Modular student accommodation (UK)

During recent years modular construction has become very popular, especially in busy London areas, specifically in the hotel and residential sectors where speed in completing large residential blocks is a significant factor for developers and housing associations who have tight targets and timeframes for selling or renting the apartments.

Modular student accommodation (UK)

Residential units are often pre-fabricated off-site as a whole, including bathrooms and services.  Once modular units are assembled and sealed they become one integrated wall, floor and roof assembly. They then arrive to site in blocks and are fixed to the construction frame by the use of crane or hoist, depending on the weight.

Alternatively, in some cases where procurement of ‘full’ modules is not viable, some building components are pre-fabricated off-site such as utility cupboards, kitchen pods, bathroom pods or risers.

Because these modules offer a variety of benefits including high quality, innovation, sustainability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and shorter time to completion, they are very popular in the education sector and student accommodation in particular.

Key benefits of pre-fabricated modules include:

  • Better quality
  • Less number of trades required on site
  • Shorter programme
  • Lower contractor’s preliminaries
  • Better construction access and reduced footprint

Why is this type of construction so advantageous in the student accommodation sector?

Time is of the essence on all construction projects. When it comes to the education sector where school and university term timetables are fixed, delays in construction are considered intolerable and impossible for clients to accept. Therefore modular type of construction is valuable in this sector as construction of the modules occurs simultaneously with the works on site, allowing projects to be completed faster, often in half the time (30% to 50% sooner than traditional construction). Modules are built using the same materials and designed to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities – but quicker. Over 60% of the construction is completed inside a factory, which mitigates the risk of weather delays.

Another important factor of modular type of construction is that it ensures better construction quality management. Materials delivered to factories are safely and securely stored to prevent damage or deterioration. Quality is managed better than on conventional “on site” construction projects.

In restricted London areas, access to site is extremely important. Modular construction reduces site disruption, vehicular traffic and improves safety and security. On-site traffic is significantly reduced from workers, equipment and suppliers.

…construction of the modules occurs simultaneously with the works on site, allowing projects to be completed faster, often in half the time…

Modular construction also plays a significant part in sustainable design. Building in a controlled environment reduces waste. This, together with improved quality management significantly reduces activity and disturbance on site and therefore promotes sustainability.

Modular type of construction has a definite future in the construction industry. Whereas it’s not always practical on bespoke designs, it is on projects where design is repeatable, like student accommodation.

Student accommodation projects built in modular type of construction:

Pure Student Living Bankside

Location: Southwark, 51 Ewer Street, London, SE1 0NR
Client: Generation Estates
Completion: Summer 2012

Construction of 150 bed student residence with a single storey basement. The building includes ground floor and seven upper floors constructed in modular form.

Pure Student Living Hammersmith

Location: Hammersmith Palais, 230 Shepherds Bush Road, London, W6 7NL
Client: Joint venture between the Carlyle Group and Generation Estates
Completion: Summer 2013

The demolished Palais has been replaced by three blocks of between four and nine storeys on the site and provide accommodation for 418 students.The ground floor and basement levels of the building create 23,000 sq ft of leisure space for use by the local community.

Prodigy Living – Chapter Highbury

Location: Islington, 309 Holloway Rd, London N7 9DS
Client: UNITE Group Plc
Completion: Summer 2015

413 modules consisting of 195 en-suite bedrooms and 39 kitchens. This project also benefitted from frameless lifting, which removed the requirement for heavy and expensive lifting tools.