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posted: 30th Mar 2015

Hospitals are struggling with high patient demand and a severe lack of bed space. The MPBA’s Jackie Maginnis examines how the modular and portable building industry can help the situation

The crisis of NHS finances means hospital bosses constantly have to think of innovative ideas to save money and drastically cut costs. The modular and portable building industry has been around for many years and is available to provide low cost, sustainable solutions to hospitals as well as the wider healthcare industry.  Modular buildings can be manufactured with ultra quick lead times and supplied as an extension or an ‘add on’ to meet peaks in demand. Structures are available as either a permanent or temporary option at cost to suit the needs of the client. Modular also presents other fundamental benefits, making modular a healthy choice for hospitals that require an expansion or an upgrade. Other major benefits include energy compliance, meeting the latest regulations and the ability to create complete bespoke design solutions. 


Given the limited amount of space available in the majority of existing hospitals, modular buildings provide an instant advantage to those who desperately need a cost‑effective and bespoke solution to utilise all the space available. Healthcare modules can also be used as a temporary or permanent measure. This provides the option for fully functional hospital buildings 

to be removed and reused if required.  Modular units are thoroughly planned and designed to suit specific user requirements. Buildings are also created offsite in a factory, which enables urgent clinical services to be delivered faster, resulting in minimum disruption in a hospital. Modular buildings are constructed to the latest healthcare standards fully compliant to all building regulations, encompass Part L energy efficiency; this means modular build also presents lower carbon emissions. Members of the MPBA produce the required Energy Performance Certificates, so a customer can be certain of the energy rating for a building. 


An MPBA member provided two 24‑bed and general rehabilitation wards including specialist bariatric treatment areas for Norwich Community Hospital in just 12 weeks. The building was designed to provide a zero carbon rating as well as being designed to meet BREEAM excellent standards. The ground floor ward houses much‑required 

space for stroke rehabilitation patients whilst the upper floor space was carefully designed for general rehabilitation patients, which replaced an out‑dated existing ward. In order to create a hospital building that is green, clean and safe carefully designed ecological features were manufactured including a rainwater harvester for toilet flushing and an air to water heat pump. The pump is self‑contained on the roof of the building and provides domestic hot water for the under floor heating system.


Hospital had an urgent requirement for more space due to the unprecedented patient surge. Two additional operating theatres including associated anaesthetic rooms, a five‑bed general surgery stage one recovery ward, an eight‑bed day surgery unit recovery ward and an endoscopy decontamination suite were added. The new buildings were required as soon as possible as to not disturb existing patients.  Modular build was selected as the perfect option for the hospital owing to the emphasis on reduced timescales, a high degree of cost certainty and contemporary design structure. Offsite production resulted in hassle‑free building and minimum  disruption onsite whilst essential new healthcare facilities were delivered. The design and build specification of Daisy Hill Hospital is now in full compliance with all current Health Technical Memorandums (HTMs) and Health Building Notes (HBNs). The hospital is also equipped with cutting edge technology, enabling medical professionals to deliver modern and effective healthcare that patients deserve.     


Innovative offsite manufacturing techniques and modular construction expertise provided by an MPBA member offered Peterborough City Hospital flexibility of bespoke design and advanced quality controlled factory manufacture. The hospital also benefited from a major reduced onsite installation programme compared to traditional build. Peterborough City Hospital’s new modular accommodation block was installed in just 16 weeks on site. The building also has a 60‑year structural design life with a 25‑year structural warranty. The new build incorporates a comprehensive and cost effect range of sustainable and eco‑friendly features including increased levels of insulation, low‑energy lighting, energy efficient heating systems and water saving technology. Allowing natural light in the accommodation block was a key requirement for the hospital. Modular design flexibility permitted features such as the inclusion of full height glazed walls within communal areas to maximise natural daylight, this met the precise specification of the hospital.  Dr Peter Reading, interim chief executive at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The building has been created in a modular design which means it will be more straightforward to extend it in the future, if necessary”.


In order to help ease pressure on the Accident and Emergency department at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, a member of the MPBA successfully delivered a complex interim health building for urgent emergency care in just six weeks – two weeks ahead of the agreed schedule.   The new Surgical Clinical Decisions Unit (SCDU) built for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust provides 24‑beds in two wards and ancillary facilities including dirty and clean utilities, nurses’ base, consulting rooms and two en‑suite isolation rooms, to reduce the waiting time for patients arriving at A&E. The temporary building will remain in use for around five years.   Other features installed in the new unit include a nurse call system, fire alarms, medical gases, bed‑head trunking and access control.  The new build is linked to the hospital’s existing building and there is a full climate control and an air change ventilation system. The entire internal fitting was completed as part of a turnkey solution, which improved co‑ordination and dramatically reduced the programme time. The modular building system used for this project was specified largely because of its superior energy efficiency, with air tightness performance that significantly exceeds Building Regulations requirements.  The new SCDU facility at Worcestershire Royal Hospital is a specialist unit, which allows A&E patients to be assessed fully before being transferred to relevant parts of the hospital or even discharged.      


Given the critical nature of the healthcare industry, the ability to have a low cost, modern and fully functional building that can fit into small and unique spaces, without causing day‑to‑day disruption onsite is a benefit not to be overlooked. If you do decide to go the modular route, make sure that you talk to industry direct. This will without doubt save money. The Modular and Portable Building Association has members who have been fully vetted before joining, MPBA members will provide the highest quality structures and meet the needs of any healthcare project.


This editorial can also be seen on the Health Business Magazine's website.