In this interview with David Harris, Managing Director of Premier Modular, we look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Premier business and the offsite sector.
What % of the factories were open during peak lockdown?
We have five factories spanning 12,000sqm at our site in East Yorkshire. All our factories remained at capacity throughout the lockdown and continue to do so.
During the peak, we had a range of building types going through the factory and for both permanent and interim projects. These included schemes for the MOD, school buildings and construction site accommodation to support new residential and commercial developments.
Examples of changed operating procedures that met social distancing requirements
We extended working hours to allow us to create more space in the factory whilst minimising the impact on productivity and output. Work was separated out in the factory by having teams working in specific cells.
To maintain safety, we re-looked at PPE, installed a significant amount of signage to give clarity on new ways of working and used daily meetings and toolbox talks.
Our buildings move through the factory in a sequential process, so it is relatively easy to avoid work being carried out by different trades in the same area at the same time. This makes social distancing much more controllable in a factory than on a construction site.
How social distancing requirements on delivery to site are met
Around 80 per cent of construction work and fitting out is carried out in the factory so we have a relatively small amount of work to do on site. Our installation crews are small so social distancing requirements have had very minimal impact for us on site.
As with work in the factory, hours were extended slightly to facilitate social distancing and we used daily toolbox talks and briefings to ensure everyone was up-to-date with any new procedures.
Examples of any new orders/enquiries since lockdown
Working with BAM, we have completed a 1700sqm interim modular building project to accommodate essential facilities at the Nightingale Exeter – a new hybrid acute hospital. We reduced the programme for designing, reconfiguring and installing five single storey modular buildings from four months to just four weeks.
We have received design orders for a number of hospital buildings to provide additional ward space and orders for temporary school buildings which need to be ready for September.
We are also seeing an influx of new orders and enquiries for construction site accommodation. This is a result of projects being delayed which are now re-starting.
Our largest recent order is from Buckinghamshire Council - a £7.5m contract for the offsite construction of 58 apartments which will provide facilities for homeless people and their families in urgent need of housing. Work will start on site this summer and is due for completion in 2021.
Looking forward, we are anticipating increased demand for education projects which were delayed by the pandemic. The pressure to deliver these buildings in a shorter time to meet the demand for school places is likely to result in wider use of offsite construction.
The Government has also announced significant investment in healthcare, infrastructure and education and with a presumption in favour of offsite – so even in a smaller economy, we are expecting the number of offsite projects to increase.