The government has pledged £2.7bn to build a total of 40 hospitals, including rebuilding six existing sites. However, this begs the question as to how quickly we can get these facilities up and running. The world was amazed when China was able to build a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan in just under two weeks, and while it’s unlikely that we’re going to see those sort of construction programmes in the UK, we are going to have to take a more innovative approach.
Modular building techniques – which are already common in the student accommodation sector and are increasingly powering the build-to-rent development – are likely to be a major part of the answer.
Modular solutions are already being used for new care homes. Offsite construction specialists Caledonian has recently secured a £4m design and build deal with Whittington Health NHS Trust for a new three storey clinical education facility. Modular building also has good environmental credentials. The vast majority of the construction work will be completed at Caledonian’s offsite production facility meaning that there’s 80% less labour needed onsite with zero waste to landfill. And perhaps most importantly, schemes such as these can be delivered in half the time taken for a conventional build.
Renting a modular building from a provider keeps costs down and also maximises available remaining capital. The work can be delivered relatively quickly (a ward and an individual operating theatre in around 10 weeks), and the bespoke design means buildings are tailored to meet specific requirements; custom-made to fit into particular sites, And if strategic needs change, renting these facilities means that trusts won’t be left with buildings to dispose of.
One of the many stark lessons that the COVID-19 outbreak is teaching us is that we need to accelerate the construction of new and better healthcare facilities. In that context, modular building can play a key role.