Responding to an Emerging Market
A Portakabin case study

Page 7: Innovative developments

Housing

In mainland Europe, housing sites contain many innovative forms of building. They use a high-degree of pre-fabrication and pre-assembly of factory-built parts which are then transported to the designated building site.

Similarly, standardisation of components makes it possible to adapt modules to the specific needs of customers. This way of constructing buildings means that less work is done on site and more time is spent focusing upon the technologies associated with the construction. This includes using design tools such as Computer-Aided-Design.

In London in March 1998, the Peabody Trust received planning permission to develop 30 factory-built, modular homes, in Murray Grove, Hackney. This was the first development of its kind to be piloted in Britain. The Murray Grove site has opened up opportunities for affordable housing. The housing is both distinctive and durable and the emphasis has been upon fine materials and a distinct architectural image.

The Portakabin subsidiary, Yorkon, started work in Autumn 1998 and assembled the units on site in Spring 1999 ie through the winter months. Such an achievement is more or less unthinkable using traditional building materials and methods.

In York in early 2001, there were 4,500 people on the council's waiting list for housing. Portakabin is providing 24 affordable homes on a brownfield site on the outskirts of the city. The development occupies the site of a former school canteen, and is arranged four storeys high in a L-shaped con-figuration, with a private landscaped court to the rear. In keeping with the urban location, and clad in red cedar, the Sixth Avenue Apartments repre-sent the first factory-built, multi-storey affordable housing project outside London and will take about 6 months to complete.


Industrial and other buildings

In business to business markets, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals and specialist services, firms need buildings that they can rapidly adapt to meet market changes eg they may need more laboratory space and less dedicated office space within the same building shell and with minimum disruption to ongoing work.

To meet this requirement, construction companies need to find methods of construction that are:

  • clean, safe and efficient
  • guarantee quality and save time.

Sony UK solved its need for additional office accommodation at its headquarters in Weybridge, Surrey with a two-storey building comprising 20 Duplex buildingmodules. The building provided a flexible solution to accommodate 120 staff with fittings and furniture that can be re-configured as Sony's needs change.

In Essex in March 2001 when the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food urgently needed office premises on site in order to tackle an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Portakabin had four buildings up and running, to MAFF's specifications, within 48 hours.

When the University of Leeds wanted a new nursery to accommodate 60 children, Portakabin built and installed their new Lilliput nursery system within five weeks. It includes specially designed features for a child-friendly environment.

Although the sight of a new McDonald's restaurant might be more familiar than the examples listed, it might surprise students that many of these restaurants are modular buildings supplied by the Portakabin subsidiary Yorkon.

Portakabin | Responding to an Emerging Market

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