Decades ago the introduction of semi-permanent and temporary modular structures transformed the construction sector, but as the shift toward a more controlled environment for the sector became more valuable — especially now, building designs have changed to accommodate the need for space.
Modular construction has been revolutionising the sector as a cost-efficient and sustainable solution to build structures faster and stronger.
These include setting up high-quality, semi-permanent buildings for sports events, music festivals, other live events, in addition to triage centres, hospital wards, isolation facilities, and vaccination centres, among others.
Germany-headquartered Losberger De Boer, one of the world’s largest suppliers of quick-to-build semi-permanent and temporary modular structures, is currently helping countries set up short-term vaccination centres to help with the mass roll-out of vaccines.
The company recently delivered its first temporary large-scale vaccination centre in Germany. The German municipality of Recklinghausen commissioned the temporary building specialist to design and install a mass vaccination centre.
Within two weeks, the company built a 1,900m2 facility, where 2,000 people can be vaccinated each day.
At that time, the company had indicated that it has the blueprint ready for a short-term, mass roll-out in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other GCC countries.
“Regionally, we have been busy in Qatar with setting up vaccination and triage centres,” says Waleed Khaled, sales director at Losberger De Boer Middle East, while speaking to Construction Week in an exclusive in-person interview.
Discussing the vaccination centres, Khaled said: “The concept for these centres was developed in collaboration with German healthcare specialists to ensure we met their every need, both in terms of safety and patient care, in addition to creating a decent work environment for medical professionals.
“Losberger De Boer then used this blueprint and adapted it as necessary to meet the requirements of local healthcare authorities.”
Waleed Khaled is the sales director of Losberger De Boer Middle East
Changing delivery patterns
Like every sector, the construction sector has felt the burn of the COVID-19 pandemic. Khaled says that Losberger De Boer has been “keeping up with the situation”. “We have been meeting the challenges and trying to mitigate it [the impact of the pandemic], throughout our offices in Europe. It has been a journey, I believe.”
Explaining what pushed the company to adapt the way it works and delivers projects in 2021, Khaled tells Construction Week: “Losberger De Boer is a flexible and dynamic company. Our products, crew, personnel, and project management team also need that kind of dynamic progress.
“As the first waves of the pandemic were felt at the beginning of February last year, we started to think about other solutions.
“Working with a wide network of suppliers and partners around the world, we were able to mitigate these kind of challenges, including movement restrictions, flight suspensions, and supply chain disruptions.
“We looked into all of those factors together and supported the core team with additional headcount so that we could be well-equipped for the projects to move on,” Khaled adds.
Demand for space
With COVID-19, the inclusion of space has become a key element of consideration when designing offices. Talking about the increase in demand for more space within offices as organisations try to accommodate their people while adhering to social distancing guidelines, Khaled says the company has seen the “highest number of enquiries” globally in this area, as the need for more space has become the ‘new normal’.
“Thinking about new space is difficult for companies and authorities. But, expansion of existing space is a quicker solution,” he adds.
“We have the right products for it, whether it is to create a layout for dining centres for organisations and manufacturers, or an expansion for office space to provide social distancing with proper COVID-19 restrictions in place – all of these have been catered for.”
Events’ offering during COVID-19
Losberger De Boer has expertise working on events’ projects. In Germany, Losberger De Boer delivered an event space for 1,750 people which was completely COVID-proof, demonstrating that live events can be held safely with the appropriate event facilities.
However, the live events industry has been shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic. Speaking about the impact it created on the company’s events’ offering, Khaled says: “The events industry has been hit heavily across the globe and not just in the region. We have been preparing ourselves even to feel the effects into 2021 and even 2022, where we may not witness the same volume events, but 2020 experienced the biggest hit.”
Saudi Arabia – A target market
In 2018, Losberger De Boer delivered 15 semi-permanent buildings for the Qiddiya gigaproject in 60 days. The project included temporary offices, visitor centres, and exhibition halls that can be dismantled and re-purposed.
According to Khaled, the Saudi Arabian market will be a “focus for the coming years, not only for the event plan, which is equally important to meet the Vision 2030 mandate but also because of the ongoing mega and gigaprojects.”
He adds: “Modular construction has been considered as the main component to cater those projects to meet deadlines and deliver quality solutions.”
Another interesting project that Losberger De Boer has been associated within Saudi Arabia is the Jeddah Super Dome project, which was shortlisted for Construction Week Awards’ Commercial Project of the Year in 2020.
Talking about the project, Khaled tells Construction Week: “The Jeddah Super Dome project was a major project for us in 2020. The project is unique in its construction as well as the methodology of the engineering.”
He continues: “It is a free-stand structure without any columns internally and that creates the largest internal space, covering 34,000m2. For us, technically, we are undergoing the testing phase now, where we are testing the components of the structure. The construction itself is finished and will be handed over to the client for the official opening.”
Talking about its current pipeline of projects, and what has been keeping the company busy in 2021, Khaled says: “The majority of the projects in Europe, and across many of our offices globally, are mainly focusing on commercial solutions.
Losberger De Boer has seen an increase in demand for storage space and distribution hubs as a result of the pandemic, with e-commerce replacing regular commerce and more groceries being delivered rather than being bought in-store.
“For triage and vaccination centres, we have already delivered a number of these in Belgium, Germany, and Holland. So that is ongoing to cope up with the vaccination plan, globally; in addition to the expansion of offices and commercial retail spaces.
“We have also witnessed an increase in demand for home offices as a result of the COVID-19 situation. We have already created the right solution for that as a full unit, turnkey solution, which comes with a HVAC facility, and fully-furnished, which can be installed in backyards and gardens, as well as used as a home office. The solution is not very well known in the region at the moment, as the region is dealing with the situation in a different way.”
Future of the sector
“The modular construction sector has gained increased attention from clients and developers. This helps us because, if you compare it to 2017, the attention was different, and that gives us a different focus when working on projects,” stresses Khaled.
“In the last three years, we have already seen an increase in demand for modular construction. It can be applied to build hospitals and different applications.
“Modular construction has been developing. The method today is not just used for a square-shaped structure, but we can create different designs, including building structures over water. This is why the focus for it is going to increase,” concludes Khaled.