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SCHOOLS SPECIAL: Manufacturers to rival contractors

Manufacturers could appear on tender lists alongside main contractors if offsite construction dominates the post-Building Schools for the Future education sector.

Construction News today reveals that the government commissioned Capital Review team is set to recommend heavy use of modular building to slash the costs of schools projects.

This would present huge opportunities for manufacturers of pods that can be fully fitted out in factories and then craned into sites.

The building process can be up to 50 per cent quicker, and there are associated time and cost savings in the design and approval stages. The process is also often favoured for minimising disruption on live school sites.

David Johnson, director and general manager at Offsite specialist Yorkon, said: “If the government specifies standard school designs, we will design something that matches it and then be ready to go all around the
country.

“There are lots of efficiencies we can build in. Architects, clients or contractors come to us and we
supply units.

“If a relatively modest school extension is procured - say four or five classrooms - we would be happy to do that ourselves.”

Mr Johnson said the firm preferred working with main contractors on larger jobs, for their project management skills. “If it is a whole school, it is to a main contractor.

“Main contractors are very good at managing a raft of trades, which is not our specialism.”

He added: “Modular building is undoubtedly going to increase. We think there will be more opportunities without BSF than there were with it, as there will be more refurbishment work and extension projects where modular
building will be more efficient than traditional methods.”

East Yorkshire-based ModularUK Building Systems will also size up certain jobs that come up through the post-BSF procurement system.

Managing director Steve Wightman said: “We work for both councils and contractors.

“Our involvement depends on the local authority - some will look to tender work to main contractors through frameworks, while others will use competitive dialogue. We work in both fields.”

Mr Wightman said where there was a mixture of new build and refurbishment work, modular manufacturers were best placed to provide the new build elements for a main contractor managing the overall project.

Modern modular building techniques allowed firms to create permanent buildings quickly without compromising on
architectural or construction quality, he added.

ModularUK can erect a 1,600 sq m building in four days once the manufacturing is completed.