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News - June 2019
Repair v Replace
A modular approach to construction is becoming increasingly common across the healthcare industry.
There are many reasons for this. But one of the primary drivers is sustainability.
Contractors are increasingly obliged to take this into account when delivering projects, something that’s driven by Government expectation and amplified public scrutiny.
And for those operating in the public sector – such as with government-funded healthcare projects – a sustainable approach is all the more important as they’re expected to lead the way in promoting environmentally-friendly ways of working.
The construction industry is one of the largest consumers of raw materials, and a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s no surprise that its sustainability is under increasing evaluation.
The modular approach, where building components are created and turned into modules within a factory setting before being transported to site, provides a greener way of working.
This is because prefabricated materials tend to use a lot less energy in their creation as well as allowing for fewer mistakes, thanks to the controlled environment in which they’re constructed.
Another element for the popularity of prefabrication relates to material longevity.
Regulations relating to the lifespan of buildings are starting to be enforced, with those surpassing the limit - 50 years according to the EU, for example - needing to be removed.
Pre-fabricated materials are easier to retrieve and re-use in this instance, so, in that regard, the industry is planning for a more-sustainable future.
The speed of construction is also greatly enhanced, while disruption to nearby business, residents and, with healthcare in mind, patients is minimised.
So, with the modular approach well established, how does repair fit into this?
Given that the modular approach often sees construction occur in factories that are potentially hundreds of miles away from the eventual site; it’s no simple process to simply rip out an item and replace it.
A much-more-sustainable and cost-effective approach would see a repair specialist called in to fix any damage.
And, despite contractors taking care to protect modules en route to their destination; damage can often occur in transit regardless, meaning a repair specialist is the most-effective alternative to replacement.
A flexible option
Thanks to the flexibility of repair, it also helps to ensure projects stick to the anticipated timeframe and meet the requisite deadlines.
Replacement can lead to delays through the need to wait for appropriate replacement parts or products to arrive on site.
A repair specialist, on the other hand, can be on site and conducting multiple repairs at comparatively short notice, with the added benefit of minimal disruption to wider goings-on.
The trend towards modular construction is set to continue apace, and it’s something that repair is set to play an ever-growing role in supporting.
In healthcare design, in particular, there’s a growing trend towards self-contained, single patient bed spaces with associated en-suite bathrooms – a design approach that’s particularly suited to modular construction.
On paper, at least, it would seem that multiple tradespeople are needed to maintain or repair damage to this type of module – given that they’re bedrooms and bathrooms combined.
This view has led to a culture where, in the case of replacement over repair, it’s often seen as easier and cheaper to simply choose to write an item off, rip it out and arrange for a replacement, without thinking about the wider consequences of what that decision entails.
However, repair specialists are usually trained in multiple disciplines and are able to make repairs to a wide variety of substrates and surface types.
This means there’s no need to call in plumbers to replace damaged enamel, tilers to replace damaged surrounds, or plasterers for damaged walls, ceilings and so on.
It’s often far more economical to call in one specialist who can address a multitude of issues.
Another impact is landfill savings.
NHS trusts, in particular, need to be wary of their environmental footprint, and opting to replace a damaged item rather than repair it inevitably sees it end up in landfill.
Given the size of the NHS, it’s not difficult to appreciate the scale of the problem should damaged items simply head to the tip in every instance.
By embracing a combination of modular and repair over replacement, healthcare contractors will be taking key steps towards a more-sustainable way of working.