Portable building companies supporting the health sector

The approach to coping with the coronavirus crisis has been vastly different across the globe. China used the might of 7,000 workers and 1,000 construction machines, operating 24 hours a day to build hospitals but the strategy here in the UK is very different. In addition to repurposing existing facilities to create NHS Nightingale Hospitals, modern methods of construction are being used.

Here, Jackie Maginnis, chief executive of the Modular and Portable Building Association (MPBA), describes how her members are supporting NHS trusts and healthcare providers to increase capacity

MPBA members are rallying to support this unparalleled situation. Both volumetric modular companies and those involved in the manufacture and hire of portable buildings are ramping up to meet demand. Temporary and volumetric modular buildings are now firmly in evidence at hospitals nationally. Given the critical nature of the healthcare industry, the necessity to quickly source low cost, modern and fully functional buildings is an imperative. Because these structures are manufactured offsite, they can also be installed without causing disruption to daily routines.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many MPBA members are increasing their manufacturing capacity to support healthcare providers planning for increased resilience as a result of the ongoing situation.

More than 1,300 people answered an advert for carpenters, labourers, joiners and fitters to help Darwin Group manufacture emergency hospital units to help combat the virus. From the company’s manufacturing centre, wards for more than 150 new beds are being built using their advanced modular design system. The manufacturing centre will be working virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get the buildings delivered in the shortest possible time. The buildings will be going to three NHS trusts in the North West, Midlands and Home Counties regions. The volumetric modules will be transported to the three sites, from their Shropshire manufacturing centre, where the installation and site completion teams will commission the wards for use.

Just three weeks after receiving the instruction, the McAvoy Group team pulled out all the stops to configure, deliver and install a Primary Care Covid-19 Centre at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. The new 12 section building was installed in just one day and has created much needed additional facilities and capacity for staff to assess and care for additional patients. The assessment unit provides 14 consulting rooms, office, utility room, separate exits for patients and staff, reception and staff welfare facilities.

Healthcare construction solutions
Another company ramping up to meet demand is modular and portable building manufacturer Thurston Group, who was given a brief by Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust. The project is being managed at the firm’s production facility in West Yorkshire. Construction work started on March 30. Flattened steel has been used to create seven box units, each one around 10 metres long and three metres wide. They will be hoisted onto a low-loader and driven to the hospital, where a 200-tonne crane will lift the units into position so they can be joined together like a giant jigsaw. Mechanical and electrical items will be fitted on-site before the hospital’s own facilities management team work to install medical equipment such as gas and air together with ventilators.

MTX, specialists in innovative healthcare construction solutions bring together development, design, construction and funding expertise for fast-track building projects throughout the UK. The company has multiple building projects underway – some contracts were awarded prior to the current Covid-19 crisis but are due for completion in the coming week. From a state of the art laboratory fitout for client at Hall Analytical to a rooftop ward extension at Glenfield Hospital and a three storey modular building creating 72 new beds within three wards at Hereford County Hospital – MTX’s range of ongoing and recently completed projects are vast and diverse.

Many modular building specialists are prioritising work for healthcare providers. Elite Systems is manufacturing a 20-bed isolation ward for Royal Surrey County Hospital within an eight-week timeframe. Royal Surrey County Hospital was looking to increase its capacity and following an enquiry in March, the modular building team is now on-site and has already commenced groundworks with a view to the new unit being in place in June.

In total the consultation period, from initial contact to groundworks commencing, took just seven working days. While groundworks continue at the hospital, Elite Systems’ factory team will construct the 20-bed isolation ward in controlled conditions before delivering the modular building to the hospital and completing the final fix on-site, ready for the ward to become fully operational and start receiving patients. The ward will feature 20 individual patient rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. The central space on the ward will be occupied by a nurses’ station as well as storage space for cleaning supplies and linen, a series of treatment rooms, relatives’ rooms, and additional WCs.
As well as increasing capacity, manufacturers such as Elliott - An Algeco Company, are providing buildings for additional services. Changing rooms and showers, as well as a range of furniture from the firm’s 360° service are being delivered to hospitals across Greater Manchester to help nurses follow social distancing guidelines.

But it is not only the manufacturing and portable building hire companies that are stepping to the fore, our membership includes those involved in the supply chain and there are a multitude of companies involved in the provision of materials, sanitary ware, M&E and logistics together with installation teams that are working around the clock to ensure volumetric modular and portable buildings are delivered in record time.

Permanent or temporary
Portable buildings can be manufactured with ultra-quick lead times and supplied as an extension or ‘add-on’ to an existing facility. Healthcare managers may not be aware that these structures are available as permanent or temporary options. When a fast-temporary building solution is required, hiring a portable building can provide the ideal solution for healthcare, testing or isolation facilities. With visitors being presently restricted, valuable carparking space can be commandeered to accommodate these units.

Construction clients such as the NHS trusts, appreciate the cutting-edge building techniques and the short lead times which are a much-needed benefit. In addition, modular and portable buildings are energy efficient, fully compliant with building regulations and can be tailored to meet the requirements of new healthcare buildings or used to extend existing facilities.

As patient-led demand grows due to the Covid-19 crisis, the healthcare sector does not have the time or resources to commission lengthy construction programmes. The team here at the MPBA can help those in need by putting them in touch with their nearest modular manufacturer or those who have portable buildings in stock and available for hire. We appreciate the excellent work the NHS and healthcare providers are doing, and we are keen to help.

Given the critical nature of this crisis, the necessity to quickly source modern and fully functional buildings is an imperative. The MPBA can help and by putting calls out to our extensive network, saving healthcare providers valuable time and resources.

Government departments, NHS teams and those involved in social care can gain help to quickly engage with portable building providers or modular manufacturers by calling Jackie Maginnis, Chief Executive of the MPBA on 01686 430400 or emailing: jackie@mpba.biz