Weatherproofing penetrations on modular buildings for schools

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Innovating the weatherproofing of penetrations for modular building installations through collaboration

Close up look at a commercial rooflight installed at Cherry Tree nursery

Modular buildings are rapidly growing in popularity for both permanent and temporary structures and for any application from dwellings, offices, and schools to hospitals and specialised laboratory and research facilities. Ensuring an effective weatherproofing of the structure’s roof and vertical penetrations is crucial to protect both services to the structures and the building users from the elements.

The June announcement by the Department for Education (DfE) of a £3bn investment into a two-tier modular schools’ framework in England over 48 months, underlines the commitment of the UK government to support modern methods of construction. Portakabin is amongst five contractors appointed to deliver off-site built primary schools with gross internal areas (GIA) of less than 6,000m2 under lot two of the procurement scheme. Portakabin, as the leading manufacturer in the industry, aims to modernise the traditional construction methods with innovative technology behind steel-based buildings and prefabricated modules. The objective is a fast and cost-effective delivery of user-focused buildings with minimal impact on the environment.

Portakabin is renowned for precision engineering and the delivery of complete turn-key solutions. Each Portakabin modular building project is shaped by unique requirements to support its function, but precision at the point of installation is crucial. The weatherproofing of varied vertical and horizontal penetrations requires speed and flexibility, and the traditional construction methods did not correspond with the demands of the modular approach.

Known for their expertise in weatherproofing penetrations of any type, Jones and Woolman UK were brought in to collaborate with Portakabin and provide high-quality weatherproofing solutions for completed building envelopes regardless of the size and number of the modules used. Established as innovators of solutions and processes, Jones & Woolman UK were involved in the conception stage of the designs and worked extensively with both Portakabin and the subcontractors to find the most effective specification, application, and scheduling to suit modular builds. The result of this cohesive approach was implementation of changes that lead to lower construction costs whilst producing exceptional results in record time.

Roof top view of installed commercial rooflights installed at a nusery

Delivering weatherproofed learning spaces for positive learning experience

Cherry Tree Nursery and Keeble Getaway Academy are projects immensely important to the local communities and futures of the children they serve. The state-of-the-art Early Years Centre in Ayrshire and the modern, spacious Academy in North Yorkshire are purpose-built turnkey facilities. Cherry Tree Nursery was built, installed, and handed over in four months. The 29 modules of Keeble Gateway Academy took 6 days to install. The speed of the delivery did not impact the quality of the construction but was vital to meeting the local demands for educational spaces.

The common objective for both projects was to create a positive learning experience. Daylight, ventilation, and thermal comfort are key to building spaces that promote the wellbeing of pupils and teachers, and the DfE output specification outlines the requirements for compliant visual environments and sets minimum requirements for air quality, thermal comfort, and acoustics. Part of the specification was the provision for energy efficiency and low maintenance. Effective implementation of weatherproofing supports building energy efficiency and maintenance costs.

The efficiency of modular construction lies in the ability to prefabricate as much of the building as possible. Most of the construction is undertaken in a controlled environment and the manufactured modules are ready to assemble on-site. The weatherproofing of some services, vertical glazing, and certain M&E installations among others, may be completed in the factory environment. This is however not the case with all building penetrations and in some instances, it may not be the most efficient approach.

To deliver the necessary daylight and air, roof penetrations were required for rooflights and for upstands used for mechanical ventilation. Further service penetrations were also needed for the air pump ducts in the Cherry Tree Nursery project. Jones & Woolman UK worked with the main contractor Portakabin, the rooflight supplier VELUX Commercial and many others to streamline the installation process, giving Portakabin complete scheduling flexibility of the project.

The resulting process changes were underpinned by the flexibility of the weatherproofing solution and meant that the M&E components, upstands, roof windows and service hatches were installed on-site. This allowed for rapid installation that eradicated any water ingress issues and delivered within the demanding project schedule. The traffic on the roof was kept to a minimum protecting the joints between modules secured by bolts and the silicone joints and significantly cutting down labor costs.

The Jones and Woolman UK weatherproofing solution does not require additional penetrations for fixings, as would have been the case with traditional flashing and plate installation, creating a more aesthetically pleasing finish to the roof. This also leaves a considerably smaller area to be checked for leaks and a faster, more cost-efficient repair process if required. The long-term building maintenance requirements are also significantly lower as a result. The moldings and the specialist method of installation that Jones and Woolman UK have developed, instead of traditional fixing methods to weatherproof the service risers and curbs, avoid thermal bridging, leaving the U-values unaffected. The benefit is greater thermal efficiency and improved building energy performance. For peace of mind, the complete weatherproofing installation is covered by the industry leading Jones and Woolman UK 25-year warranty.

To discuss your next modular building project requirements in greater detail or to find help with weatherproofing modular buildings for schools or other sectors, contact one of our experts.

Roof top view of rooflights installed on Cherry Tree nursery

Key benefits of Jones and Woolman UK penetrations & weatherproofing systems

Scheduling flexibility
We can be reactive and adaptable with the installation schedule and work to the contractor’s requirements. Our ability to seal both vertical and roof penetrations in situ, in all weather conditions, gives you the flexibility to choose the most efficient critical path for your project.

Quick installation
The unique process behind our simple-sounding cut-fit-seal approach means that our weatherproofing can be fitted on-site under extreme scheduling pressure without an impact on the quality of the installation. The prospect of water ingress during installation is eliminated, protecting the modules and any preinstalled mechanical and electrical systems.

All of our solutions and the work we carry out are covered by our industry-leading 25-year warranty for added peace of mind ensuring you don’t have to deal with the impact of leaks and face expensive maintenance and repair costs. We also recently celebrated 40-years of trading and look forward to another 40-years and beyond, building long-lasting relationships with our clients and suppliers.

Involving our expertise in the early planning stages of a design gives the architect confidence that their design ideas are fully supported. The precision of our delivery is uncompromising, protecting the building envelope whilst crucially not impacting the aesthetics. Your design remains the focus.

Process improvement
Our expert knowledge makes the weatherproofing application easy, taking the pressure of the modular manufacturing process and saving time and money. There is no need to consider separate processes, timings, and cost for the sealing different building penetrations. We will provide you with a complete weatherproofing solution package based on your needs.