Simon Bird, senior associate, LOM architecture and design
Pinner Park is a 1930s school in north London that wanted permanent accommodation for its temporary ICT and music blocks. The school is arranged around a courtyard that had a pond in it, which was underused. We proposed that the new spaces go within a three-storey space in the courtyard and we chose the oval shape so that we did not overly compromise light levels in the existing classroom spaces facing into it.
We chose a prefabricated system because there were a host of logistical and noise issues associated with building during school time — particularly carrying out piling work for the new structure.
We put Modular UK forward because we felt it gave us the confidence that it could deliver on building standards. There were a few issues over costings initially, but we found a workable solution that met the budgetary constraints and it finally came in at £0.7m. Designed and built off-site, the two-storey block was craned in over two days while the school was on holiday.
The system had other benefits. Being structurally discrete, we could install acoustic breaks between the floors that overcame the problem of installing a music room over a library. With rubber pads installed on the edges where the loads were taken down, there was no sound transfer from one block to another.
Modular also incorporated ductwork into the music room as part of a passive ventilation system using wind cowls on the roof that allowed the space to be conditioned without the need to open windows and compromise the acoustics for the rest of the school.
Everyone seems to be really enjoying the new spaces, and with its 30-year design life, it’s really added value. The building can even be lifted up at a later date to install a cafe/restaurant.
Szerelmey has installed a travertine stone ceiling in the reception area of the Rothschild bank’s new headquarters in the City of London, designed by Dutch architect OMA. Assembled offsite in separate panels, it eliminated the use of wet trades and took only 20% of the time it would traditionally take to install such a ceiling. The lightweight prefabricated panels were formed by gluing the stone onto aluminium honeycomb backing and then cutting it to the designed size for installation using a conventional suspended ceiling fixing system.
French manufacturer Baühu is marketing its affordable steel frame houses and “kit homes”. Each prefabricated house kit contains all the components required to assemble the building, including wall panels, wall connection profiles, roof structure, insulation and suspended ceiling components, double glazed PVC window units, internal and exterior doors and frame sets, decorating materials, electrical installation equipment and sanitary ware.
Low-cost versions of the system start at £30 + VAT per ft2. They deliver worldwide.
Spacehus UK is the sole partner of Trivselhus, a firm that has been making prefabricated homes in Sweden for more than 50 years. The firm has developed timber-framed modular solutions using around 20 components rather than the hundreds used in traditional construction.
In just two days from construction of the foundations, both bathrooms and the aluminium or zinc roof can be installed. Panels are then installed around the bathroon pods, followed by interior walls and services. Homes can be fully completed in 8-10 weeks.
Try to ensure that the building system can be tailored to meet your project requirements. The offsite specialist should be able to accommodate large open plan areas, heavily-serviced facilities and change the layout, or extend and reduce the building in size at a later date.
Look at how other sectors have used modular buildings. Visit a recently completed project in your area. This will allow you to assess the quality of the supplier’s buildings and services. For further reassurance, always obtain references and speak to previous customers.
Check the supplier’s service commitments and that they have the knowledge and expertise to advise on the optimum module configuration for your project. Will the supplier work with your team to meet specific project requirements? Will they appoint a dedicated project manager? How quickly can the building be delivered? Is there sufficient stock or capacity to meet your requirements?
In the case of pre-owned or recycled modular buildings, check the supplier’s purchasing criteria. Wherever possible, the supplier should only source buildings manufactured by organisations that are certified to ISO 9001 for quality assurance.
Check that the off-site specialist has the appropriate knowledge and expertise to ensure Building Regulations compliance, particularly with Part L2A 2010. You should also look closely at the supplier’s previous track record in constructing Part L 2010 compliant buildings.
Be aware that as in any other sector, not all suppliers are the same and not all will be able to provide the services or quality standards you require.
By Kevin Jones, managing director of Foremans Relocatable Building Systems