As with a number of other industry sectors, modular construction will play a key part in healthcare next year.
When the government announced in November its plans to invest £600bn in infrastructure - including hospitals - over the next ten years, it also committed to increasing the use of modern approaches to construction in public-funded projects.
There has been a rise in the number of one-off departments being procured by NHS clients through modular construction in 2018.
Offsite benefits health
Many of these are where NHS trusts are looking to add single in-patient wards or operating theatre facilities at existing sites to cope with clinical pressures. These types of schemes lend themselves well to modular techniques and are faster to deliver, especially when combined with the ProCure 22 repeatable rooms and standard components.
In many instances they can also be rented, minimising the need for capital cost investment.
The upgrade and modernisation of mechanical and electrical (M&E) plant and M&E modules is another area of in-demand work in healthcare that works well with an offsite construction approach.
There are already some great examples of M&E projects that were handed over early as a result of modular techniques, not only providing access to patient care earlier but also reducing construction times and minimising disruption to existing operational hospitals.
Next year will likely see a marked rise in the number of tenders requesting projects be delivered in this way.
In a continuing development of this shift, some contractors are already starting to develop whole-building pre-fabricated solutions specifically for the healthcare market.
Willmott Dixon recently launched a pre-designed integrated health hub that is a pre-cast concrete frame structure built offsite. Similar products aimed at healthcare clients could be introduced to the market over the coming year as other contractors look to capitalise on this growing trend.
Indeed there is a rise in demand for new integrated care centres, which bring together a range of community healthcare services under one roof.
These facilities, often co-located with other voluntary services, provide convenient healthcare amenities for local people. A focus on primary care to help reduce demand in hospital services will likely bring an increased requirement for these types of facilities.
Following the chancellor's Budget announcement that the government will no longer use PFI and PF2 contracts to fund projects, industry is waiting to see how major capital programmes for the NHS will be paid for going forward.
These types of schemes simply cannot be financed by the state alone. The government has acknowledged the role of private finance to help fund infrastructure, but a new delivery model will be quickly required to help bring key schemes to fruition.
At large, the healthcare sector looks to remain steady in 2019, with a strong pipeline of projects coming to the market.
For healthcare clients, the focus will be on finding quicker, efficient and cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality facilities for its patients.
Jonathan Puddle, Head of Healthcare, Science and Tertiary Education - UK & Ireland, AECOM
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