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The Department for Education (DfE) is to launch a framework for the delivery of schools using offsite construction methods. MMC1 will come out ‘in the middle of this year’, said the DfE’s Bryan Evans at the Futurebuild conference in March.
In preparation for this framework, the DfE is developing the Generation 5 standardised design solution for primary schools, which can be applied to a wide range of modern offsite construction techniques. The standardised solution will be developed and rolled out to include other school types.
Evans said the DfE’s approach is to ‘commoditise school buildings’, and to develop a standardised offsite module chassis and even standardised elevations.
He said the idea was to break the school’s schedule of accommodation into ‘workable suites’ and then break the suites into teaching and learning clusters. These will be based on a standard set of spaces, which can then be reconfigured to suit individual sites and schools.
‘It’s a way of standardising bespoke,’ Evans added – ‘one size fits many, but not one size fits all’.
This approach will give the DfE the chance to standardise its furniture, fixtures and equipment. ‘We’ve looked at standardisation of teaching walls and even back-of-classroom storage – not just for layout, but for robustness, fire and acoustics,’ Evans said. ‘We are even looking at whether we can standardise on a school door that meets acoustic and fire requirements.’
For building services, ‘standardisation means we don’t have to do lighting calculations every single day of the week’, Evans added. ‘It will also make the measurement of energy easier; as buildings become smarter, we can monitor and track energy use, and work with schools to drive efficiency.’
New group aims to accelerate offsite construction of primary schools
An industry consortium funded by Innovate UK has been set up to increase the use of offsite construction in the design and building of primary schools.
The Seismic Consortium is managed by construction consultants Blacc and includes the design practice Bryden Wood, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), and offsite firms Elliott and The McAvoy Group.
It will carry out a programme of research and development to produce standardised offsite solutions, in a bid to increase productivity and efficiency, drive down costs, and reduce lead times in the delivery of primary schools.
‘Our aim is to develop a series of components to enable multiple offsite specialists to achieve unprecedented economies of scale and efficiency in manufacturing,’ said Blacc director Richard Crosby. ‘This will bring greater stability, predictability and transparency to the procurement process.’
One of the solutions in development is the creation of a digital tool to accelerate the initial design phase for new primary schools. This web-based app, which can be used by teaching professionals, will configure a primary school building on a specific site, in line with DfE requirements, and using a standardised offsite solution.