News archive - July 2018
A new trend in modular construction
Over recent years there has been a very-visible shift within healthcare towards more-modern construction methods.
The use of mobile and modular buildings, in particular, is growing exponentially, offering much-quicker build times, improving energy efficiency, and enhancing the patient and staff experience.
More recently, in particular, there has been increased uptake of innovative ‘pod’ solutions - purpose-built ‘extensions’ providing quick answers for healthcare organisations looking to increase capacity or improve their estates.
Currently they are mainly being used to provide additional washroom environments in line with privacy and dignity and single-sex accommodation guidelines.
“The healthcare sector is actually not as advanced in its use of bathroom pods as sectors such as residential and student accommodation - although there is tremendous potential to use pods to improve the speed and efficiency of hospital construction,” explains Stephen Wade-Palmer, specification manager for Offsite Solutions.
“By moving bathroom construction offsite, the number of activities and trades on site are radically reduced from around seven different trades and up to 14 operations to a single supplier.
“This is an important benefit for hospital sites, which are often very constrained and located in heavily-built-up areas.
“There is much less disruption, with reduced work on site, fewer vehicle movements, and health and safety is easier to manage.”
Bathroom pod technologies are continuing to evolve as this demand increases.
Recent innovations include floorless pods; concrete-based pods for high-specification wetrooms; and demountable GRP pods which can be used for hospital refurbishments that may not have access for full-sized pods.
“Key to design,” said Wade-Palmer, “is that bathroom pods for healthcare environments need to be robust and easy to clean for infection control and so they are either steel-framed with hygienic walls or GRP composite pods.”
The pods can be used for both new-build and refurbishment projects provided there is sufficient access for installation.
Services such as drainage, particularly for level-access floors, also have to be configured to allow for pods if work on site is to be minimised.
“There is a definite need to educate contractors and specifiers about the importance of early engagement to make the use of offsite construction viable for bathrooms and to realise the significant benefits that can be achieved,” said Wade-Palmer.
He added: “The biggest barrier for trusts is not engaging with the pod manufacturer at an early stage in the design process.
“The use of factory-built bathroom pods should be designed into the earliest stages of a project. This will reduce the likelihood of access issues at the installation and service connection phases and will minimise the number of variations in design and layout to better suit offsite manufacture.
“Repeat designs for bathroom pods are more efficient and cost effective.”
To aid specification, Offsite Solutions has launched the only RIBA-accredited CPD training programme for bathroom pods.
Entitled Modular bathroom pods - what, why and where?, the seminar examines all aspects of bathroom pod specification to help architects and healthcare estates professionals design and procure factory-built bathrooms, ensuite shower rooms, and wetrooms more effectively.
It looks at how to get the best out of this type of offsite construction and the latest innovations and technical advancements in pod technology.
Another area in which pods are helping to meet a need is in the provision of housing for nursing and other health and care staff.
ZEDpods recently announced the launch of a new solution which works by separating housing provision from land prices using existing air rights over car parks.
By taking the cost of land out of the equation; ZEDpods can create affordable houses for keyworkers close to hospitals and public transport links.
And, while car parks continue to function, the properties can generate long-term revenue without NHS trusts having to sell off valuable real estate to build staff housing.
The concept could also resolve step-down care accommodation shortages, with blocks of ZEDpod units being used for patient accommodation - helping to solve the 2.3 million delayed bed days experienced by the NHS in 2016 and 2017.
This readily-accessible accommodation might reduce the £173m cost and be more affordable than the ‘Airbnb’-style scheme of hosting patients in homeowners’ spare rooms at a costing of £1,000 a month.
“For patients that are medically fit for discharge with no clinical need to remain in bed, or for those that await assessment of continuing care needs or follow up treatment, ZEDpods would be a viable solution,” said a spokesman for the company.
“As these could be located over existing hospital car parks, ward space would be saved.”
To ensure easy access, ZEDpod housing can be connected via a bridge from existing buildings, with a lift and stair case added.
Taking just three months to build, and developed to higher standards than conventional homes; they are constructed from fireproof, durable and robust materials and are designed to last as long as traditional build.
And, as they generate their own solar power, their low energy needs would help to reduce ongoing estate management costs.
Looking to the future, Wade-Palmer said he expects pod designs to further evolve to meet more-specialist needs.
He told hdm: “We anticipate the demand for pods for mental health schemes will increase and we will have an extensive range of specialist equipment for enhanced patient safety which includes anti-ligature fixtures and fittings.
“We can also provide factory-built bathrooms and ensuite shower rooms for medium-secure units which would typically be GRP composite pods.
“For warden-assisted supported living schemes for the elderly and disabled people will use steel-framed pods with ceramic tiled finishes for a more residential feel and appearance.”