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  1. Modular Court Facilities Provide Solutions For a Justice System Under Pressure

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    Modular buildings have a host of potential uses – from office extensions to healthcare facilities, and from construction site buildings to educational add-ons.

    And there is also the public sector and Government requirements that include all kinds of different facilities for everything from local councils to police authorities, sports centres, care homes and the subject of this blog – law courts and Magistrates Courts.

    Modular court facilities offer a number of benefits

    Thurstons’ turnkey solution for law court facilities means that rapid expansion of facilities can take place, something that is increasingly important for a justice system under immense pressure.

    As with all of our modular construction products, modular court facilities take around half the time of traditional construction methods. We construct around 90% of the structures offsite in our own factories, this allows for delivery and installation with very little on-site disruption.

    Modular buildings can be used as temporary or permanent structures, and the flexibility of design and construction makes it the ideal solution for this sector. Multiple police and prison forces and the Ministry of Defence use our Surecell modular buildings, which are guaranteed for 60 years.

    Surecell complies with the safer Detention Guidelines for buildings and is based on a galvanised steel structure. Reinforced with steel beams and wall panels, along with load bearing floors, they’re ideal for detention facilities.

    Law courts and more

    The UK’s justice system also needs all kinds of other spaces, which can also be accommodated through modular construction. Whether it’s extra storage, office buildings, court buildings or admin extensions, increasingly organisations within this sector are turning towards modular construction.

    Years of underfunding combined with the pressures of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have increased pressure on the justice system in the UK. The pandemic forced jury trials to stop very suddenly in March 2020, with the courts then desperately trying to implement tech solutions for virtual sessions.

    Even pre-pandemic however, UK courts have been dealing with a huge backlog of cases. This was exacerbated by the Government’s decision to limit judging times in

    2019. The court backlog now stands at more than 51,000 cases, and courts desperately need more physical space.

    This urgent need for expanded space by the courts and justice system lends itself to modular buildings.

    Taking on the challenges of a post-pandemic justice system

    Modular construction works particularly well for the legal system, as it struggles to find its feet and catch up on pandemic backlogs. The buildings can be expanded temporarily or be used as permanent structures for courts, and we think it’s likely that this sector will continue to increase its adoption of modular building solutions.

    This also shows how far modular construction has come in terms of people’s perception. Of course, prefab buildings have been around for a long time – for more than 100 years in fact. We’ve been going for 50 years, which means we have seen the technology and workflow improve year on year.

    We’re now at a time where complete buildings with multiple storeys, or large residential estates can be constructed in this way. And, as with residential or commercial buildings, the legal sector can benefit from the speed with which modular buildings can be installed on site.

    Saving costs is also extremely important for the justice system, and the factory assembly of modular buildings means far greater cost efficiencies.

    Over the last 20 years, the Home Office has encouraged and supported the idea of ‘industrialisation of the construction industry’, and are clearly supportive of modular construction.

    In March 2021, the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a commitment of £10 million to encourage adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC), which includes volumetric modular construction.

    The Government’s Construction Playbook explains its approach to the industry as a whole. Clearly driven by the need to make massive changes in order to try to achieve Net Zero by 2050, there is a clear move towards modular building as part of this.

    Modular construction offers a short and long term solution for law courts

    COVID-19 pushed the urgent need for more court space further into the spotlight. It was a problem before the pandemic, but with the growing backlog of cases, it quickly became vital.

    And the Government clearly understands how well modular buildings work for situations like this, where more space is needed as quickly as possible. Part of the Government’s plan to tackle the impact of the pandemic on the justice system is the installation of temporary jury rooms.

    For example, in October 2020, temporary jury rooms were installed across Yorkshire. This allowed eight courtrooms to very quickly reopen for trials. The extra space also needed to accommodate pandemic-specific requirements, such as social distancing, hand sanitation systems and airflow. All of this could easily be accommodated up front, ensuring that the rooms were fit for purpose immediately.

    The justice system is going to need ever more flexible and fast solutions as it fights to get back on top of hearing cases in the wake of COVID-19, making modular buildings the obvious choice.

    Whether these are temporary or permanent solutions depends on the needs of each authority. Due to the high quality of the construction materials and processes used, modular buildings can provide both short and long-term solutions for the justice system.