13.03.2022 Buildings

Four reasons to buy a pre-owned modular building

Richard Crawford explains how PF Modular recycles modular buildings for re-use and outlines the four main benefits of choosing a pre-owned building.
(Approx. 5-minute read)

I’m going to start by saying a second-hand building is NOT a second-grade building. There’s a lot to consider when you’re specifying a building.

Apart from making sure you get a building that gives you what you need in terms of space and facilities, there’s cost; timescales; environmental factors; business, school or neighbourhood disruption; planning and Building Regulations; and more.

Choosing a pre-owned modular building helps ameliorate these factors, but it will be ‘second hand’. And the term ‘second-hand’ can conjure up perceptions of the building being a bit battered and bruised – it could look used; perhaps the fixtures or fittings may be a little worn, and will it ‘last’?

However, in reality, a properly refurbished modular building should be as good as a new one. It will be thoroughly overhauled to ensure structural integrity; it can be reconfigured to meet your needs, refinished to reflect your corporate image or match existing structures; refitted with all the facilities you need… and if you don’t tell anyone it’s second-hand, they won’t know.

“Although it is a ‘refurbished’ building and only costs a fraction of a new one, it doesn’t feel refurbished at all!” School Manager, Gray’s Farm Primary Academy

How we recycle a modular building

We start by finding the right pre-owned building for your purposes. That may be from our stock, it may be in someone else’s stock, or we may know of a building for sale.

However it’s sourced, the first stage is to establish the building’s condition, its value to your project and to secure it for you: there’s no point making plans to upgrade a building only to find someone else has bought it. Like any potential second-hand purchase, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Next, we discuss and plan the necessary changes, so together we can agree on your final specification and the costs.

Planning and building regulations approvals are sought in parallel with this process, to save time. With an agreed plan – and the building delivered to our facility – we start to strip it back, removing any elements which are ‘past their prime’. This can mean removing fixtures, fittings, internal partitions, plumbing and electrics.

We also remove poor condition external walls, and where necessary we remove the floor decking and old insulation and replace them with new. More often than not, we retain the roof structure, though we do replace roof membranes to ensure air and water tightness.

Inside of a recently completed refurbished project for Tozer Seeds

Once we’re satisfied your building framework is structurally sound, we start the build-back process. Depending on your specification and the standard of finish required, we reuse any elements that are in the right condition to meet your needs, the regulatory standards, and to ‘last’ during the building’s use; the rest, we build back new.

Everything we build is to the latest standards, including insulation, fire performance and acoustic separation in the partitions. We fit new doors and windows or re-use the existing ones if they’re good enough. Plumbing and electrics are upgraded to the latest high-efficiency standards, which typically includes LED lighting, PIR controls, instant water heaters and efficient air-sourced heat pumps; all of which help you minimise your running costs.

This brings me to the advantages offered by a pre-owned modular building.

What are the advantages of choosing a recycled / pre-owned building?

Choosing a pre-owned modular building brings you all the usual advantages of modular construction – cost and time savings, the flexibility of design and layout, less disruption and a quicker build, and more – but there are added benefits when you re-use an existing structure too.

1 – It’s even quicker than a new modular building

Standard layout buildings can be delivered in just two to three weeks from order. Obviously, reconfiguring and refurbishing adds time, but not a lot. For instance, it took us just eight weeks to design, strip out, reconfigure, fit out and deliver a 3 no. 12m x 3m high-end module complex for one client.

2 – It’s remarkably cost-effective

As a general guide, a modular building using a recycled frame will cost somewhere in the region of £800–£900 per square metre (sqm), compared to around £1500/sqm for a new modular building.

3 – It’s highly sustainable and eco-friendly compared to other options

Reducing environmental impact in a circular economy

Modular construction plays a vital role in today’s drive towards a circular economy – offering an alternative approach to economic growth by using fewer resources and minimising the impact on natural resources. And by re-using a modular building you are using even fewer virgin resources and materials, prolonging the complete life-cycle of the structure and reducing the whole-life environmental impact of your project.

Reducing waste to landfill

It’s estimated that more than a third of all waste going to landfills is from the construction industry1, mainly because the majority of ‘traditional’ construction and demolition waste is never recycled. Modular buildings are different; it’s been shown that off-site production can reduce waste by a massive 90%2. There’s less wastage in the factory construction process, and the buildings are designed for deconstruction, meaning materials and components can be recovered more easily for reuse or recycling. Choosing a pre-owned building enables the re-use of significant elements, thereby reducing waste even further whilst also reducing the need for new materials and the energy required to produce them.

Reduced CO2 emissions

We commissioned an independent study to determine the carbon emissions savings achieved by re-using and refurbishing a typical 5-bay modular building compared to the equivalent new modular building.
Focusing on aspects unique to the re-used/refurbished building, rather than factors common to both new and refurbished, the overall carbon savings were found to be an impressive 42% (approx.). What’s more, this didn’t include any savings from the building’s end of life, when significant elements can be recycled again.

Reduced embodied energy

Our commissioned study shows that the construction of a typical 10 bay modular building uses 4.9GJ/m2 of energy. In comparison, a traditionally constructed building requires between 5.0 – 15.0GJ/m2. And by re-using a building you’re extending the use of that original energy input, rather than requiring more energy usage to build something new.

4 – We can project manage the contract in its entirety for you

Including (but not limited to) elements such as initial planning application, CAD drawings, building control submissions, temporary roadways, groundworks, crane hire, installation of refurbished buildings, construction of external ramps and steps, hard and soft external landscaping. We can also provide help and support with arranging your building finance.

Refurbished office space for a local client, Loos for Dos.

And of course, if or when you no longer need the building for its current use, you can have it moved to another location on the same site or transported to a completely different site. We can reconfigure and refurbish it for you, or you could decide to sell it and recoup some of your outlay, and we can help with that too.

Discover our stock of pre-owned buildings here:

Read more about:
The benefits of modular construction.
Reduced CO2 emissions.
Gray’s Farm Academy refurbished classrooms.
Three-bay modular refurbishment for Tarmac.
Energy savings, consumption and spend.

Source1: Designing Buildings
Source2: Waste & Resources Action Programme

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