Modular construction meets health sector needs

Modular buildingsI’m delighted to see that the modular building industry continues to fulfil the requirements to supply hospitals, medical centres and many other facilities in the health sector.
When I started in the industry back in 1985, I was asked what you can use these types of buildings for. In my ignorance and to hide the fact I didn’t have any ideas about the product, I responded: “You let us know what you want built and we will build it.”
Turns out I was right; modular building manufacturers – an industry in excess of billions of pounds – has given opportunities to build anything that clients want. With the methods of construction that are used in the factories today, the industry will, where possible, build to the customers’ requirements.

With the flexibility of size and layouts and with the ever-demanding requirements for sustainability, green issues and waste reduction, modular buildings have proven themselves time and time again.

State of the art hospitals have recently been built to meet the requirements for sustainability, embodied energy, carbon emissions, and reduction of waste. If you are looking to meet these criteria then off site construction in the form of modular or portable buildings is the answer.

This is an industry that continues to make every effort to convince clients that today’s modular buildings are every bit as good as their traditional counterparts, but have the advantage of speed and lower cost. Many suppliers have designed complete buildings, and also extensions to buildings that are added to traditional constructed facilities.

Once again we are about to be subjected to new building regulations. Whilst there is always concern with changes, as an industry we believe that with the skills and knowledge that we have developed over the years this should not prove such a great hindrance or issue against traditional construction methods. Over the years manufacturers have had to consider the future when designing buildings, and with the correct maintenance, buildings can last for many years.

An accepted alternative
To an industry that has been about for some 70 years, we now feel that at last there is a realisation that modular buildings are an accepted alternative to traditional buildings. We do, however, suffer from frustration at the lack of knowledge with purchasing/procurement departments that are under the impression that the only way large complex buildings can be ordered, delivered and installed is through tendering or main contractor route. This is no longer the case.

Many of the hospital buildings that have been made available in recent years to overcome the growing need for increased facilities would not have been possible without the modular industry. Manufacturing processes have moved with the times ensuring that all the correct boxes are ticked.

Progress over the years has been considerable with modular buildings of all types of design and uses now being manufactured and installed. Hotels, hospitals, schools, offices and even prisons are just a few applications – this industry has come a long way since the original concept. Traditional buildings are no longer the only option available.

As with all products it is a timely reminder however that lack of maintenance means shorter life span. This applies to modular as well as traditional buildings; they are not maintenance free.

Modular products
Terminology tends to proliferate in any industry and portable buildings is no exception with their multiplicity of designs and uses. For example, buildings can be described as portable, modular, linked, panel, system or volumetric – take your pick.

Portable buildings can best be defined as those made wholly in a factory and then transported for the installation on prepared foundations. Most but by no means all portable buildings can be removed and relocated to a new site without little or no waste.

The main advantage of this type of building is speed of construction, for example the groundwork can take place at the same time as the building takes shape in the factory. Site assembly quickly produces a weatherproof shell, so progress is rarely delayed by bad weather. Speed of construction also leads to considerable cost savings when compared to conventional building methods.

Modular buildings tend to be larger and more permanent. These are produced in modular or slices, bolted together on site in a variety of configurations to produce the client’s required accommodation.

System buildings are yet more permanent because they comprise a steel or timber frame, erected on site to which are fixed cladding panels produced by a number of different systems or designs.

Finally, volumetric units are defined as factory built modules to site in made-up form. These are typically residential designs, increasingly sophisticated hotel rooms or toilet and bathroom pods for installation in other permanent buildings.

Changing perspectives
It is probably fair to say that historically, prefabricated buildings have received more than their fair share of criticism; considered by many to be a poor substitute to the real thing. But the fact that thousands of temporary buildings continue to perform their function is a tribute to a largely unsung industry.

It is a well-known fact in our industry sector, yet not well publicised elsewhere, that the use of pre-owned modular buildings is the most environmental friendly method of construction. It is also a highly sustainable alternative to new buildings and to the demolition and disposal of buildings in landfill sites. They generate less than ten per cent of the carbon emissions and use less than three per cent of the energy during construction compared to a newly manufactured building of the equivalent size.

Fast track solutions have become increasingly more in demand over the years and so has the need to reduce waste. With buildings manufactured in a controlled factory the industry has the opportunity to take control of these aspects and prove good results.

Modern buildings can be stylish, secure, economical to heat and maintain, and above all, flexible in their use. Designs can include pitched roof, brick, stone or other decorative finishes as most new building requirements need to be compatible to other buildings in the same location.

Manufacturers and companies that are specialist suppliers to this industry know more about the specification required to suit a specific building than the clients themselves, for example hospitals, clinics, medical centres, and surgeries. Suppliers to the industry manufacturers and associate members of the MPBA are all aware of the materials required to meet the demanding specification set by EU legislation.

Many companies now have either a dedicated construction division to deal with groundwork and installation or alternatively work alongside bespoke companies who undertake this and the mechanical service elements.

Modular businesses and associates have been undertaking this type of work for many years, which again eliminates the need to involve construction companies. But how many people realise that when using a main contractor this inflates the cost of buildings? End users should take time out to look at the alternatives within our specialist industry and talk to the companies that are dealing with this type of buildings on a daily basis.

We know from experience that buildings that are sold cost more than necessary when clients do not purchase direct from manufacturers. Logic tells us that there will always be add on costs, such as management fees or other costs incurred due to payment periods imposed by contractors. This can all be avoided by direct purchasing, which may be worth some thought. The words from the industry is “Come direct, save time and money”.

If in doubt the Modular & Portable Buildings Association is the independent body funded by its members and only a phone call away. We have personnel with years of experience who are on hand to advise or answer questions. If we are not sure of the answer we will always know someone who can tell us.

As the recognised trade association our clients can feel confident that all standards and requirements are met. The association helps members to ensure that health and safety, and technical issues won’t be a problem. Our technical committee works with government to achieve technical requirements and considers the financial aspects that effect us all.

Hayes Cottage Hospital
Hayes Cottage Hospital in Middlesex is a name that conjures up the happier days of the health service. It had been a hospital for local people, staffed by local people since 1875. When the NHS decided to close the facility there was such uproar from the community that the NHS agreed that any future development of the site would be for local healthcare purposes only.

Enter John Fordham and his family who bought the hospital and had it converted it into a delightful 50-bed nursing home. That could have been the end of the story except that there was still one redundant building on the site that was prime for re-development. John was contacted by Hammersmith Hospital’s Renal Department, which is responsible for all renal dialysis in West London. Would he be interested in building a renal dialysis unit on the site? If so, the NHS would rent the unit and provide all the medical staff. They wanted to work together to design a unit based on the latest specifications for a Renal Dialysis Satellite Unit.

After visiting two dialysis units that had been designed and built elsewhere by modular building specialists, John and the Hammersmith team were convinced they had met the right people to design and build their unit. Externally, it had to comply with the requirements of the local council’s conservation department. Internally, the design had to meet the NHS’s strict guidelines specified in the latest Hospital Building Notes as well as John’s vision of a user-friendly open-plan design that the patients, who have three dialysis sessions a week, would appreciate. At the Hayes site everyone had tried to keep the cottage hospital culture, but with the very latest equipment and facilities.

The chosen manufacturing modular buildings company had the winning fomula to proceed with the building. For their clients there was just one point of contact, the company handled everything from feasibility studies, design and planning approvals right through to delivery and on-site finishing. The 37 factory built modules that comprise the two-storey, 829 square metres, 24-station dialysis unit were delivered and craned into position over four days. Fitting out took just eight weeks. John considered the end result to be: “Brilliant; the internal finish was vitally important in this environment and the suppliers achieved a look that is aesthetically pleasing, efficient in use and easy to keep medically clean.”

Modular factory assembled units guarantee a consistently high standard of finish. These results in reduced construction time and fewer skilled craftsmen required on-site as a great deal of the work is completed at the factory. Most of the plumbing, electrics, heating and wall finishes are factory fitted. The benefits of this were obvious; the building site is less dependent on good weather conditions and is not affected by skill shortages that may dog the construction industry. Modular construction is faster and cleaner on-site than traditional building techniques and causes less disruption to a client’s on-going business; in this case the nursing home and clinic that share the same site.

The healthcare and education sectors still continue to be the most pro-active in accepting modular construction due to the tight time and budget constraints that generally feature in their build programmes. Specialist features such as infection control finishes, piped medical gases and bespoke medical equipment required in healthcare buildings are installed on site.
Alder Hey Children's Hospital
One of Europe’s biggest and busiest paediatric hospitals, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, chose recycled and refurbished modular buildings for three new facilities. The three contracts totalling more than £1.5m were all completed on time and on budget by a MPBA member.

Working closely with the main contractor, the supplier firstly provided an office building for the hospital’s surgical division. The modular approach allowed this scheme to be sited on a steel gantry above a traditionally built administration block, so the Trust could expand the office accommodation despite the constraints of this busy hospital site.

The second building provides a new main entrance for the hospital’s busiest outpatients department, public facilities, a clinical area, and administrative offices for both the orthopaedics department and the medical division. This created additional space for consultations in the decanted areas.

In just four months from receipt of order, a two-storey facility for the project team managing the £175m redevelopment of the hospital, was also completed.

Commenting on the three projects, John Williams, capital projects manager at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This approach achieves the balance between quality and value. The quality is as good as new manufacture, both internally and externally – but the recycling and refurbishment of building modules is far more cost-effective and sustainable given the strategic direction of the Trust.”

The buildings could be in use for up to ten years until the new state-of-the-art Alder Hey Children’s Health Park is completed.

The use of pre-owned modular buildings continues to increase as more clients and contractors recognise the cost, speed, sustainability and quality benefits of this innovative accommodation solution.

Once a modular building has been identified for use, it is reconfigured and completely refurbished to individual project requirements. The building is then delivered to site where it is craned into position in just a few days, ready for final fitting out, testing and commissioning. This can reduce programme times by up to 70 per cent for earlier occupation, and because work off site is maximised, the approach is ideal for constrained sites or where disruption would be an issue during construction.

About the MPBA
The MPBA is an association for the promotion of the modular and portable building industry working on behalf of its Members and Associate Members. Its members consist of companies directly involved within the modular and portable building industry and the Associate Members are companies involved in the supply of products and services to the industry.

Since 1938 dedicated businessmen have associated together to improve their industry, its products and the service they provide to their clients. The MPBA is an association for the promotion and marketing of its Members and Associate Members products and services and has definitive aims, objectives and codes of conduct. Its Members are able to supply for either purchase or hire
• New manufactured modular and portable buildings
• Quality pre-owned modular and portable buildings
Associate Members are companies with strong business contacts within the industry that are able to supply materials, components and services to Members.

Today in a market worth billions of pounds, the Modular and Portable Building Association has members who specialise in all types of building applications. Many of its members offer a variety of finance packages including hire, purchase and lease purchase. The Association’s members are spread throughout the British Isles and there are also overseas associate members from other continents as well as the EU.

The Association holds bi-monthly meetings at various locations around the country and occasionally at member’s premises. On occasions, it has a guest speaker to give a presentation about a subject or matter that is important to the Association. You can apply to become a member of the MPBA to start receiving the benefits that the Association offers.

In addition to the Council for the Association the MPBA has three main committees:
• Marketing and Membership – Deals with membership and promotion of the Association
• Technical – Deals with building regulations, construction, manufacturing and technical issues
• Health and Safety – Deals with all aspects of Health and Safety associated with the industry

The Association is represented on the British Standards Committee, which deals with modular and portable buildings of all types. The MPBA has published several Codes of Practice, some of which have subsequently been incorporated into the British Standards. It is also consulted by various government advisory committees on changes to legislation, such as the recent updating to the building regulations. This role has proved to be of particular importance as statutory bodies are unable to consult with individual companies and can only take advice from industry associations.

Case Studies provided by the Wernick Group and Foremans.

For more information
Tel: 0870 2417687

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