Pre­fab­ri­cated Schools

With stu­dent numbers set to grow to un­prece­dented lev­els Aus­tralia-wide, pre­fab­ri­cated mod­u­lar build­ings may be­come a cru­cial so­lu­tion.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES

SYD­NEY’S pop­u­la­tion is set to dou­ble over the next 40 years, with a pro­jected 21 per cent growth in stu­dent numbers by 2031 – that’s al­most 1.5 mil­lion stu­dents over the next 15 years in NSW alone.

The NSW Gov­ern­ment will in­vest a stag­ger­ing $6 bil­lion over the next four years to de­liver more than 170 new and up­graded schools (and around 2000 class­rooms) through­out the State.

“We are in the midst of a school build­ing pro­gram NSW has never be­fore ex­pe­ri­enced and this year’s Bud­get takes this to a whole new level,” NSW Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian said in a state­ment.

With over­crowd­ing al­ready an is­sue, and old de­mount­able build­ings still be­ing used in NSW schools, new class­room in­fra­struc­ture to meet the grow­ing de­mand is def­i­nitely high on the agenda.

Late last year the State Gov­ern­ment chal­lenged the con­struc­tion and de­sign com­mu­nity to de­velop a new, per­ma­nent and high-qual­ity class­room model that would be re­spon­sive to de­mand and growth in stu­dent pop­u­la­tions.

To clar­ify, de­mount­able class­rooms are tem­po­rary struc­tures aimed to alleviate a grow­ing stu­dent body while new fa­cil­i­ties are built. A pre­fab­ri­cated mod­u­lar class­room is built off site but is a highly adapt­able and cus­tomis­able per­ma­nent build­ing.

Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing in Pre­fab­ri­cated Hous­ing Re­search Di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Tuan Ngo thinks pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms could be the so­lu­tion.

“New pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings can be cus­tomis­able to achieve both va­ri­ety and in­di­vid­u­al­ity. In­no­va­tive prefab build­ings which are well de­signed can alleviate one of the cur­rent mar­ket chal­lenges by mov­ing pre­fab­ri­ca­tion away from the pro­duc­tion of iden­ti­cal, repet­i­tive util­i­tar­ian build­ings, to­wards high-qual­ity, cus­tom-tai­lored de­sign prod­ucts,” Pro­fes­sor Ngo said.

There are ben­e­fits for us­ing mod­u­lar pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor be­cause the in­no­va­tive de­sign for man­u­fac­tur­ing and as­sem­bly can be used to mass cus­tomise the build­ings and class­rooms.

“New pre­fab­ri­cated mod­u­lar build­ings are re­us­able, durable, quicker to man­u­fac­ture and as­sem­ble, have greater en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and re­duced costs,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor Ngo be­lieves that in tra­di­tional class­room con­struc­tion, in­suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion is given to the in­door en­vi­ron­ment which im­pacts di­rectly on hu­man com­fort, well-be­ing and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“Achiev­ing healthy in­door en­vi­ron­ments is a key chal­lenge fac­ing built en­vi­ron­ment pro­fes­sion­als, and re­quires in­formed de­sign de­ci­sions and in­te­grated tech­nolo­gies,” he said.

“Us­ing new tech­nolo­gies, mod­u­lar pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms can in­cor­po­rate sen­sors to mea­sure ther­mal com­fort, air qual­ity, acous­tic, light­ing qual­ity, and oc­cu­pant per­cep­tion and build­ing ser­vices can be con­trolled and op­ti­mised ac­cord­ingly to achieve highly ef­fi­cient build­ings and hu­man com­fort.”

How­ever he does see some chal­lenges for pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms in keep­ing up with the de­mand of a grow­ing stu­dent body; specif­i­cally, be­cause the de­sign and de­liv­ery process of pre­fab­ri­cated build­ing sys­tems are dif­fer­ent from those com­monly used in tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­tural, in­dus­trial and en­gi­neer­ing de­sign projects.

“Pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings are com­pre­hen­sively planned prod­ucts re­quir­ing greater em­pha­sis on de­sign, pro­cesses, mod­el­ling and in­te­gra­tion of com­po­nents,” Pro­fes­sor Ngo said.

“The de­liv­ery process for pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings is also markedly dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional de­sign and con­struc­tion.

“For the grow­ing de­mand for prefab schools, func­tional re­quire­ments of class­rooms and en­gage­ment through­out the build process among de­sign­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers/builders and school op­er­a­tors are very im­por­tant,” he said.

School should also con­sider what kind of flex­i­ble and in­no­va­tive de­sign would be most suited to their en­vi­ron­ment.

“It is very im­por­tant to iden­tify and syn­the­sise the un­der­pin­ning pro­cesses for se­lect­ing ma­te­ri­als and de­sign­ing in­te­grated sys­tems that holis­ti­cally con­sider func­tion­al­ity, struc­tural ad­e­quacy, en­ergy con­sump­tion and reusabil­ity into tools that will help de­sign pro­fes­sion­als achieve high-qual­ity de­signs sat­is­fy­ing school and stu­dent re­quire­ments,” Pro­fes­sor Ngo said.

Pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms could be the way of the fu­ture. Pro­fes­sor Ngo said that skills short­ages, a frag­mented and in­ef­fi­cient sup­ply chain, and the spi­ralling costs of build­ing ma­te­ri­als have made tra­di­tional con­struc­tion more and more ex­pen­sive.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity, health and well-be­ing, and safety im­per­a­tives to­gether with the mar­ket-wide ex­pec­ta­tion for high-qual­ity de­sign have fur­ther chal­lenged tra­di­tional con­struc­tion,” he said.

“Ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing of pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings is a vi­able al­ter­na­tive. Our re­search shows the pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency gains that ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques can of­fer.

“In par­tic­u­lar, en­abling tech­nolo­gies such as com­pos­ite light­weight ma­te­ri­als and sys­tems, au­to­mated off-site man­u­fac­tur­ing, mass cus­tomi­sa­tion, and com­plex sys­tems think­ing are es­sen­tial com­po­nents of pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings,” he said.

The NSW brief­ing for in­no­va­tive and flex­i­ble class­room de­sign in­cluded the di­rec­tive that it be cus­tomis­able for in­di­vid­ual schools, in­clud­ing school halls and li­braries, and that they could be de­liv­ered in multi-storey, multi-class­room blocks – so far pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms seem to fit the bill.

“This trend and the in­creas­ing de­mand for a fast de­liv­ery of school class­rooms

will make mod­u­lar prefab school more main­stream in the fu­ture,” Pro­fes­sor Ngo said.

Vic­to­ria is in­vest­ing more than $2.5 bil­lion to meet the de­mand of the pre­dicted 90,000 school aged chil­dren and teenagers by 2022.

The State has implemented a Per­ma­nent Mod­u­lar School Build­ing Pro­gram as part of the third round of the La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s As­bestos Re­moval Pro­gram; a $200

mil­lion in­vest­ment which has re­moved all high-level risk as­bestos from schools and re­plac­ing them with ar­chi­tec­turally de­sign, per­ma­nent mod­u­lar build­ings.

Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion James Mer­lino vis­ited Glen­gala/sun­shine West Pri­mary School re­cently to an­nounce the third round of schools set to re­ceive new build­ings as part of the Pro­gram.

“We are im­prov­ing school in­fra­struc­ture across Vic­to­ria so every stu­dent has the op­por­tu­nity to get the most out of their ed­u­ca­tion,” Min­is­ter Mer­lino said.

“Us­ing per­ma­nent mod­u­lar build­ings in­creases flex­i­bil­ity for schools and re­duces the in­ter­rup­tions to stu­dents, staff and teach­ing pro­grams.”

The Vic­to­rian School Build­ing Author­ity will work with schools on build­ing de­tails such as colour and lo­ca­tion, with 47 schools now re­ceiv­ing ma­jor up­grades as part of the pro­gram.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity, health and well-be­ing, and safety im­per­a­tives to­gether with the mar­ket-wide ex­pec­ta­tion for high-qual­ity de­sign have fur­ther chal­lenged tra­di­tional con­struc­tion.”

All im­ages: Sen­sum and An­gelucci Ar­chi­tects.

Pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms at Glen­gala/sun­shine West Pri­mary School.

Glen­gala/sun­shine West Pri­mary School (VIC).

In­side a pre­fab­ri­cated class­room at Glen­gala/ Sun­shine West Pri­mary School (VIC).

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