Modular School Buildings: Alternatives When School Facility Plans Fall Short
Throughout the U.S., school facilities plans are falling short and, typically, it’s not because of poor planning. Unexpected population shifts, regional economic fluctuations, and funding changes, among other contributing factors, are the real cause for facilities plans falling short.
There is a saying that goes, “the best-laid plans are paved with good intentions.” Existing school facilities almost always make sense at the time buildings are constructed, but inevitable external pressures and internal shifts begin creating a dynamic that was not anticipated in the original facility design. When you think of a school expansion, you may assume that it’s due to an increase in enrollment. But, that’s not always the case.
Three Trends Causing A Facilities Shortage
These three trends have recently been generating a need for more classroom and educational space.
With the wide-spread implementation of extended day of kindergarten, students increase their educational skills and social development. The extensions also help to comply with their parent’s work schedules.
New Legislation Causes Need for Classroom Expansion
New legislation in certain states is requiring schools to decrease their classroom sizes. For example, a state law requires schools across North Carolina to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade starting with the 2017-2018 school year. Kindergarten classes, for example, are now capped at a maximum of 19 students (instead of 24 students).
Consolidation of Schools
Another trend that is surfacing across the country is the consolidation of schools from multiple facilities into a single larger facility. Several factors can lead to consolidation, though it is usually for economic efficiency.
Other factors that have long affected the usefulness of school facilities include:
- Local residential construction creating an influx of school-aged children to a district
- Opening or closing of nearby schools
- Aging school buildings requiring a remodel or new construction
Are You Facing Facilities Plan Issues?
If your school district is dealing with any (or many) of these space issues, there is a lower-cost, faster-turnaround option for school expansion that many public school districts, private schools, and charter schools are taking advantage of – modular school facilities. According to the Modular Building Institute, 260,000 classrooms across the U.S. are in “relocatable” modular buildings.
Modular classrooms continue to rise in popularity across the country. But these are not the pre-fab buildings of the past that were plagued with noisy and inadequate ventilation systems, limited natural light, and a design that stuck out like a sore thumb. Today’s modular classrooms feature customizable, modern designs that blend in seamlessly with the rest of the campus, and have sustainable building practices that provide a healthier learning environment.
And it’s not just classrooms – schools are using modular solutions to expand their campus’ administrative offices, libraries, cafeterias, and lab spaces. Schools can find the perfect size for their needs, whether it’s a small classroom that’s a couple thousand square feet or a facility exceeding ten thousand square feet for significant student capacity, schools can find solutions in the perfect size for their needs. Today’s modern modular classrooms can be wired for full data connectivity and finished to match a school’s exterior finish and interior design.
By utilizing modular expansion of their facilities, schools have the opportunity to pursue temporary or permanent solutions for their growing community.
Temporary Modular Classrooms: Portable classrooms are an easy solution for schools responding to a sudden rise in enrollment. With a short installation window, additional classroom structures can be ordered in the spring, installed in the summer, and ready for the first bell to ring. Additionally, these relocatable temporary classrooms are quick and convenient swing spaces for when schools are undergoing construction.
Permanent Modular Classrooms: As neighborhoods and families continue to grow, enrollment numbers at public schools, private schools, and charter schools continue to increase, permanent expansion becomes necessary. Conventional construction of school buildings can be costly and time-consuming, but permanent modular classroom buildings provide an effective alternative to help overcrowded classrooms. It’s flexible, cost-saving classroom expansion in a fraction of the time.
Modular Buildings and Your Bottom Line
The Bottom Line for Your Budget
Many schools are taking advantage of off-site construction of classrooms, libraries, laboratories, offices, and cafeterias and realizing tremendous time and cost savings.
What makes modular classrooms and educational spaces a cost-effective option for school expansion is the unique efficiencies of the factory setting and assembly process for modular construction. This type of construction setting offers the ability to perform extensive quality control, avoiding many imperfections frequently found in on-site projects.
Additionally, the nature of an off-site location allows for less waste. Because weather conditions are not an issue for the majority of the building process, there is less waste of costly materials ruined by the elements and fewer wasted days caused by inclement weather and unworkable conditions.
The Bottom Line for Your Timeline
The benefit of the modular construction schedule is that site development and foundation preparation are taking place on-site at the same time that building fabrication is happening at the off-site factory. Utilizing modular construction can reduce your “time to occupancy” by as much as 50%, which is critical when the first day of school is quickly approaching.
The Bottom Line for Quality
The simple truth is that when it comes to structural integrity, modular buildings are built to be stronger than traditionally-built buildings. They have to be even more structurally sound to withstand the transportation to the final build site, as well as withstand the crane operation that is used to place the final components.
The exterior finishes offered in modular building today can make it so that any modular expansion matches the exterior of the rest of your campus. There is no need for your modular additions to stick out like a sore thumb. Internally, flooring, ceiling, lighting, ventilation, and heating/cooling systems are on par with what is provided from traditional construction.
Quality of life for your campus and surrounding communities is also improved through modular building. With only a minimal amount of time spent on the final construction site, there is less noise, pollution, and destruction of green space.
Facility planners and managers, along with school officials, have an extremely difficult task of managing campus facilities to appropriately accommodate dynamic levels of students, staff, and faculty. With so many variables coming into play, modular space is often the smart solution for a school’s space need. Reduced site disruption, construction speed, and quality are all benefits spurring schools around the country to select temporary and permanent modular building solutions.