Offsite construction and the packaged utility room.

Author Lloyd Preston Calendar 28 September 2018
Packaged Utility Room Logo

Safety First and Last

Challenge: Safety no longer just refers to the safety of contractors on site – as important as this is – but safety of the installed system throughout its life cycle, right up to the disposal stage, when the product is finally decommissioned and removed. Specifiers have a growing responsibility to ensure that safety is maintained during the installation, operation and end of life of a system . When pressure is put on a specifier to accept an alternative solution, how confident can they be that the alternative not only performs as well as the specified equipment but is just as safe to install, just as safe throughout its lifespan and just as safe and environmentally-sound at the disposal stage?

As a nation, we recently marked the first anniversary of the shocking events of the Grenfell Tower Fire. With the public enquiry now in progress, as an industry we must constantly remind ourselves of our responsibility to ensure buildings are safe throughout their entire lifespan – both for contractors and the occupants.

Solution: Pre-packaged solutions allow specifiers to retain full control of the specification of system. System manufacturers have the capability to oversee the sourcing, assembly, documentation and testing of a complete system in a controlled factory environment rather than a challenging and variable on-site environment.

Space Race

Challenge: One of the many challenges of urban development is creating comfortable dwellings within increasingly tight footprints – maximising the developer’s revenue whilst providing all the essential services to the occupier. Architects are under pressure to deliver habitable, revenue-generating space, whilst being required to do a greater volume of work by clients demanding lower fees. M&E designers are under pressure to deliver high performance and efficiency within constrained floor spaces.

A recent innovation brought about by various larger M&E contractors is the introduction of the packaged utility cupboard – a prefabricated pod which is completed in an off-site facility and transported to be installed as a complete unit. However, these continue to create dead space in space-constrained residential developments – they are often made with inexpensive materials in an effort to save on costs. The quality of fit and finish does not compare to the luxurious fittings required in many new developments.

Solution: In contrast to the utilitarian packaged utility cupboard, the packaged utility room not only incorporates all the essential services required within a dwelling, but also creates a usable space for the occupier with a space for a washing machine and a worktop. It also offers a quality of fit and finish which is in keeping with the rest of the project. Packaged utility rooms can be offered with a myriad of customisations or alternatively designers can take advantage of standard-sized units. The ability to simply allow for a required space greatly simplifies the design process, saving valuable time. The benefits for the contractor are also clear – the co-ordination of multiple skilled workers in a tight space causes significant challenges for M&E contractors. With this essential work completed and quality-controlled offsite, the contractor can make significant savings.