Darwin Group MD explains the benefits of modern methods of construction for the healthcare and education sectors during Covid-19
The global coronavirus outbreak has challenged the construction industry in many ways. Supply chains are altering, budgets are being cut, and health and safety measures are tightening. Whilst some projects have been cancelled, shelved or put on hold, the inherent need for both healthcare and educational buildings remain a priority for both the public and private sectors.
Charles Pierce, managing director of Darwin Group, an offsite construction specialist in the education, healthcare, and residential sectors, shares the common concerns his clients are currently facing and how modern methods of construction (MMC) are proving to be an effective solution.
Dealing with tight deadlines
With Covid-driven concerns about patient services becoming overwhelmed, our healthcare clients came to us in the need of urgent solutions to be delivered faster than they could have ever imagined.
The use of modern methods of construction has enabled us to design, manufacture and deliver three critical care hospital facilities for the NHS, all of which have provided thousands of additional intensive care beds.
The first of which was a permanent emergency Nightingale Ward delivered for the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan. Our construction techniques, and ability to do much of the work off-site in a controlled, Covid-secure environment, meant the facility was delivered in less than 40 days.
Darwin Group has also constructed brand-new, respiratory wards at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust – and in less than 12 weeks.
The two-storey build is one that we’re particularly proud of and provides an additional 54 beds split across two floors, providing two distinct areas for critical respiratory care.
The ward not only gives the hospital team more space, but the high-quality structure also features an air handling unit built specifically for highly-infectious diseases. This unit supplies in excess of 10 air changes per hour to protect both the patients and the staff and was installed as part of the modular fit-out.
Delivering at pace is also a huge benefit to offsite, modular construction. At our specialist facility in Shrewsbury, we are able to construct buildings with great accuracy so that they can be efficiently delivered straight onto site.
Our unique turnkey service also means that Darwin Group covers all stages of the design, planning, engineering and construction. Therefore, a client’s whole project sits in-house with us, allowing Darwin Group to shorten delivery times even further.
Aligning budgets and aspirations
In such uncertain times, purse strings are naturally being tightened. However, our expert in-house team can provide specialist assistance with funding applications, while we also offer financial payment plans to help redefine what is achievable within a restricted budget – without compromising on quality.
Darwin Group’s unique turnkey service also cuts out the need for additional services allowing the project to be quoted for in full and managed from start to finish by one dedicated project manager. With client liaison not as straightforward as it once was due to social distancing, having one dedicated lead contact makes the world of difference to our clients, especially during these unprecedented times.
Managing an installation at a busy site
Our healthcare and education clients chose Darwin Group for our ability to deliver new builds with minimal disruption to their live environments.
A project might be taking place at a hospital site that operates 24/7, or at a school during term time, with the health and safety of children to be mindful of. Both settings are extremely busy sites that are impossible to close off entirely for development works.
However, our modern methods of construction allow for these projects to be completed in a less-intrusive way offsite. This also allows us to reach delivery a lot faster than via more traditional methods.
Offsite construction enables major parts of the project to be completed away from the site, minimising disruption and helping to reduce the risk of delays. These modules are then installed on-site towards the end of the project, during the most convenient time, such as a half-term break.
Our in-house construction experts are trained to be considerate of every project’s unique environment. Darwin Group site managers work closely with clients to consider the logistics and safety of a live site and ensure that every project is delivered as smoothly as possible.
For example, earlier this year, we delivered a new education building for Langley Academy in Berkshire in just 22 weeks. The 1060m2 sixth form facility also houses a specialist ICT learning suite and features a large atrium which floods the space with natural light.
However, this was a project where our team had to be very sensitive to the school environment. We actually created a separate entrance to access the site ahead of time by removing trees. This allowed both staff and students to continue using their usual route to school without interruption.
Designing a space that works
With social distancing measures requiring that students and staff have more space, there we have seen a growing demand for school building extensions and new teaching blocks.
Many of our clients have had to respond to the unprecedented circumstances we have all had to face over the last year, and many have chosen to opt for adaptable, multi-use spaces that will be as beneficial for them now as they will in the future.
Our team of designers are experts in creating flexible teaching environments with future uses in mind. Whether it’s a change of layout, or an increase in size, the quality and precision of a modular building means that if its purpose changes, then the structure can be easily modified.
Keeping sustainability front of mind
We understand that many of our clients have a growing consciousness of sustainability and we aim to exceed that. Darwin Group create environments that minimise environmental impact with our high-quality, durable and well-insulated buildings.
As a company, we strive to reduce our carbon footprint by embracing sustainable methods of construction at our off-site facility. Due to the precise and controlled nature of our manufacturing process, our factory produces a lot less waste than traditional construction methods.
Notably, the Department of Education (DfE) has recognised the benefits of offsite construction for schools and is encouraging its use for new facilities.
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