In this article, James Stephens, Managing Director of one of the UK’s leading bathroom pod specialists, Offsite Solutions, looks at some of the trends in specification and design.
The demand for bathroom pods is unprecedented and continues to rise – for high-end apartment schemes, mixed-use developments, social housing, student accommodation, build-to-rent, care homes and hotels. This is being driven by the shortage of skilled labour, issues with consistent quality, and the need for programme certainty.
The importance of standardisation and early engagement
For optimal construction efficiency, early engagement is essential, and pods should be designed into the very first stages of a construction project. This will reduce the likelihood of interface and connection issues with M&E services.
Pod installation must be allowed for in the build-up of floors and the positioning of walls and should, therefore, be one of the first packages placed in a construction project.
We strongly recommend involving the pod manufacturer in the earliest stages of design to fully optimise the benefits of offsite construction.
It is important for housing providers, contractors and architects to recognise that variations, including footprints and levels of specification, have to be kept to a minimum to suit offsite manufacturing. For example, a 400-pod project with four pod types and three levels of specification will not readily lend itself to bathroom pods.
It is still possible to offer a choice of finishes with pods, such as colour palettes, provided the bathroom footprints are consistent, specification decisions fit with production scheduling, and there is sufficient volume for manufacturing runs of at least 100 bathrooms.
Designing for a retained asset
Good bathroom design should have an eye to the retained asset to minimise ongoing maintenance and operating costs for the rental sector. This means incorporating low-maintenance products – such as larger format porcelain tiles which have fewer grout lines and avoid the need for repainting walls.
We use a GRP composite ceiling panel across our full range of bathroom pods. This type of ceiling never needs painting and so is ideal for rental schemes, helping to reduce operating costs and with no compromise on aesthetics.
Enhancements for GRP bathroom pods
Higher specification GRP pods are another innovation in pod technology, offering a range of aesthetic features, as well as significantly lower capital and operating costs.
These pods can incorporate enhancements to suit shared ownership schemes, such as porcelain-tiled feature walls, tiled recesses above the bath or in the shower, tiled splashbacks, solid surface vanity shelves, wall-hung toilets and full-width mirrored bathroom cabinets.
GRP bathroom and shower pods also have the benefit of an integral tile-effect finish within the GRP carcass, which complements porcelain-tiled feature walls. This innovative option avoids the need for grout and tiles in the wet areas and significantly reduces the cost of ongoing maintenance for affordable housing schemes.
Bathroom storage solutions
Storage is often overlooked in shower rooms for student housing and depends on the level of specification required. Studios and rooms targeting international students, for example, can command higher rents which are reflected in higher specification bathrooms.
Shower pods for the student sector tend to be GRP which are very low maintenance, but storage can easily be incorporated in standardised pod designs. A recess can be added in the shower, and a shelf or cabinet can be positioned above a basin and elsewhere in the shower room, according to the budget.
Combining design quality with production efficiency
Developments in bathroom pod technology mean there should be no compromise on design or quality. But housing providers, specifiers and contractors should be aware of the essential need to follow the principles of standardisation and early engagement to reap the quality and programme benefits of offsite manufacturing.
To attend a CPD seminar to find out more about bathroom pods, visit the website below.