Modular schools design – as simple as ABC

While the idea of modular construction can strike fear into the hearts of those unfamiliar with the process, senior structural engineer and principal, Karlie Collis says Northrop can demystify the process and provide clients with cost-effective well-built projects.
“The term ‘modular’ has many facets to it. Modular may include fully volumetric, water-tight construction (think of prefab houses), or it may simply be the use of prefabricated, modular frames,” Karlie explained.
While modular design in schools is still a relatively recent sector, Karlie said the process and the end-result is much better than traditionally built schools.
“The quality of finishes and standard of construction are actually more controllable and usually much higher in modular construction than on-site construction,” she explained.
“The factory processes allow for tighter controls and monitoring, without the environmental factors often encountered on-site.”
Karlie believes modular schools are the way of the future and will become the first choice for clients to construct.
“Modular schools have to play a critical part in the future delivery of school infrastructure,” she said. “It will be the most economical method of meeting the fast-growing demand.”
School projects require an understanding of the use of the buildings, and an appreciation for their future use, according to Karlie, and whether they will be relocated to other sites.
She said clients always appreciate that Northrop considers the future maintenance of projects, as well and ongoing user costs. “It really is a whole-of-life approach,” Karlie added.
And modular schools are totally customisable.
“Fully modular schools can be customised in any number of ways,” Karlie said. “Obviously there are cost savings in having some repetition in shape and size, but anything that can be customised on a standard build can be customised in a modular build.
“The decision as to which level of modularisation is appropriate is one we love to explore with clients as we like to tailor our engineering solutions to each project.”
But, just like a traditional project, each construction site comes with its own individual challenges, including minimising disruption on sites already in use.
“A lot of development is on school sites currently occupied by staff and students. Minimising the disruption to existing schools is always a high priority,” Karlie explained.
“Modular and off-site construction is the most successful method of reducing on-site time and disruption.”
And when challenges are involved, the best thing to do is to get in early.
“We love challenges. The earlier we can be involved with a project, the sooner we can turn challenges into resolutions,” Karlie explained.
This is particularly relevant to modular school design.
“The key with modular construction is early engagement as off-site construction can begin before approvals are obtained.”
Northrop has a proven track record for delivering modular schools, Karlie revealed.
“We played a key role in the delivery of one of Australia’s first three-storey fully modular schools. With space at a premium, our design maximised additional administration and teaching space, whilst minimising the amount of playground used. We have many years of experience in the modular space, both in education and other areas.”
So, no matter if you’re in Victoria, Queensland, the ACT or NSW, there is a Northrop office with exceptional engineering expertise in modular schools design to make your project as simple as ABC.



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