UCL ‘pop up’ hub installed in just two days

Portakabin creates learning hub in two days as demand for higher education increases

As the end of the recruitment cap on undergraduate numbers in England takes effect, the requirement for upgrading and expanding learning facilities continues to rise to meet the increased demand for higher education.

An extra 30,000 student places have been made available in England this year, and the Russell Group has estimated that more than £9 billion is being spent on capital projects by its 24 world-class universities, with a large proportion going towards new high quality learning facilities.   

One of the Russell Group of universities is University College London (UCL) where Portakabin constructed an innovative ‘pop up’ learning hub in central London in just nine weeks from receipt of order to handover. This is to help address the surge in student numbers and was achieved with no disruption to teaching.

The two-storey modular building will be in use for two years until significant elements of UCL’s major capital programme to provide new permanent and refurbished teaching space is completed.

The new learning hub was installed in just two days ready for the start of the academic year. It would have taken many weeks had the building been constructed using site-based building methods. 

Commenting on the project, Sam Williams, Capital Projects Manager at University College London, said: “We needed facilities of the highest standard delivered in the shortest possible timescale. This was achieved and it is an excellent, robust building which has been positively received and is being well used. The vinyl wrap has really enhanced the facility and internally we have varied room sizes to suit the type of learning – from large lectures to smaller seminar working groups.”

The learning hub accommodates a lecture theatre for up to 100 students and has three smaller seminar rooms. Portakabin supplied decking around the building, an access ramp, stairs up to the entrance, air conditioning, emergency lighting, and data communications. The building’s striking finish was created using a vinyl wrap with strong graphics that reflect and communicate UCL’s programme to transform its estate.

Inside the new building

The new Portakabin building is sited in a complex location within an enclosed courtyard. This required detailed logistical planning from the Portakabin hire team and great precision for the installation phase with only centimetres to spare. One of the walls also had to be fire rated to 60 minutes, due to the proximity to an adjacent brick building.

Modular buildings for short-term use can now be supplied with an even wider range of architectural options and amenities to enhance the environment for work and study. Portakabin’s range is designed to give interim buildings a more permanent feel. 


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