Andy Smith, Head of Business Development at Caledonian Modular, looks at how offsite construction

can help alleviate the shortage of school places.


For a number of years, councils have been warning about a shortage of school places, mainly because last decade’s baby boomers are now entering secondary education. Last year alone, about 20% of families in England failed to gain a place at their first preference school.

Although classroom overcrowding remains an ongoing issue, modular and offsite construction can provide a way forward. The government has already stated that it will favour offsite manufacturing on all publicly funded construction projects, and that should assist with tackling the shortage of school places.

Modular and offsite benefits

  • 80 – 90% of the work can be completed in a factory, like our 40-acre Newark based facility, which is a quality-controlled environment unaffected by the weather.
  • Construction schedule can be reduced by half because, for example, foundations can commence at the same time as the building modules are being manufactured in the factory.
  • Minimises disruption to both operation of the school (which can remain a live teaching environment) and the local community by ensuring a rapid build and fewer deliveries.
  • Less use of high embodied energy materials such as cement – traditional masonry builds can require more concrete foundations.
  • Less waste because fewer materials are delivered to site.
  • Manufactured offsite and then assembled onsite creates a safer workplace, because it is a more controlled environment that requires less need for working at height.

What can offsite be used for?

Our modular construction solutions can be used to create classrooms, catering blocks, laboratories, gymnasiums, changing rooms, large-span hall facilities and administration offices. In effect, we can manufacture anything from individual classrooms, through to complete schools. Buildings can also be designed and built to an exacting specification, with a wide range of finishes and roofing options that fit seamlessly alongside an existing structure.

By reducing the construction schedule by half, classrooms or whole schools can be completed within the school holiday, meaning significantly less risk-assessed people on or around the site. With transportation and trade reduced there is less traffic and noise impact on both the school and the local community.


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£38m schools’ contract

We recently secured two large school projects in quick succession with a total order value of £38m. Haygrove School and The Sir Frederick Gibberd College were secured under Department for Education (DfE) frameworks. We were selected for both projects because we offered a full turnkey package including lead design, planning and installation, through to hand over.

We will create a brand new £29m secondary school at the Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow, Essex. It will comprise a 1,200 place secondary school built over three storeys including a school hall, dining hall, drama studio and a 500 place sixth form teaching area, as well as sports facilities and all associated external works and pitches.

Work being undertaken at Haygrove School in Bridgwater will involve utilising our component-based school solutions to replace the main school building with modern and efficient teaching environments. The construction work will be undertaken while the school remains open and works will be carefully planned to ensure minimal disruption.

The three-storey building will consist of classrooms, double-height hall and studio spaces, offices, kitchen and associated rooms for educational purposes, along with enabling, groundworks and external works.

Both schools incorporate factory-installed concrete floors to deliver an acoustically compliant, comfortable, safe and durable environment for occupants. Up to 96% of the work on each module is completed at our quality-controlled factory facility before being delivered to site.

Modular Frameworks

Our recent portfolio of projects within the education sector are testament to the fact that offsite construction is already proving a popular choice for schools at all levels including primary, secondary and higher education.

We deliver innovative design led solutions that promote the intelligent use of BIM, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA) and the use of Lean Manufacturing techniques to eliminate waste.

Caledonian, and our partner Architects HLM, secured first place on the £300 million ESFA Batch C Modular Framework to provide permanent, component-based buildings and facilities for ESFA’s new secondary schools block replacement programme.


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