As budgets get ever tighter in both state-funded and independent schools, the question of funding much-needed new school buildings rears its head. With the school-age population increasing, schools can often struggle to provide even basic assets but need more space year on year, so what chance do they have of expanding their capacity by traditional new building? The answer may lie in using modular school buildings.
What are modular buildings?
Before we start, rid your mind of any images of the archetypal ‘temporary classrooms’ that have been used in the past – and are very often still being used many years after their ‘temporary’ installation. Draughty boxes looking like little more than shipping containers with windows are definitely a thing of the past these days.
Modern modular school buildings are purpose-built, luxurious facilities which can provide amazing learning spaces. They can be put together to suit needs, creating bespoke classrooms complete with any other facilities, such as cloak rooms and office space.
Modular school buildings can be designed and used for a great deal more functions than teaching space, however. For example, they can be constructed to provide a gym, dining room, offices, staff room, seminar rooms or multi-functional areas, to name but a very few possible uses.
Modular buildings are created with environmental issues in mind. They’re made from sustainable materials and most are guaranteed to last for 50 years or more. They’re prefabricated to the highest standards and provide a comfortable learning environment.
Apart from their low environmental construction impact, modular buildings are much quicker to build than traditionally-constructed bricks and mortar classrooms or school extensions. Because the components are pre-built in the factory, they take a matter of weeks to install; often the build can be done over the long summer holiday to make the least impact on school function.
Another bonus is that of long-term adaptability. If more space is needed down the line, the modular buildings can be added to with relative ease. Also, the buildings can be made to be relocatable in the future, if the school needs to remodel its footprint.
Companies which create modular buildings are keen to stress that they are specifically and individually designed to meet the needs of the end user. With that in mind, extensive collaboration with the school produces a building perfectly tailored to the intended purpose. Not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ scenario, by any means.
Predictably, the cost of these units is a fraction of that of traditional builds. This may enable schools to increase their size markedly in one go, more than with a traditional build, as more space can be bought with the same outlay.
No small consideration in these days of aesthetics taking an important role, modern modular buildings are attractive to look at and certainly don’t appear as temporary accommodation. They can very positively enhance the look and feel of the general school environment.
Funding a modular build
As encouraging as all this is, and great as the need for more space may be, many schools would struggle to find the funds to purchase modular buildings. Even at the appreciably lower costs, modular buildings can run from around £1400 per square metre, making a large space requiring a substantial capital outlay which many schools just don’t have.
However, there are ways to obtain the extra space without having to spend massive amounts of capital.
While state schools are not allowed by law to enter into finance agreements as such, like HP or borrowing funds from banks, they are permitted to take on operating leases.
These leases are effectively a way to hire an asset for a set length of time without committing masses of cash to it.
How operating leases work
A brief description is this:
The provider of the lease (the lessor) buys the asset and allows the user (the lessee) to have use of that asset for a set period of time at a set fee. It’s basically a rental agreement where the lessee never owns the asset themselves, but the payments made tend to be lower than other forms of finance because:
- The payments made don’t cover the whole cost of the item, and
- The asset will have a residual value remaining at the end of the term and the lessor can sell it to recoup outlay.
However, at the end of the term and depending on the asset concerned, the lessor can often continue to use the asset by paying a fair ongoing rental payment for it. The term can be as long as 10 years, or can be broken up into shorter periods of time.
This would be a good solution for state schools wanting to expand. The big benefit is that they pay for the modular building in regular, easy-to-budget-for monthly or quarterly payments and have the rest of their budget available for other things.
Where to get leases for modular school buildings?
At Maxxia, we are well-versed in providing funding solutions for schools. We have a dedicated team of experts waiting to answer any questions you might have, and to help you expand your school in a way that’s financially manageable for you.
Visit our education page to find out more about how we can help.
There are many reputable modular building companies around, but here are links to just a few, in no particular order. We have worked with some of them in the past, but have no affiliation otherwise: