The expectation that publicly funded construction projects should favour MMC was set by the Construction Sector Deal. This should have been a springboard for adoption of offsite construction. Yet in many sectors, change, while noticeable, has remained a gradual process. The exception is education.
In many ways, school building is setting the trend towards adoption of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
One major driving force behind the transformation is the Schools Output Specification. Crucially, this goes beyond stating an assumption about using MMC. It sets out demanding performance and sustainability requirements that are best guaranteed through the consistency of manufactured construction.
A key requirement is that new school facilities have a flexible layout to accommodate different learning activities and to adapt to future opportunities. As the Output Specification puts it:
- Each suite of Teaching Spaces shall be able to be linked to, or expanded into, an adjacent suite of Teaching Spaces in the future.
- The configuration of spaces shall be able to expand, contract and be reformed in as many ways as is economically feasible.
One way to achieve this is through large spans and internal walls that are easy to move. SIPs give you this flexibility.
Thermal comfort, natural lighting and indoor air quality are critical requirements. In practice, these factors need to work in balance and are influenced by the location and orientation of the building.
Modelled performance can easily be thrown off course if elements of the building fabric don’t comply with theoretical U values, or if there is a lack of air-tightness or excessive thermal bridging losses.
The precise manufacturing and proven performance of SIP-based walls and roof cassettes are the safest way to ensure that the desired internal environment is created every time. Even doors and windows can be factory-fitted to ensure performance levels.
The Output Specification contains demanding expectations for acoustic performance. This reflects the importance of sound clarity and the absence of transmitted noise on learning – particularly for SEND students.
The most effective answer is to engineer the performance into the building fabric, as with the i-FAST System.
The specification states that building services should be installed so they can be easily accessed for maintenance.
A 3D design environment and BIM are integral to the design process for manufactured construction. Working in this environment allows installation and maintenance specialists for M&E and FF&E to be part of the integrated design team. This leaves nothing to chance by eliminating potential clashes and ensuring seamless installation and easy maintenance.
MMC is all about prioritising value, performance and long-term costs over the initial build cost. And because the Output Specification is focused on the experience of the building’s users, rapid adoption of MMC seems to be the preferred route.