Modular on Trend for Creative Hub

24th June, 2021

Finalist in the Offsite Awards in two categories, Boho 8 is the latest phase of Middlesbrough's commercial campus for the town's digital media, technology and creative sectors and illustrates what offsite can provide for the technology and creative sectors.

Supported by the Local Growth Fund from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, the £2.5million project, provides additional growth space for local companies and is also intended to attract a new cohort of creative businesses to the area.

Middlesbrough Council carried out a 'demand survey' with digital and creative companies based in and around Middlesbrough, this demonstrated that there were high levels of growth but no suitable quality office accommodation. The timescales these companies identified meant the Council had to consider alternative methods of construction to traditional build.  The additional offices were required as a matter of urgency to ensure expanding companies remained in Middlesbrough and continued to provide local employment opportunities. 

Modular construction was identified as a means to deliver high-quality, environmentally friendly units that could be in situ in six months to meet this demand.  The production methods involved ensured that materials were used more efficiently and accurately, eliminating onsite waste. On average 67% less energy is required to produce a modular building and up to 50% less time is spent onsite when compared to traditional methods, resulting in up to 90% fewer vehicle movements which in turn, reduces carbon emissions.

Consortium Procurement Construction (CPC) worked closely with Middlesbrough Council and Faithful+Gould (F&G) through the MB1 Modular Buildings Framework – resulting in the appointment of modular specialists M-AR to deliver the complete project, from groundworks to final commissioning. The award-winning concept by Seymour Architecture creates high-quality facilities encompassing four, one to three-storey modular cantilevered buildings ranging from 1,000 to 3,000sq ft delivered by main contractor M-AR who designed, engineered, manufactured and installed the volumetric modular solution.

Predictability of Price, Programme and Performance
From the outset, the Council worked with consultants F&G to benchmark costs, timescales, quality standards and energy efficiency of modular technology against traditional construction methods. Through this work the Council agreed there would be little cost difference between modular and traditional approaches and placed the emphasis on the speed, safety and quality standards of the development. 

The supply chain simplicity offered via M-AR's complete turnkey modular approach, removed many complexities from the critical construction timeline. The pandemic had the potential to create serious challenges for this build, but the modular approach delivered predictability of price, programme and building performance. M-AR are at the forefront of advanced building technologies, ensuring projects are digitally constructed and virtually tested before they enter the company's controlled manufacturing environment. This technology-led approach consistently reduces defects and increases quality and accuracy.

The project began in August 2020, with the modules being manufactured at M-AR's offsite factory facility where quality controls are embedded into the manufacturing processes. Modular builds are not susceptible to poorly specified products as time is taken upfront to validate the correct specification of materials. With a powerful combination of controlled deliverables and customisable outputs, modular construction provides repeatable quality and enhanced building performance. Simultaneously M-AR's groundwork team carried out all elements of ground remediation, drainage, strip foundations and RC piers, cross-site services, retaining walls, steps, podia seating together with hard and soft landscaping.

Just eight weeks later, four office blocks consisting of 18 individual 49sq m modules were completed and quality checked and were installed over a five-day period. Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Great buildings attract jobs and investment. They can also help create better working environments which stimulate good mental health and productivity – Boho 8 definitely does that."

Full Turnkey Package
The modular units are steel frame with a Class B HPL Formica cladding system on 110mm rockwool slab insulated rail system. Total fit out was included in M-AR's full turnkey package which consisted of open planned office space, toilet and kitchen facilities, all finished with suspended ceilings, carpeting and tiled floors to wet areas. The majority of M&E was factory-installed with final connections between modules and floors and roof mounted equipment taking place on-site followed by testing and commissioning. The innovatively designed and constructed light, bright and inspiring offices provide ideal spaces for ambitious and contemporary businesses. Achieving excellent EPC Rating of A and air permeability of 4.69 m2/(h.m2) @50 Pa – this will reduce heating requirements and carbon emissions for the lifetime of the buildings.

"The quality of the development and the fit out of the office units is equal to, if not higher quality than traditional build methods," said Michael Canavan, Project Manager for Middlesbrough Council. "All parties involved in the Boho 8 project have been extremely impressed. The speed of delivery and certainty around offsite construction provides more reassurance that projects will be delivered on time and within budget.  Boho 8 is a perfect example of this, having been delivered on time and within budget whilst navigating the implications from Brexit and freedom of trade as well as two lockdowns as a result from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"There have been a number of traditional construction projects that were adjacent to Boho 8 on-site before and were due to complete before Boho 8 that have still not completed.  The Council will definitely use offsite technology as part of its future development projects and is currently looking at potential sites where the construction method would be better suited to deliver the Council's ambitions."

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