Healthy Diagnosis for Volumetric Modular

16th October, 2021

Stephen Clayton, Pre-Construction Director at The McAvoy Group, sees volumetric modular playing a key role in delivering new healthcare buildings that are sustainable and fit for the future.

The ‘Prefabricated Volumetric Building Systems Market Report’, published in 2020, predicted that the volumetric modular sector would grow by 14% by 2024 – the pandemic may well have accelerated that trajectory, certainly in the healthcare sector where speed of delivery, cost certainty and limiting disruption has never been more important.

Despite its many benefits, the use of volumetric modular to deliver healthcare projects has historically been limited – predominantly due to client misconceptions around design and aesthetics, and the mistaken belief that the end-result would be boxy, grey and uninspiring. However, in recent years we have seen a host of fantastic healthcare projects that have quickly dispelled those myths. Cramlington – a £15million Ambulatory Unit delivered for Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital – is one such project. Integrating seamlessly with the existing building, it was designed to mirror its façade and includes in-situ built curves. 

Along with great design, Cramlington also encapsulates the many benefits of choosing volumetric modular as an alternative to traditional construction methods, including speed of delivery. As the healthcare industry works to tackle lengthy waiting lists and rising demand in the wake of the pandemic, we are likely to see a rise in the number of new healthcare facilities built using modular construction to cut the delivery timescale. At Cramlington we were able to reduce the construction programme by 50%, with the 294 steel-framed modules craned into position just ten months after our initial meeting with the NHS Trust.

Perception has undeniably shifted, with volumetric modular now seen as a viable method for delivering permanent solutions, not just stop-gap, temporary buildings. £3.4billion has been allocated to develop and upgrade 40 new hospitals over the next 10 years and it’s likely that volumetric modular will play a key role. 

 Sustainability is also likely to be a prominent factor in decision-making as the UK gears up for COP26, and in light of the UN Climate Change Report, commitment to developing and operating green buildings will continue to grow in importance. Volumetric modular offers a series of sustainability benefits, from the way buildings are designed and built through to the way that they operate throughout their lifecycle.

Long-term sustainability and resilience are central to our approach to responsible business, coupled with a focused ESG strategy, and that is reflected in all our projects. With each individual module manufactured and fitted out in a factory environment, projects benefit from significant waste material reductions, as well as reduced energy consumption via transport to and from site. There will also be far fewer people on-site, which further reduces fuel and energy usage.

The reduced manpower on-site is particularly appealing for healthcare projects, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Hospitals must continue to limit unnecessary footfall, while minimising disruption to patient care as much as possible. Any new facility built using traditional construction will require a much larger team on the ground, for a much longer period of time.

Along with a tranche of major benefits, innovation in volumetric modular is also progressing apace. New capabilities and technology have expanded the possibilities, including bespoke, specially engineered modules and structural flooring solutions, for example. Intelligent design creates efficient patient flows and a logical, integrated care pathway to deliver an enhanced experience for both staff and patients. The main goal for any provider is to deliver a consistently high quality of care for patients, and offsite construction will continue to play a key role in providing the right facilities. The use of volumetric modular will ensure that new buildings are well designed, fit for the future and completed efficiently on time and on budget.

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