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Temporary or modular buildings are rapidly becoming a popular solution for hospitals seeking to overcome high patient demand and are now firmly in evidence at hospitals nationally. Their popularity shows no signs of diminishing, as increasing numbers of healthcare managers discover the benefits for themselves.
Given the critical nature of the healthcare industry, the necessity to quickly source low cost, modern and fully functional buildings is imperative. Because these structures are manufactured off-site to the highest specifications, they can also be installed without causing disruption to daily routines on-site. What’s more, modular buildings can be created to fit into small spaces with unusual shapes.
The Modular and Portable Building Association’s (MPBA) chief executive Jackie Maginnis said that healthcare managers greatly appreciate the possibility of sourcing these cutting-edge facilities both quickly and cost-effectively.
She explained: “Modular buildings can be manufactured with ultra quick lead times and supplied as an extension or an “add-on” to meet peaks in demand. Sometimes, healthcare managers aren’t aware that these structures are available as a permanent – as well as a temporary – option at a cost to suit their needs. Other major benefits of modular buildings include energy compliance, meeting the latest regulations and the ability to create buildings that are designed to meet the precise specifications of that hospital’s requirements.”
Fully functional hospital buildings
Modular units are planned and designed to suit specific user requirements. Buildings are also created off-site in a factory, which enables urgent clinical services to be delivered faster, resulting in minimum disruption in a hospital.
Jackie added that a misconception – in some quarters – is that once a modular building has been installed, it can’t subsequently be moved and used elsewhere.
She continued: “The beauty of temporary buildings is that they can be removed and reused in other parts of that hospital complex – or elsewhere – as the need arises.
“Modular buildings are constructed to the latest healthcare standards, fully compliant to all building regulations and encompass ‘Part L’ energy efficiency – which means some modular buildings also have lower carbon emissions. Members of the MPBA produce the required Energy Performance Certificates, so a customer can be certain of the energy rating for a building.”
Jackie added that it’s the ‘flexibility’ of a modular approach that gives healthcare managers the greatest benefits, which is particularly relevant when it comes to urgent and difficult projects. The length of time it takes to install new modular buildings will vary according to a hospital’s specific requirements and the ease of access to the site among many more considerations, but it will always be quicker than ‘conventional’ construction projects.
Jackie adds: “The benefits of a quick installation combined with minimal on-site disruption are not to be overlooked. And they’re also major reasons for the increasing popularity of modular buildings within the healthcare sector. But those healthcare managers thinking of going down the modular route should talk to industry directly. This will without doubt save money. The Modular and Portable Building Association has members who have been fully vetted before joining. Our members will consistently provide the highest quality structures and meet the needs of any healthcare project.”
Princess Royal University Hospital
Princess Royal University Hospital, in Kent, recently found itself with what seemed like an insurmountable problem, as increasing patient numbers were stretching the limits of the hospital’s facilities. A critical decision unit, where patients could be cared for while an assessment is made to decide where in the hospital they should be treated, was needed urgently. The building of this new critical decision unit was completed in under eight weeks from breaking ground through to completing the building, including all services connections to the main hospital.
MPBA member Wernick Buildings won the tender for the project with a modular approach that could address the hospital’s complicated requirements. Simon Reffell, director of Wernick Buildings, explained: “Traditional methods of construction may have taken more than twice as long to deliver this building, and that’s without factoring in possible weather delays. Quite apart from having the extra facilities that much sooner, a shorter build time also reduces the disruption to the rest of the hospital. This really is an excellent example of how modular can offer innovative solutions for complicated construction projects.”
It was decided that the best place for the new building was in the existing ambulance bay adjacent to the Accident and Emergency ward. However, from a construction point of view this area offered several challenges of its own.
Hemmed in on three of its four sides, and sitting partly above the entrance to the underground car park, any solution would need to overcome problems of severely limited space and weight distribution. With a raft of complications facing the otherwise ideal site, the hospital needed someone who could overcome these engineering issues in such a tight space, while providing high quality patient accommodation.
As the modular bays were built off site, the only challenge the limited space posed was during craning. There was just enough space to allow the crane to sit within the hospital boundaries, and drop in the eight modules from the lorries delivering them on an adjacent road. With the modules in place and a link established to the existing building, the final stages of fitting out could begin, bringing the unit up to HTM (Health Technical Memoranda) and DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliance.
The fit-out included bedhead trunking incorporating medical gasses, nurse call systems, access control and CCTV fire escape ramps and nurse stations. The inclusion of air conditioning also proved to be very popular with staff, providing a comfortable environment in the building – especially during the recent summer months.
Princess Alexandra Hospital
Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, identified the need for additional space to help cope with increased demand over the winter period and a fully services 20-bed ward facility was constructed in less than three months. Portakabin were responsible for the construction and worked closely with the hospital’s trust on the design of its new interim ‘short stay assessment unit’ and final drawings were approved overnight.
Clive Austin, project lead manager at Princess Alexandra Hospital, said that he and his colleagues were ‘delighted’ with the new building.
He said: “We went out to a number of modular building suppliers and Portakabin was the first to ensure a handover date within our timescales. We were confident in the company’s track record and that Portakabin Hire buildings met the required NHS standards. Its Crown Commercial Service framework agreement also allowed us to fast track the order.
“It meets all permanent building standards and complies with NHS requirements, which means it will serve us well for as long as we need it. Portakabin worked with us around the clock to meet the deadline and incredibly, this fully serviced facility was completed in just 10 weeks. The building was handed over three days ahead of programme – a remarkable achievement given the time constraints and scale of the building.”
The gradient of the site required extensive ground works, including five foot foundation pads which Portakabin completed within just one week of receiving the order. Portakabin handled every aspect of the build, giving the Trust a single point of contact for the entire project.
The work carried out included all site works, installation of climate control systems, data communications, fire alarms, nurse call systems, bedhead trunking, medical gas services, automated doors, video entry, furnishings and a link bridge to connect the new ward to the main hospital.
The 747m2 building incorporates a mix of four-bed and single-bed ensuite rooms, a large reception area, nurses’ station, shower rooms, kitchen, utility rooms, quiet room and stores This project is now being used by Portakabin Hire to demonstrate how it delivers interim building solutions to help healthcare providers meet response times during peak periods. It delivers short-term solutions for ward accommodation, recovery suites, dialysis units, diagnostics, out‑patient departments and treatment centres.
All the hospital facilities are constructed to the latest healthcare standards, including HTM (Health Technical Memoranda), HBN (Health Building Notes), SHTM (Scottish Health Technical Memoranda) and HAI-SCRIBE (Healthcare Associated Infection System for Controlling Risk in the Built Environment).