In this article, David Harris, Managing Director of Premier Modular – one of the UK’s leading offsite specialists – looks at the renewed focus on offsite construction and how it is helping to address some of the biggest challenges for healthcare providers.
Here is definitely a surge in interest in offsite construction in every sector but particularly in healthcare. The speed and quality benefits of taking a manufacturing approach to construction are clear and have been well documented – but are now more relevant than ever before.
The pressure on health services and particularly on emergency care units has continued to rise year on year – and then the pandemic hit.
Complex, specialist and highly-serviced facilities
The buildings required to expand capacity in the NHS can be complex, specialist and highly-serviced facilities, and needed on already extremely constrained hospital sites. There is also the critical issue of minimising disruption to the provision of existing hospital services during construction.
These requirements are increasingly being met using innovative offsite solutions and modular buildings supplied for short-term rental or long-term leaseing. These buildings can be installed on severely restricted sites, in up to half the time of site-based building methods, with much less disruption to patient care, greater certainty of completion on budget and on programme, and to stringent quality standards.
With superior design, highly-efficient processes and a robust and flexible building solution, offsite construction can deliver comfortable, welcoming patient environments. There is complete flexibility to meet short- and long-term capacity requirements, in compliance with NHS best practice for building design – and on some of the UK’s most challenging sites.
The increasing use of offsite in the healthcare sector
Significant Government investment in healthcare is underway – as well as in infrastructure and education – and now with a welcome presumption in favour of offsite.
Flexibility is key. Offsite specialists can deliver turnkey projects manufactured and fitted-out off site – and have the expertise to marry modular with in-situ construction methods to create hybrid solutions to meet individual project requirements with optimum efficiency.
Offsite construction can provide purpose-designed healthcare facilities and extensions for permanent applications, or high-quality buildings to meet short-term increases in service demand or for decant use during scheduled redevelopments.
Leading offsite specialists, such as Premier, can work as a principal contractor directly for an NHS trust, as a supply chain partner to a main contractor, or using construction management. The opportunities for offsite are then tremendous.
Rapid building solutions for healthcare
Premier has installed the final modules on site for a new 3450m2 outpatient services building at King’s College Hospital in London – a major milestone in the build programme. The £21m contract is Premier’s largest single offsite healthcare project.
This large-scale, four-storey building will allow the trust to free up space within the main hospital to help reduce waiting times and improve the patient experience for urgent care services.
As main contractor, Premier is leading the project team which includes delivery partner Claritas, P+HS Architects and M&E specialist, TClarke.
Awarded under the Crown Commercial Service modular buildings framework, construction of the new outpatient services building at King’s College Hospital will provide 48 purpose-designed consultation rooms and eight procedure rooms for a range of services, including dermatology and neurosciences.
The use of an offsite solution is ensuring faster delivery and earlier occupation to the benefit of patient care. It has radically reduced disruption during the build phase to staff and patients, and the surrounding residential community.
This type of construction is also highly beneficial on restricted hospital sites such as this. The new outpatient building has access roads to three sides and is immediately adjacent to the Normanby Building.
The scheme is designed to minimise impact on the environment over its life and is targeting a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
According to Stephen Hatcher, Associate at P+HS Architects: “It will have areas of green roof to encourage biodiversity, a highly-insulated building fabric to reduce heat loss and running costs, energy-efficient ventilation and electric air source heat pump system for heating, along with solar panels for electricity generation.”
Developed in collaboration with clinicians and patient representatives, the interior design will be crisp and modern, whilst assisting patients with sensory needs. To maintain patient flows, the new facility will be linked to the existing hospital at ground floor level.
This project is an example of a full turnkey construction package, including engagement with the clinical team at the design stages, development of a highly-sustainable M&E strategy, demolition of an existing building on the site, groundworks, offsite manufacture, module installation and fitting-out.
New in-patient accommodation
Elsewhere, Premier has delivered a new, purpose-designed £1.7m ward building at North Middlesex University Hospital, reducing the programme to help the trust rapidly expand ward capacity for elective care.
There was an urgent requirement for new in-patient beds following a surge in demand for hospital services during the pandemic combined with the peak winter period.
Procured through NHS Shared Business Services, Premier was appointed to design, manufacture and install a bespoke ward building to be in use for around 18 months.
A building rental solution was chosen by the trust for this project, to fund the new wards out of revenue streams for maximum cost efficiency.
This was a complex scheme that had to be delivered in just 16 weeks from order to handover. Working seven days a week, the Premier team was able to reduce time on site from around 10 weeks to just six weeks, to bring the building into use as fast as possible for critical patient service provision.
Commenting on the project, Chris Kelly, Estates Development Manager at North Middlesex University Hospital, said: “There was incredible pressure to deliver this building to such a short programme. Premier grasped the real-world impact this building would have on our patients waiting for treatment.
“Design choices had to be made in the context of budget, programme and the incredibly-fast changing healthcare environment. This demanded an exceptional understanding of the issues. The modular solution allowed us to maintain services and the highest standards of patient care throughout. We have had really positive feedback from patients about the new facility.”