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School building – What are the benefits of modular construction versus traditional buildings?

June 1, 2021, 10:06 GMT+1
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  • Speed and costs are something to think about, says Mark Brown...
School building – What are the benefits of modular construction versus traditional buildings?

Many schools now in need of extra space will be considering which building approach is best for them.

More modern methods of construction using a modular offsite manufacturing process can be an excellent option.

Cheaper than a traditional build, they are also quicker, less disruptive and have lower environmental impact. There are broadly two types of modular buildings. Sectional modular means that the components are manufactured then pieced together onsite whereas volumetric modular refers to complete units being transported to site.

The sectional approach generally requires less transportation energy and offers more flexibility in site location and bespoke building design.


Manufacturing can take place offsite while groundworks are undertaken. This, along with the speed of construction, reduces time spent onsite by up to 70 per cent versus a traditional build.

Once planning approval is attained, a smaller building can take just six weeks onsite from foundation laying to completion. Furthermore, the modular process usually costs significantly less than traditional building methods: larger buildings can be delivered for as little as £1,500 per sqm.

Disruption and quality control

Components are manufactured in a controlled environment which means they are kept dry and safe until they are delivered to site precisely as they are needed. This also means less disruption as the building site can be self-contained and site access managed accordingly.

Environmental impact

Modular construction uses less energy than traditional methods. In addition, when timber is used as the primary material along with low impact foundations, it reduces the embodied carbon of the building resulting in a much lower environmental impact.

TG Escapes Eco-Buildings, for example, are working with The Carbon Trust to certify their buildings with the aim of being carbon neutral by 2022.

Access to the outdoors and biophilic design

Easy access to the outdoors and nature is now more important than ever. It helps with wellbeing and is proven to improve educational outcomes.

Deck areas and wide canopies can be easily accessed with large external doors which can be a helpful tool in managing social distancing.

Most of TG Escapes’ buildings are inherently biophilic, using predominantly natural materials and a design that provides huge amounts of natural light. They can also feature more biophilic design elements such as nature spaces outside and natural murals inside.

Energy efficient and healthy

To achieve an A+ energy rating, make use of sun pipes, solar PV, smart lighting, wood fibre insulation, reduced thermal bridging and airtight construction.

Adaptable ventilation systems can reduce heating bills by a factor of three as well as providing a healthy, hygienic interior air quality. Living roofs also help to reduce water runoff.

Modular timber-framed eco buildings can be used not just for classrooms but for administration offices, staff rooms, studios, sports facilities, canteens and training centres.

Many schools use the opportunity of a new build to rethink how to use the existing space. For example, creating a performing arts studio could free up the school hall; building a separate staff room and offices could create more teaching space or creating a dedicated SEND classroom can help with access issues.

Mark Brown is consultant at TG Escapes. For more information email and go to