Question Karen Construction & Engineering

The need to build a large number of primary schools over four years

The government recently announced the need to build an estimated 1,744 primary schools and 378 secondary schools over the next four years to satisfy population growth and to reduce pressure in the existing education system (Morby 2016). Suggest ways in which this high volume of building could be achieved.

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Answer Expert #10136

This is a high volume of building in an industry that is currently experiencing a skills gap and an industry which is affected by the economic uncertainties associated with Brexit. However, it is argued that there are ways of achieving these building targets including the use of prefabrication and off-site construction, standardised designs and collaborative working relationships (Morby 2016). Off-site manufacturing, also referred to as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) offer a faster, more sustainable and less wasteful solution to construction compared to conventional methods of construction. The benefits of MMC include the fact that manufacturing the materials off-site for erection on site reduces construction time and improves the quality of construction as quality control of workmanship is easier to achieve in factory conditions. There are a range of different standardised products that could be used in the construction of schools include volumetric units which are three-dimensional, fully services structural units that can be stacked to form multi-storey buildings. Panellised units are available as fully serviced or un-serviced panels that can be connected to form three-dimensional units on site and there are also hybrid units and sub-assembly components available (Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) 2007). Apart from the speed of construction which would be invaluable in the school’s construction programme, it is argued that there are also environmental benefits associated with MMC such a reduction in waste material from the construction process and a reduction in the impact of site on the local community. MMC can also improve site safety as it reduces the need to work at height and the time of construction (Monahan and Powell 2011; Myers 2013; WRAP 2007). The main drawback of MMC which could hinder the widespread use of these materials in the school’s programme is the slightly higher capital costs of using prefabrication. However, it is argued that these higher costs are balanced with the energy savings associated with prefabrication over the life time of the property (Pan and Sidwell 2011; Rahman 2013).


Monahan, J. and Powell, J.C., 2011. An embodied carbon and energy analysis of modern methods of construction in housing: A case study using a lifecycle assessment framework. Energy and Buildings, 43(1), pp.179-188.
Morby, A., 2016. Construction Enquirer 7th October 2016 “More than 2,000 new schools must be built by 2020”. [online]. Available at < > [accessed 13th October 2016].
Myers, D., 2013. Construction economics: A new approach. Abingdon: Routledge.
Pan, W. and Sidwell, R., 2011. Demystifying the cost barriers to offsite construction in the UK. Construction Management and Economics, 29(11), pp.1081-1099, DOI:10.1080/01446193.2011.637938
Rahman, M.M., 2013. Barriers of implementing modern methods of construction. Journal of Management in Engineering, 30(1), pp.69-77.
Waste and Resources Action Programme, 2007. Current Practices and Future Potential in Modern Methods of Construction. Oxford: WRAP.