With poor building design and inadequate ventilation blamed for aiding the spread of Covid-19 early in the pandemic, professionals from the construction industry have been unsurprised by recent spikes in cases as  thousands of pupils returned to education settings across the UK. In a new video, consultancy Gleeds highlights the benefits of modern methods of construction (MMC) for the education sector, which is in need of a multi-billion-pound revamp to bring it up to the standard required by a growing and ambitious student population.


According to the National Audit Office, 60% of school facilities were built before 1976 and are often under-engineered, over-occupied buildings. With poor air flow and hidden dangers such as asbestos threatening the health of students and educators, institutions of all sizes are being forced to take urgent action in order to make their buildings fit-for-purpose. The new Gleeds’ video features an in-depth interview with Paul Prince, programme manager for capital projects at the University of Oxford who spearheaded the application of MMC on the University’s new Biochemistry and Biological Sciences Teaching Centre. A first for this global exemplar of educational excellence.


Among many surprising things revealed during his extensive interview Prince says, “When faced with the displacement of 1200 staff and students, we needed to think and act quickly to provide everyone with a safe new space. Although the initial reason for pursuing MMC on this project was speed – we had just a few short months to get operational – what it has shown me is that modular is not just a temporary solution but a long-term one.”


He went to add. “The building Gleeds delivered is the best quality that the client has seen in their time at the University and, while it may be clear from the outside that this is a modular space, internally you would be none the wiser – you’d think it was a traditionally constructed building.”


Heather Makin, director of higher and further education at Gleeds added, “The outbreak of Covid-19 has affirmed what we already knew – that many of the UK’s existing educational facilities failed to consider public health in their design. With the government advocating for the use of MMC in education, there will, we hope, be a gradual shift in perception and an acknowledgement of its far-reaching benefits. These projects can be exciting, efficient, and stand the test of time. Developments in design and manufacture mean that each project can be customised, tailored to be as flexible as possible to maximise the benefits of a modular solution without compromising on basic principles like well-considered ventilation.”


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