How Do We Build 24,000 Classrooms by 2020?

According to new research published by Scape Group, England needs an additional 366,000 primary school places and 362,000 secondary school places by 2020. The numbers are based on Department of Education and local authority data.
That’s over 24,000 extra classrooms or 2,000 schools! A building programme on this scale would be tough to deliver even in predictable and stable times.

The current climate is anything but predictable. We simply don’t know what Brexit will mean for the economy, or how it will affect migration. Budgets will certainly be tight. Migration will influence eventual pupil numbers and probably the availability of skilled labour.

There are some big challenges:

  • Minimising the learning disruption and safety issues of building programmes on existing school sites.
  • Being flexible so that schools and local authorities can respond rapidly as actual numbers become clearer.
  • Providing certainty over build times and budgets.

Building so much extra capacity while complying with strict environmental, acoustic and thermal requirements is risky on all counts if you rely on traditional techniques. Never mind the risk of project overruns owing to labour and material supply issues.

Could SIPs be an Answer?

The logic of offsite construction using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) is persuasive. Most of the work takes place in controlled factory conditions. On-site time is minimised and there are fewer defects to be corrected once the building is completed.

Systems like Innovaré i-SIP are fast to construct and exceptionally energy-efficient. Buildings are airtight with virtually no heat loss through thermal bridging effects.

With modular design, additional capacity can be quickly added as and when needed. If space is tight you can easily build up rather than out. If demand for school places in a particular area proves to be higher or lower than predicted, it’s easier for schemes to be expanded or scaled back to suit.

The school building programme is a challenge that will demand innovative approaches. Offsite construction is a proven option that needs to be part of a flexible and reliable solution.

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