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Bathoom Pods - Driving Efficiency in the Construction of New Hotel Schemes

In this article, Richard Tonkinson, Executive Director of bathroom pod manufacturer, Offsite Solutions, offers some practical advice for specifying factory-built bathrooms for hotel schemes.

Bathroom pods have revolutionised traditional construction methods and are now widely used – from student accommodation and social housing, to luxury apartments to hotels. The approach uses offsite manufacture to bring a range of benefits to improve the efficiency of construction.

The number of activities on site is radically reduced – from around seven different trades to just one single supplier. This achieves significant programme savings, consistently higher quality, and on-site waste reductions of up to 50 per cent.

On a large-scale, complex project, the programme saving can be as much as 20 weeks. This reduces the cost of site preliminaries, as well as waste removal and snagging. There is a faster return on investment for the hotel operator, as well as much greater certainty of completion on time and to budget.

What are the Different Pod Types?

There are two principal pod types:

  • Steel-framed pods – offering a premium aesthetic and a high level of design flexibility with traditional ceramic tiled finishes. Applications include hotels to 5* standard
  • GRP pods – widely used for 3* budget hotels and above. These require lower capital expenditure and are easy to maintain and clean. GRP pods from Offsite Solutions use a unique panellised system which creates vertical walls and 90° corners for improved aesthetics by avoiding tapered walls.

New innovations include:

  • Hybrid concrete/steel pods – using a concrete base and steel-framed walls for high specification luxury wet rooms.
  • Demountable GRP pods – extending the application of pods to refurbishment with the use of a sectional structure. In conversions and some new build projects, there may not be access for fully assembled pods. Panel sizes of a demountable pod are designed to allow easier access, for example, via the main entrance or façade openings. 10 demountable pods can be installed in just 3 days, with superior quality and a single point of contact. Site-built bathrooms can take 6-12 weeks to complete requiring multiple trades and extensive site management.
     
  • Hybrid GRP pods – Unique to Offsite Solutions, these allow an enhanced finish and improved aesthetics such as ceramic-tiled feature walls and recesses.

How are Pods Installed?

Factory-built bathrooms are delivered on a supply only basis and the main contractor organises installation via the M&E contractor. The exception is demountable GRP pods, where Offsite Solutions would undertake installation and assembly.

Ten GRP pods can be offloaded in two hours – or 6-8 steel-framed pods. It can take around 80 hours for a bathroom to be built on site requiring around 10-15 operations plus drying times. A pod can be manufactured in 14 hours with just one supplier, which means improved quality, mitigating defects and remedial works.

Key Specification Considerations

  1. Early engagement – essential to achieve optimal efficiency by designing pods into the early stages of a hotel project.
     
  2. Consider access – accommodate pod installation in the build-up of walls and floors. Take account of access for delivery of the pods to site, particularly on constrained city centre sites.
  1. Look at economies of scale – Standardised designs with minimal variations allow the hotel operator to benefit from cost savings and time efficiencies by using the repetition of the offsite production process. A good manufacturer will offer an extensive library of pod designs which specifiers can draw on to save time and cost. This allows the modular process to be enhanced by the repetitious production schedule of standardised products.

    However, pods can also be completely customised to suit the individual requirements and specification of a particular scheme. Bespoke designs need to allow for modelling, prototyping, production engineering, machine programming and production line set up – and for GRP pods, the manufacture of the moulds.

    Left and right hand versions of a pod are variations but the number of pod types will include differences in shape or size. We would always advise rationalising the number of design types and variations as far as possible to optimise efficiency.
  • Steel – for example, a 400-pod project may have eight bathroom designs. Be aware of variations within that – such as left/right hand, location of fan, vent, soil pipe etc
     
  • GRP – a good pod manufacturer will have an extensive range of standard pod types so smaller numbers can be achieved cost efficiently
     
  • Bespoke GRP pods these can be designed and manufactured but tooling costs will apply so this solution is more suited to larger-scale residential projects.
  1. Integrating pods with building services?

Connections to services are made externally so access should be allowed for as part of the installation process. Connections from inside a pod are possible but are slower on site and affect quality.

A good manufacturer will design the pods to facilitate installation, using for example mechanically-fitted pan connectors and the option of pre-wired junction boxes to simplify electrics and minimise work on site.

Other design considerations:

  • The thickness of the pod base can be varied according to project requirements and the size of the pod
     
  • Natural materials such as marble and granite do not transport well and these finishes are not uniform so the typical tolerances that a pod manufacturer will work to may not be possible
     
  • Make sure the building structure can support a pod, although the weight of a steel or GRP pod should be close to the weight of a site-constructed bathroom. With steel-framed pods there are eight-point loads to take the weight of the pod and account for in the structural loadings
     
  • The floor slab should be flat and level to +/- 10mm tolerance for accurate installation.

To attend a CPD seminar to find out more about factory-built bathrooms, visit www.offsitesolutions.com/CPD.

An ensuite bathroom pod for hotels A steel-framed bathroom pod with a granite finish An ensuite bathroom pod for Holiday Inn Steel-framed bathroom pod manufacture at Offsite Solutions' factory

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