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Is the Healthcare Sector Embracing Offsite Technology?

In this interview with Stephen Wade-Palmer, Senior Specification Manager at Offsite Solutions, we look at how the healthcare sector is embracing the latest developments in bathroom pod technology.

Is the healthcare sector embracing offsite technology and if so, why?

The healthcare sector is not as advanced in its use of bathroom pods as sectors such as residential and student accommodation. The biggest barrier is not engaging with the pod manufacturer at an early stage in the design process. The use of factory-built bathrooms should be designed into the earliest stages of a construction project. This will reduce the likelihood of access issues at the installation and service connection phase, and will minimise the number of variations in design and layout.  Repeat designs for bathroom pods are more efficient and cost-effective.

By moving bathroom construction offsite, the number of activities and trades on site are radically reduced – a key benefit for hospital sites which are often very constrained. The approach achieves significant programme savings for earlier handover, quality improvements and reductions in waste of up to 50 per cent compared to site-based construction

Do you anticipate further developments in design and technology over the next five to ten years and what are they likely to be?

Bathroom pod technology continues to evolve and we are always looking to develop and embrace new ideas and materials to benefit our customers.  Recent developments include floorless pods and demountable GRP pods which can be used for hospital refurbishments which may not have access for siting full-sized pods.

We anticipate demand for pods for mental health schemes will continue to increase and have an extensive range of specialist equipment for enhanced patient safety which includes anti-ligature fixtures and fittings.

How does offsite technology and value engineering maximise NHS budgets?

Bathroom pod solutions are highly cost efficient. Their use allows a number of trades to be combined under one contract, reducing risk. This simplifies cost management and cash flow forecasting as the cost of factory works are more predictable and stable than site-based labour and multiple subcontractors.

Site labour rates, particularly in London and the South East, are growing disproportionately to the rest of the UK. Outsourcing bathroom construction to an offsite specialist can realise cost savings.

With in-situ bathrooms, all subcontractors will apply for payment independently and while there may be a fixed price, costs are more difficult to predict at the early stages of a project, increasing risk for the contractor.

Cost variations can arise where additional labour and materials are required to rectify poor construction work. Snagging and remedial works are hugely reduced when bathroom construction is carried out offsite.

GRP pods are particularly suited to hospital environments. They are highly robust, low maintenance, and easier to clean than tiled bathrooms, which reduces FM costs.

Have there been any ‘lessons learnt’ from Procure 21+ and if so, what are the main findings?

In our experience, designs and layouts are too often not suited to factory-built bathrooms. There is a definite need to educate ProCure21+ contractors and specifiers about the importance of early engagement to make the use of offsite construction viable for bathrooms and to realise the significant benefits that can be achieved.

A very successful project was the £430m Southmead Hospital where we supplied more than 600 GRP bathroom pods working with Carillion. Here we used just 10 footprints and helped the trust to deliver a high quality, hotel-like experience for patients.

Read more about bathroom pods for healthcare schemes here.

Stephen Wade-Palmer, Senior Specification Manager, Offsite Solutions Bathroom pods for hospitals Bathroom pod installation at Southmead Hospital Bathroom pods for the healthcare sector

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