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The first complete school in the UK to be built off-site a decade on!


Back in 2004, the Portakabin Group broke new ground in the education sector, delivering the UK’s first complete school to be built off site.  This pioneering project at Our Lady of Lourdes School in East Kilbride was constructed using a Portakabin off-site Design and Build solution, and was also the first school to be funded through an operating lease.

More than a decade on, both the school and South Lanarkshire Council are still delighted with the building and with how well it has stood the test of time, demonstrating the robust nature of off-site construction and how the approach can successfully deliver high quality school buildings for demanding education environments.

“I was here when the building was delivered 11 years ago and we are still extremely proud of these facilities”, said Paul McGarry, Head Teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes School.  “It is spacious and light with wide corridors and suits our current requirements really well – but will allow us the flexibility to reconfigure should the need arise. The teachers and pupils absolutely love the building and it looks fantastic more than a decade on from when we moved in.”

“The building’s construction went very smoothly and we have a great relationship with the Portakabin Group. We would certainly recommend the Design and Build approach to other schools needing a lasting solution to expand or upgrade their buildings.”

Frank McCafferty, Property Manager at South Lanarkshire Council, said, “We are very pleased with the appearance and performance of the building after more than a decade and it looks better than we could have anticipated. Off-site construction was an ideal solution for this project to replace a series of 1960s storm-damaged buildings in a radically reduced timescale.”

“We have worked extensively and very well with the Portakabin Group over the years and on projects ranging from the supply of complete schools to extensions and decant facilities.”

The Portakabin Group’s current projects for South Lanarkshire Council include the provision of a two-classroom extension at St Charles Primary School in Cambuslang to help meet the increased demand for school places.

Portakabin buildings from the Portakabin Group have a 60-year design life, which is independently certified by the BBA.  This means that schools, academies and councils can benefit from the speed, efficiency and lack of disruption to teaching that off-site solutions offer, but with the certainty of high quality teaching facilities for the long term.

The Our Lady of Lourdes primary school building accommodates 500 pupils and was ready for occupation after just eight months on site.  This Design and Build off-site project included the design, construction and fitting out of a 16-classroom facility alongside the existing school, which was then demolished and replaced with landscaping and an all-weather sports pitch.

The school was constructed from 84 steel-framed modules up to 14m long and weighing up to 8.5 tonnes each. These units were manufactured off site at the Portakabin Group’s manufacturing centre in York and were craned into position in just two weeks.

Facilities include an IT suite, library, multi-purpose sports hall and a self-contained nursery with large play area.

The two-storey building has pitched roofs above the main entrance and main hall and was finished in two shades of blue with co-ordinating windows and doors.

Off-site construction has continued to advance in the decade since the completion of the Our Lady of Lourdes school.  Technical developments have included:

  • Columns that are no longer visible either internally or externally, for a seamless façade that can be specified with or without secondary cladding
  • The facility to fit almost any building footprint, including those designed for site-based construction
  • Up to 50 standard colour options to complement or contrast with adjacent schemes
  • Module lengths from 6m to 18.75m that allow even greater design and space planning flexibility and the option of using larger but fewer modules to reduce cranage, transport costs and site works, which is much more efficient
  • More height and width options to facilitate linking to existing traditionally-constructed buildings
  • A 30-year structural warranty for even greater peace of mind
  • An expanded range of floor solutions to accommodate standard loadings as well as heavy plant, sensitive equipment, increased floor stiffness and enhanced acoustics if required.

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