Portakabin to deliver UK’s first Passivhaus-certified modular health centre

Modular specialist chosen to provide solution for UK's greenest health centre

The Foleshill Health Centre will open later this year

Portakabin is set to deliver the UK’s first Passivhaus-certified modular healthcare centre for Community Health Partnerships (CHP).

Believed to be the UK’s greenest modular healthcare building, the Foleshill Health Centre in Coventry is on track to take just nine months from contract award to completion later this summer and will be a major milestone for volumetric modular construction.

“Offsite Passivhaus is not new, but the repeatability of a volumetric modular approach has enormous benefits when budget planning within the healthcare sector,” said Dr Penny Carey, sustainability lead at Portakabin.

This pilot project is pushing the boundaries of offsite construction within the public sector, as well as the perceptions of that which can be achieved with Modern Methods of Construction

The Portakabin and CHP team will receive Passivhaus certification this spring and the health centre will also gain a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ sustainability rating, but with necessary adaptations to ensure ventilation can be manually controlled to deliver vital high airflow rates for treatment rooms.

CHP chose the Passivhaus approach for its overall sustainability ethos, with running costs, health benefits, and total costs of operation and construction all lower than in conventional buildings, thereby ensuring vital resources are available for healthcare delivery.

The Foleshill Health Centre is being installed on the site of an old swimming pool, which meant excavating down below the foundations and backfilling with the necessary underground utilities and concrete to base the building modules.

This process, and the installation of the 14 custom-made modules that form the £3.3m, 620sq m two-storey building, took only 10 days to complete.

A contiguous layer of thick non-combustible insulation is finished off with a render or panel cladding shell. This acts as an insulating jacket, keeping the warmth inside the building during the winter and solar heat out of the building during the summer.

“Foleshill has given us a template for our volumetric modular approach, which can be repeated, not only in healthcare, but wherever airtight, low-cost, low-energy buildings are needed,” said Dr Carey.

“Our specialist team of in-house architects, building physicists, and engineers can work with architects’ designs to create a highly-cost-effective and efficient modular solution.”

Foleshill is showcasing the flexibility of MMC and is a bold and brave step toward creating a legacy of buildings that will help the construction industry proactively tackle climate change

Architect, Peter Ranken from The Tooley & Foster Partnership, created the initial design and is working with Stephen Magson, architectural team leader at Portakabin, and his team, to bring the project to fruition.

Lee Connolly, head of project design and engineering at Portakabin, said: “This pilot project is pushing the boundaries of offsite construction within the public sector, as well as the perceptions of that which can be achieved with Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

“Foleshill is showcasing the flexibility of MMC and is a bold and brave step toward creating a legacy of buildings that will help the construction industry proactively tackle climate change.”

Fitout was completed at the Portakabin specialist manufacturing facility in York, then transported to the site to be assembled and installed.

Using exacting standards of engineering to tolerances of 1mm, the Portakabin team delivered precise control across every aspect of the project, from design to manufacturing, measuring every resource used and any waste generated.

The building will be heated via an air source heat pump, with no fossil fuel used on site, and photo voltaic panels will generate some of the energy for the facility.

This will be the first modular healthcare building in the UK to be built to international Passivhaus standards, but more than that, it is an invaluable template and platform to deliver more collaborative projects not just in healthcare, but across the public sector

Continuous fresh air with heat recovery will be provided and the windows can be opened as required – a key benefit during the current pandemic.

The centre will also boast low-energy lighting, electric car charging points, and secure cycle storage to encourage sustainable modes of transport.

Annual utility running costs for the building are expected to be a third of the cost of a traditional build, giving significant savings over its lifetime.

“CHP is proud to deliver part of the NHS’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2040,” said Eugene Prinsloo, CHP’s development director.

“Combining the build quality and reduced time on site of MMC, with innovation like Passivhaus, helps CHP deliver the NHS’s estate of the future.”

Dr Penny Carey added: “This will be the first modular healthcare building in the UK to be built to international Passivhaus standards, but more than that, it is an invaluable template and platform to deliver more collaborative projects not just in healthcare, but across the public sector.”

Combining the build quality and reduced time on site of MMC, with innovation like Passivhaus, helps CHP deliver the NHS’s estate of the future

The Passivhaus approach was developed in 1990 and more than 25,000 buildings have since been delivered worldwide.

Passivhaus is a building design and quality assurance process that delivers very-comfortable buildings with remarkably-low running costs.

Key features include:

  • Well-insulated walls, floors and roofs with no draughts and cold spots
  • An efficient ventilation system with heat recovery and 100% fresh air, running very quietly
  • Triple-glazed windows that are openable when needed
  • A quality assurance process that requires thorough attention to detail in design and construction to achieve comfort and energy savings over the long term

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