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Tom Hall looks at how modular construction can answer healthcare's need for more space

The shift to modular and off-site methods of construction is gaining momentum.

It is proving highly successful in the healthcare sector, where there are a growing number of projects using prefabrication methods.

The benefits of these methods, including reduced build times; less disruption and better building outcomes, are ideal for the healthcare sector, where speed and cost management are critical.

In February 2020, the UK government announced a £2.7 billion building programme for the NHS, and it specifically asked for modern methods of construction to be used to deliver on that programme.

Health minister Caroline Dineage said at the time: “We are encouraging the NHS to make the most of a range of modern construction approaches, including off-site manufacturing and standardisation, such as repeatable room design.”

The COVID-19 crisis has brought the benefits of a modular approach to the fore, with the NHS offering guidance for procurement teams on using these methods to expand healthcare delivery capacity (triage rooms, showering facilities or entire wards) with minimal disruption – and at speed.

The key to success is early collaboration with experienced partners.

Tom Hall Tom Hall Corporate Solutions Business Development Manager

Higher quality

The terms ‘modular’, ‘prefabricated’ and ‘off-site’ have technically different meanings.

However, the common characteristic they share is that they shift the main elements of construction work into factories and off-site.

There are now numerous studies showing the benefits of this approach, such as fewer errors in assembly, less re-working and higher levels of health and safety for workers.

Building services such as ventilation, air conditioning and hot water delivery are crucial for the operation of hospitals. Applying these within a modular build delivery project is essential for success.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we have many years’ experience dealing with the challenge of off-site and have a range of products that are highly suitable for the ‘modular’ approach.

Modular heating and cooling 

Choice of system makes a big difference in successful outcomes.

It is now possible to provide electric space heating, air conditioning and hot water supply. Avoiding the need for a gas connection saves time and installation costs once the building is on-site.

For example, the new Ecodan QAHV heat pump is designed for commercial sanitary hot water applications in a range of facilities, including hospitals. It can provide hot water up to 90oC. It also meets all the Health & Safety Executive requirements for Legionella.

For project speed, the ability to deliver HVAC equipment to the factory for installation in the prefabricated sections is vital.

Minimising on-site installation time is crucial to keep on track with tight schedules.

The Hybrid VRF system has proven very useful on off-site projects. Indoor fan coil units can be delivered to the factory for installation, and once on-site, it only requires installation of the external HBC (Hybrid Branch Controller).

What's more, since the fan coil units use water to deliver simultaneous heating and cooling, the only refrigerant in the whole system is in the Hybrid-VRF heat recovery unit – eliminating the need for leak detection in occupied areas of the building.

In conclusion

Modern methods of construction can deliver enormous benefits to any project.

But the key to success is early collaboration with experienced partners.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we have a team of experts who can ensure that products are specified that support the fast, efficient approach – and deliver robust outcomes for clients.

Tom Hall is Corporate Solutions Business Development Manager