Helping hospitals overcome increased demand

Temporary or modular buildings are proving to be the healthy choice for hospitals looking to quickly overcome problems relating to peak-time demand. With the help of Jackie Maginnis, of the Modular Portable Building Association, Health Business explains why

Temporary or modular buildings are now firmly in evidence at hospitals nationally, and their popularity shows no signs of diminishing as increasing numbers of healthcare managers discover their 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. A misconception, in some quarters, is that once a modular building has been installed, it can’t subsequently be moved and used elsewhere.

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.

It’s the ‘flexibility’ of a modular approach that gives healthcare managers the greatest benefits. And this 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.

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.

Off-site construction
As patient-led demand grows, healthcare environments are continually looking to adapt and expand their facilities quickly and cost-effectively. The healthcare sector doesn’t have the time or resources to commission lengthy construction programmes and, reflective of this, the NHS new construction framework has been created solely for the supply of modular buildings.

Modular buildings are built in controlled, energy-efficient environments. From initial works to completion, it takes up to 67 per cent less energy to produce a modular building, compared with a traditionally-built project. Whilst initial, on-site ground works are being completed; modules – which make up a modular building – are manufactured off-site, in a controlled, factory environment.

Pre‑fitted with electrics, plumbing, heating, doors, windows and internal finishes before they are taken to site, modular buildings are now also installed with energy-efficient systems such as PIR sensors, enhanced ‘U’ values and solar panels. Not only is the off-site manufacture greener, buildings are also designed to be energy-efficient for their entire life cycle.

When you build off-site, you plan and construct with meticulous precision. It takes strategic thinking and rigorous co-ordination, but modular construction allows for minimal disruption to staff and patients which is particularly key in the acute care environment. Off-site construction also allows for a 90 per cent reduction of the total number of deliveries to site as well as reducing up to 90 per cent of waste generated as the structure is recyclable.

Velindre Cancer Centre case study
Velindre Cancer Centre is a vital service provider in Wales, offering treatment and support to over 1.5 million people in south east Wales and beyond. The centre is also incredibly busy, with over 50,000 new outpatients being referred every single year.

Mike Ellery, capital development and operations manager, said: “The centre had offices spread throughout the building, some in locations that would be better suited to patient care. We wanted a new office block to consolidate our administration staff in one location, in turn allowing us to expand our patient care areas.”

The hospital chose to use modular construction for the new office block because of the time of year construction would take place.

Ellery commented: “We wanted the building in place early in the year. We knew that traditional construction would be more at risk of delays through the winter, whereas a modular building gave us a better guarantee on deliverables.”

Aware of Wernick Buildings’ reputation as a provider of high quality modular buildings, the hospital contacted them. The building was manufactured in just six weeks in Wernick Buildings’ factory, only 25 miles down the road. While the building process was swift and easy, the installation proved a little more challenging.

Ben Hitchcock, contracts manager, said: “The proposed site was located between protected buildings and a protected tree. The lift also required a 250‑tonne crane which presented a challenge in itself; it took us an hour just to get it on site. When a building is going to be over clad, we construct the external walls of the units using colour-coated steel that may otherwise go to waste, regardless of colour. This can lead to some strange looking buildings, and I had to speak to a number of concerned locals when they saw the multi-coloured units being installed. I was happy to put their fears to rest.”

Once the units were installed, it wasn’t long before the external finish of white render with cedar cladding features, was complete. The building also features external lighting and security systems, vital for the out of hours working often conducted in the building. Internally the building features conference rooms, open plan office space, disabled access lift, toilet facilities and an ADT alarm system.

Mike Ellery, pleased with the finished product, commented: “Staff are very happy with the new building, it’s spacious, open and bright. The on-site team were also excellent at communicating with us and local residents to ensure the finished building was to everyone’s satisfaction.”

This article included input from Wernick and Actavo.
Helping hospitals overcome increased demand

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