Modular shines when time is short and the site is challenging

When parents are clamouring for places and classrooms are needed in a hurry, the logical solution has been to buy or lease portables. They’re cheap, can be delivered quickly, craned into position, services connected, furniture installed and they’re ready for class. Though they may look inviting when new, they don’t age gracefully. And they tend to take root … still there years later -utilitarian, unloved.
A mother of a son at a high-profile Melbourne school said: “He’s been in portable classrooms for the whole of his school career. On the other hand, where there’s time and good site access, in situ construction is the safe choice. But there’s a third way and several recent highly successful projects have demonstrated that factory-built school buildings can deliver a great outcome.
Rob Colquhoun MD of Melbourne modular building specialist Prebuilt said: “the objective is to do minimal work on site and as much of the work as possible in the factory. It’s a far better work environment and there are no hot, cold or wet weather delays.
“A modular building will be cost competitive, though not necessarily cheaper than building in situ, but when you factor in a handover date that can’t be pushed back because the students are arriving next week, or the site is in the middle of a busy school, modular is a standout.
“We build and test-assemble the whole building in the factory so the modules will bolt together precisely on site. Our clients can inspect their building before it is delivered; they know in advance exactly what they will receive:’
Though Prebuilt has talented building designers on staff, Colquhoun said that he would not embark on a school project without an architect to provide the design input and to manage planning and building permits and supervision of subcontractors.
“When a school comes to us direct, and they do, we will recommend that they commission an architect;’ he said. “Most architects are excited to be involved in a modular project, though sometimes it takes a bit of convincing to go away from a conventional build”
Three learning centres designed by Hayball for Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne won the Overall and Education Innovation Awards in last year’s Learning Environn1ents Australasia Awards, the judges commenting: ” … a prefabricated building designed for purposeful and differentiated learning has been introduced to each campus, with 33 exceptional features. Each feature is pivotal to providing an engaging learning experience for students spanning the ages of 5-18 years, and the clear purpose of each offers teaching staff significant choice in how lessons are delivered.”
Costing $1.6m and $1.5m respectively, the buildings at the school’s Wheelers Hill and Caulfield can1puses are mirror images, with a small deck added at Caulfield. The third, at the Malvern campus, sits beside the school’s National Trust-classified Valentines Mansion on a tight site with very restricted access for trucks and machinery. Costing $900,000 the four-module building features an angled perforated screen facade that tones with the of the grays of the Victorian mansion.
Principal Andrew Syme said: “Caulfield has a cultural change program and we wanted to find out what the response would be to prefabs. We knew that our community would not take well to anything less than inviting quality learning spaces. And the outcome? We are working on another modular project and a refurbishment that will include modular units … time and access have been the deciding factors.”

To read more from the article published in Term 1’s issue of Education Today – view it here.








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