of the area, as some areas will generate more noise than others meaning these will need to be looked at in more detail.

Impact sound sources are sudden noises that come through a floor construction like footsteps. It is imperative that impact noise is taken into account to ensure pupils movements in the classroom above are not heard below.

UK Building Regulations and the guidance in Building Bulletin 93, stipulate that these noises are controlled and that every room or space within an education building is designed in such a way as to achieve a certain level of acoustic performance.

Sound insulation in buildings

The movement of sound around a building is a complex process that can be affected by a whole host of factors both within and around a site. There are also various ways of measuring and expressing levels and performance.

Problems can occur with the level of acoustic control in a building and this may be because:

  • The building design does not lend itself to acoustic control
  • The specification of individual components is incorrect
  • The interaction between individual elements is not given full consideration
  • One of the parties or suppliers involved has used inappropriate information to gain a commercial advantage

In summary

The classrooms in which children are taught have more demands upon them than ever before. They are places to learn, to play and to be inspired. But if the students cannot hear their teacher, or are distracted and stressed by unwanted noise, then their learning experience will suffer. It doesn’t need to be that way.

A number of regulations and guidance apply to acoustic standards, and projects to refurbish classrooms and teaching spaces that provide for children with special educational needs should take these into account. Within the UK the acoustic standards are set by Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) and similar standards are in development in the Republic of Ireland.

Improving classroom acoustics need not be challenging or expensive. If you are currently working on an educational project, place yourself in the position of a pupil sitting within the classroom you are building for a moment in your mind… can you concentrate?


Student accommodation is big business. James Pullan, global head of student property at Knight Frank, has predicted that there will be over 29,000 additional purpose built student beds delivered next year; to put that into context, that’s similar to the overall population of Gibraltar. If he’s right, this will be a significant contribution to the UK’s housing shortage, helping to ease the pressure on existing housing stock. How do we make sure what we deliver is right for the student? School Building Editor Joe Bradbury investigates:

There is an overwhelming need for more purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) in Britain. In 2018-19 the number of full-time students outweighed PBSA bed spaces by 3:1. University is becoming accessible for all and subsequently demand for student accommodation has never been higher. UK universities are critically acclaimed worldwide, continuing to attract domestic and international student’s year on year, bringing with them enormous potential for developers.

A recent report written by property experts Octopus Real Estate (an active lender in the PBSA market) entitled ‘The student accommodation impact report’ recently suggested that student accommodation will be worth over £50 billion to the UK economy this year… and why not?  The sector is well-researched on the investor and developer front, with a large body of analysis from think tanks, agents and law firms. However, it seems that real changes are being driven by the attitudes of the end customer – the students themselves. These are the people who care most about the design of their living space.

Studies reveal that demand is high and funding is available. Both of these facts are enough to get any budding developer excited, but in order to make sure they get this right it is crucial to understand what students need from PBSA.

The Octopus report, which focuses on student needs, stems from research commissioned through a survey of over 1,000 students aged 18 to 25. Participants currently attend, or have completed, an undergraduate degree at a British university.

The report cannot seem to stress enough the sheer importance of decent accommodation to students, which is proven to greatly influence academic results and the entire university experience itself. In turn, it highlights the opportunity for developers who can meet students’ requirements.

Here are the findings:

  • Better accommodation makes for higher grades

Many students are aware of the importance of high-quality accommodation in creating the right environment for studying and achieving their goals. Those who lived in PBSA are more likely to report top grades. Similarly, many post-graduates feel that they should have chosen different accommodation for higher results. 

  • PBSA is best for student wellbeing

There’s a link between quality of accommodation and university experience, and students know it. From their first to third year, students are more likely to be satisfied with their wellbeing, if they’re living in PBSA, in comparison to halls of residence. 

  • Students prioritise technology

Technology is a must, especially as our research shows it’s directly related to results. Those who achieve top grades are more likely to have prioritised technology when choosing their accommodation. International students place great importance on it, while all rate technology in PBSA highly.

  • UK vs. international students: different priorities

With international students a key segment, their choices can’t be ignored. From the outset, international students are more likely than British students to focus on accommodation when choosing a university, considering how it can affect their results. This continues to apply in each year of study. 

  • Students will pay more for extra facilities

Crucially for developers, extra facilities are highly desirable to many students. These range from a private bathroom, to their own cooking facilities, to access to a gym or swimming pool. Students are willing to pay more for these, indicating ongoing demand for better PBSA.

It’s clear that UK-based students recognise the role of PBSA in how much they enjoy university and how well they do in their degree. As a result they have very specific requirements when it comes to choosing where they live.

Students want space and privacy to study, a technology-enabled environment, and facilities that enhance their independence and wellbeing. Developers who can meet these requirements will be well placed to capitalise on student demand.

To find out more, we spoke to undergraduate student Grace Dalaigh, who is studying philosophy at the University of Nottingham:

  1. Q) Grace, how do you think the condition of student accommodation can affect the overall university experience?
  2. A) I think that the condition of university accommodation is an obvious step down from the snug, home life that most of us are provided with. In a sense, it makes you value your own space as something to respect and look after though. It teaches you to make the best of what you have. I don’t like how every room is the same in most accommodations- it feels so clinical and inexpressive; so if you’re a creative soul, you need to find other avenues to explore!
  3. Q) What are you ideally looking for when it comes to student accommodation?
  4. A) As a student, I wanted the full experience. So I wanted a good social space to chat to friends while cooking dinner etc. Personally, I wasn’t bothered about an en-suite bathroom but good views from the window is always nice… as a student it’s easy to forget the little things which you need to keep yourself calm and nature is that for me.
  5. Q) Any words of advice for developers of purpose-built student accommodation on how they can improve the service they offer?
  6. A) As I said before, nature is vital. Having a green space would be perfect outside the place as a space to play football or throw a ball around. That was so important to me. Also I would say, plenty of Power Points and some good amount of storage! Students often have a mix of work and hobbies so plenty of space for electronics is vital and spaces to put your books as well as other hobby supplies is as well!

In summary

It’s clear to see that student accommodation impacts greatly on undergraduate performance. The Octopus report indicates a clear correlation between academic achievement and the place where students live, with PBSA tending to make for higher results. There is also a positive link between PBSA and overall student wellbeing, with UK and international students valuing PBSA as an accommodation option throughout university.

The demand for accommodation, coupled with its make-or-break nature on the student experience, spells fantastic opportunity for construction professionals who specialise within this niche area of our industry. Whilst political outcomes could affect the numbers of international students in the UK, PBSA continues to be popular and can improve the overall student experience – a win-win for developers!

…and if you are a developer of PBSA looking for inspiration, do yourself a favour and ask a student.


While the number of school fires has decreased over recent years, they remain a major risk for schools. Joe Bradbury of School Building Magazine and industry experts Fire Safety Services take a look at what school building operators can do to minimise risk.


A large school fire devastates; its aftermath lingers for years. There are about 700 school fires a year in England. Approximately 90,000 pupils a year have their learning disrupted due to fire damage to classrooms and school property. The long term disruption that follows puts staff and pupils under stress and imposes large financial, educational and administrative costs. It is a price that no school can afford to pay. However, while no school is immune from the risk of fire, the chances of it happening can be reduced or, if the worst does occur, losses to be kept to a minimum.

Fit sprinklers

School fires in London alone have increased by 34% in just one year, new London Fire Brigade figures show. The Brigade has been campaigning for a number of years to make sprinklers mandatory in new schools and during major refurbishments. Sprinklers are especially important during the summer holidays when buildings are empty and fires can smoulder undetected, causing extensive and expensive damage.

There were a total of 90 fires in preschools, nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools in 2017, up from 67 in 2016. The Brigade’s Fire Facts report, also released this week, shows that fires at educational buildings, including colleges and universities, have also increased from 20 to 28 in the same period.

Moreover, last year 184 London schools ignored the Brigade’s advice to have sprinklers fitted as part of their refurbishment or building plans, despite that being the most cost effective time to fit water suppression systems…

This is happening up and down the country.  Less than a third of the 260 schools built since 2014 under the Schools Building Programme have sprinklers.

Sprinklers are mandatory in new school buildings in Scotland and Wales, but not in England. Government guidance on safe school design says all new premises should be fitted with sprinklers “except in a few low-risk schools”.

There were no fatalities from school fires in the eight years up to 2017/18, but there were 244 casualties, according to official figures.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said the proportion of new schools built with sprinklers had dropped from about 70% a decade ago to a third last year – and overall, in England and Wales, just 5% of schools have sprinklers.

Watch out for arson

Each year around 1 in 20 schools experiences a fire and nearly 60% of school fires are started deliberately. The short-term effects of loss of facilities and equipment can be calculated, but the longer-term effects of loss of coursework, disruption of classes and lowering of morale are much harder to quantify. However, it is clear that a major fire is likely to disrupt a child’s education for many months and could mean postponing tests and exams.

Most are probably not meant to get out of control and started as a dare or just a laugh. Some however are malicious and planned.

Nationally one in eight schools suffered an arson attack last year – costing about £65m a third of these were in London.

So how can we stop it happening? In reality – you can’t. But you can lower the risk of it happening by following simple rules.

  • deter unauthorised entry onto the site
  • prevent unauthorised entry into the buildings
  • reduce the opportunity for an offender to start a fire
  • reduce the scope for potential fire damage
  • reduce subsequent losses and disruption resulting from a fire

By being vigilant and aware of what a potential arsonist could burn and how accessible it is could greatly reduce the risk.

Store combustible items safely

A common non-compliance found is that of storage of combustible items. The very nature of schools attracts large amounts of paper, cardboard etc with limited storage. It is sometimes the case that cupboards housing electrical equipment (fuseboards, servers) are requisitioned for storage which is a potentially dangerous mix of fuel and ignition in an enclosed area. The simple fire safety advice is to keep fuel sources and ignition/heat sources apart.

Another area that gets overlooked is the storage of gym mats. Again space is a premium and it is common to find mats stored vertically as opposed to horizontally. Also many areas are not suitable as gym mat stores.

Gymnastic mats should be stored in a purpose-built store having a fire resistance of 60 minutes to British Standard 476: Parts 21 to 22, and where possible be ventilated to open air.

The reason for the stringent fire protection measures is that the mats produce toxic dense smoke when ignited. This will spread to other mats quickly if stored vertically. If the smoke breaches the enclosure there is a high risk of the escape routes becoming unusable due to lack of vision along with the dense black smoke which is a danger to life.

In summary

These are just a few examples of everyday issues found on Fire Safety Inspections in schools; however, many more factors need to be considered. For example a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) evacuation plans – can individuals with special needs, be accommodated within the general evacuation procedure?

For answers to this question and many more you need to speak to a quality third party accredited fire protection company (such as Fire Safety Services) to take care of your fire risk assessment along with any other fire safety & equipment requirements. It could save lives.

School Building Magazine editor Joe Bradbury discusses his visit to Dudley College, where students are learning the true value of offsite.


The construction industry is changing and needs a workforce that is trained in new and innovative construction methods to meet the industry’s future needs.

Having recognised the challenges facing the sector, Dudley College of Technology (with a significant contribution by the Local Growth Fund) has invested over £12m in Dudley Advance II, a Centre for Advanced Building Technologies.

After hearing this, I paid Black Country based offsite company Totally Modular a visit for a tour around their factory. Whilst in the area, Sales Manager Brian Maunder very kindly took me to Dudley College, where fascinating things are happening in terms of educating the next generation of budding construction professionals.

Brian recently donated one of his modular homes to the college, which is currently under construction within the actual walls of the campus.

About Dudley Advance II

Advance II provides skills development in high level Building Services Engineering, Civil Engineering, Construction Design and Building Information Modelling. It is the first of its kind in the FE sector offering students training in the latest construction techniques.

Supported by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Local Growth Fund through Midlands Engine, we are working in partnership with leading employers across the region, who are embracing new technologies – ensuring that your training gives you the skills that they are looking for from their future workforce.

With a focus on Higher level Apprenticeships, Level 3+ qualifications and progression to degree level courses the centre is supporting the modernisation of skills development across the construction industry.

Who is it for?

The new Centre for Advanced Building Technologies is for bright, ambitious individuals who want to learn new and exciting processes so they can be part of the changing face of construction.

They are also eager to work with businesses who can play a part in the development of skills and by joining forces, the college and construction companies can secure a better future. By contributing towards and influencing the college’s curriculum training will better meet the needs of your business. Download our Advance II booklet for more information.

Dudley Advance II provides:

  • Apprenticeships at advanced and higher levels in a range of new and traditional trades
  • Full-time courses that appeal to talented students progressing from school or from lower level qualifications
  • Professional and technical upskilling through a range of shorter programmes aimed at upskilling the existing workforce in developing techniques such as BIM.

The college aim to provide their students with the tools they need set themselves up with a career for life. The Construction department offers courses in areas such as bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, heating and ventilation, engineering, mechanical services, plastering, plumbing and refrigeration and air-conditioning engineering.

On top of this, Dudley College of Technology also recently announced that it has been awarded the Centre Manager contract for the Waltham Forest Council-led Construction Training Centre in Leyton, East London.  Working in partnership with Simian Risk, the Uk’s leading scaffolding training provider, the college will take over the day-to-day running of the centre, which was previously run by CITB as part of its raft of raining centres across the country. The new centre to be known as Advance – Technical Engineering and Construction Training Centre, will offer full-cost, full-funded and Apprenticeship training to residents and businesses across the southern regions.

Dudley College will develop a broad construction training offer which will both meet the demands of traditional trades, while also providing the high-quality training required to meet the needs of an evolving industry, which excitingly includes training courses on Virtual Reality, digital technology and modern methods of construction.

The centre’s proposed programme of activity aligns to the London Mayor’s Construction Academy (MCA) Scheme, which aims to close the gap between the ambitious targets for new build housing and the need for more skilled construction workers across the capital to bring this about.

Commenting on the development, Neil Thomas College Principal of Dudley College of Technology said “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to bring the expertise we have developed in the West Midlands in our Construction Apprenticeship Training Centre and our new centres for manufacturing and advanced building technologies to this area. We are confident we can build on the existing provision and do even more to address the huge skills needs of the sector in this locality.”

We will push for a programme of training that is 100 per cent linked to employment and job progression opportunities; and tackles current skills shortages in the borough and across London, while providing insight and qualifications on the latest methods of delivery.”

Dudley College of Technology are one of twenty outstanding further education colleges in the UK and are considered a national leader of training in modern methods of construction delivery.  And they are one of twelve institutions nationwide to be selected by the Department of Education to develop a one of their flagship Institutes of Technology.