How do we build healthcare better?

Last month Health Spaces was invited to join a panel of speakers with Architects for Health (AfH) to help drive a thought-leadership discussion on how we can help to build a sustainable NHS estate, exploring the latest thinking in procurement, MMC, digital transformation and the road to Net Zero.

Chaired by Gareth Banks, Regional Director AHR and AfH Executive Committee, the speakers included Sheldon Walsh, Director at Ryder Architecture, Jamie Hillier, Partner at Akerlof, Sophie Evans, Clinical Consultant at Ascom and Claire Ammar, IHP/Vinci Construction.

How do we build a sustainable NHS estate?

This webinar explored critical areas within healthcare and hospital construction – from digital technology and its impact on healthcare architecture, to the innovative ways in which MMC can be implemented rapidly and with minimal disruption to a live hospital site. We’ve detailed our highlights below, but to see the full webinar visit Architects for Health.

Chase Farm Hospital

Focussing on the new Chase Farm Hospital build, a 25,000 m² planned healthcare building with over five floors and one of the most rapid hospital builds to date – 48 months from conception to completion –  the use of repeatable rooms and standard components were key to the rapid hospital build, as well as the decision to use digital technology. The drive to be paperless significantly reduced footprint, with less space being required for storage.

“Chase Farm Hospital’s redevelopment was achieved at an unprecedented speed for a scheme this complex and large within the NHS. Typically, schemes like this take over 10 years to deliver. Delivering a scheme with a construction value of £130m+ in less than 4 years is unprecedented.” – Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

What is MMC?

Jamie Hillier, Partner at Akerlof, a consultancy specialising in MMC services, highlighted how education is key to understanding what MMC is and how it works.

Jamie explained that MMC is not just exclusively about off-site solutions, but is much wider: “MMC is a broad term to describe contemporary innovations in construction, including new technologies (such as digital tools and techniques), off-site manufacture and use of efficient processes to deliver productive, sustainable and better outcomes.”

“MMC should be an enabler… a means to an end, it’s not an end in itself, so it should be there to help support and develop better outcomes in a manner that is aligned to the value criteria that as project managers we set.”

Jamie highlighted MMC in the following way:

  • Platform – standard, repeatable and interoperable solutions.
  • DFMA (Designed For Manufacture and Assembly). Taking healthcare design and linking that tightly to the construction plans and strategy.
  • Offsite: Manufactured off-site in a safer, more productive environment (e.g. this could be on-site innovations to drive productivity and safer environments or it could be pre-fabricated solutions).
  • Digital: enabled through the application of data and digital technologies.
  • Industrialisation: delivered by applying lean, repeatable processes.

How is MMC used in hospital construction?

As part of this thought-leadership webinar, Justin Bass from Health Spaces explained the benefits of MMC in healthcare construction projects.

Modular builds

When we think of MMC healthcare construction we often think of modular healthcare construction – modular hospital builds and pre-constructed healthcare modules. While Health Spaces delivers a lot of modular builds for healthcare spaces, this is just part of what we do.

As an MMC construction company, our unique approach to MMC incorporates strategic supply chain partnerships to provide a wide range of MMC types for different needs that include:

  • Traditional volumetric modular buildings
  • System-build wall panels
  • Light gauge steel frame (LGSF)
  • Passivhaus timber frame modular building
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs)

What are the benefits to MMC in hospital construction?

“When we hear the word modular our minds go back to those ugly grey boxes, probably when we went to school – bouncy floors, poor acoustics, poor installations, rattling windows. This absolutely does not represent MMC any longer.

“MMC systems today can offer anything up to 65 years of structural warranty, they can offer all kinds of facades and can look quite amazing – either as a statement to your  hospital site or blending into your NHS estate.” – Justin Bass, Health Spaces.

Live hospitals are busy, unpredictable and already have significant challenges to staying operationally  efficient without adding construction projects creating additional pressure.

Reduction in disruption at live hospital sites

Justin explained that the key benefits to MMC in healthcare construction is the reduction in disruption to the site operations. When Health Spaces built the extension to Peterborough Hospital’s UTC and Paediatric Assessment Unit, the crane was present on site for three days, positioned on a red route for the ambulances. If traditional construction had been employed, the crane’s presence on site would be prolonged, potentially for a number of months. By using pre-constructed modules, Health Spaces  reduced the number of materials and trades moving through the hospital’s site.

Driving efficiencies with MMC

By creating modules off-site, we can mange  time and costs more effectively. With costs now rapidly rising, MMC allows us to manage cost and waste more effectively. Utilising MMC in healthcare can also help reduce waste and increase efficiencies via batch production.  Construction is also not delayed by poor weather.

Sustainable healthcare construction

The NHS Net Zero promise is  one of the big national drivers for MMC. We are seeing a lot of emerging MMC technologies that are using recycled product and low carbon product to reduce the embodied carbon in the building, as well as new technologies to improve thermal properties.

“MMC is going to be part of the NHS conversion. The increasing pressure on capital budgets will put the MMC agenda right into the discussion front and centre.” – Justin Bass, Health Spaces.


Architects for Health

The full webinar is available to members of AfH only. Become part of an ever-growing network of architects, designers, healthcare planners and professionals who are changing the way we design for health and social care. To find out more, visit Architects for Health.

Image: courtesy of Sreypich Li, University of Huddersfield.

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