Rising to new heights

Since entering the domestic market, Polcom UK has quickly established itself as a leading modular building solutions specialist, working on numerous ground breaking schemes at home and abroad

For over two decades, Polcom Group has specialised in providing interior cased goods solutions for hotels, resorts, restaurants and student accommodation, with its original Polcom Furniture brand being synonymous with the highest of quality standards, product design, performance and price. However, it was as recently as seven years ago, that the business first came to enter the UK offsite modular construction market.

“Prior to 2013, Polcom was an established manufacturer and supplier of cased goods to the hotel industry,” begins Ben Paget, Structural Director at Polcom’s Modular division. “In that time, we had been supplying cased goods for an up and coming hotel chain by the name of CitizenM, and had developed a good relationship with their board, who were big advocates of modular construction due to its increased speed of construction and quality of finish compared to traditional build. Following the successful completion of its modular hotel project in Lavington Street, London, CitizenM asked us if we would be interested in developing our own modular building solution. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance as it suited our factory production methods, and we could see that being able to manufacture the building units and room interiors would give us a competitive advantage within the marketplace.”

What followed was a two-year period in which the company developed a volumetric modular building solution, producing prototypes, undertaking trial stacks and incorporating façade and servicing solutions. “During this time, we were working closely with CitizenM to incorporate our modular units into their next hotel development at Tower Hill in London,” Ben continues. “A busy central London site, in a Unesco World Heritage location built directly over the top of an active London Underground ticket hall, the 370 modular hotel bedrooms of the hotel were assembled in just 11 weeks, with minimal disruption to local residents or commuters. After successfully developing this project, we went on to construct further hotels for them in London, New York, Schiphol and Seattle. Meanwhile, in the background, we also bid and won projects for ALT Hotels in Canada, POD Hotels in New York, and started a development arm constructing and operating hotels for other major brands.”

Opportunities abroad
Today, Polcom UK acts as the stepping stone between the wider group’s factory production base in Poland and its clients and projects in Europe, the United States and Canada. Made up of an experienced team of industry experts, Polcom UK has worked closely with the group’s manufacturing team to develop client relationships and sales opportunities, all the while capitalising on a growing appetite for high quality offsite manufacture both domestically and internationally.

“The growth of our business in the UK over the past couple of years has been underpinned by our successful turnkey modular development projects for Marriott in Edinburgh – which was our first modular project utilising a completely self-stable modular structure above communal spaces – Luton and most recently Inverness. Meanwhile, furniture sales also continue to be strong in a buoyant hotel market, with many large chains undergoing extensive modernisation and refreshment schemes,” Ben states, before detailing another significant source of demand for Polcom UK in 2019. “Housing is, however, without a doubt the most highly publicised market for modular construction currently, and we have seen a huge increase in interest from developers, architects, investment funds and local government.”

As briefly alluded to previously, Polcom UK’s presence in its home market has also assisted both it and the wider group in taking advantage of opportunities across the Atlantic. “The modular construction market in the United States has lagged behind that of the UK due to a staunchly traditional build mentality and the lack of modular manufacturers able to deliver quality projects over three-to-four storeys in height,” Ben explains. “The drive for better quality, price certainty and faster build times has been led by developers who have seen modular projects delivered successfully in the UK, and have seen a steadily declining availability of skilled labour local to their projects.

“The UK led the way in the development of medium to high rise steel framed modular buildings, with support from the Steel Construction Institute and investment from UK modular contractors, but Polcom’s modular projects took this to the next level, and has led to it delivering schemes in a number of iconic locations. In the case of the United States, this includes in New York’s Bowery district, where our work has raised the perception of modular buildings, and opened the door to a host of new enquiries from across the globe.”

The above referenced scheme was Polcom’s delivery of the CitizenM Bowery Hotel in New York. At 15 floors of modules within a 21-storey hotel – based on a busy road interchange – this was industry changing in the United States. Since then, the group has also delivered modules to ALT Hotels in Calgary and in St Johns – demonstrating the versatility of its product for delivery to remote locations – and it is currently working on three hotel developments with Molo Hotels in the Caribbean. These will further highlight Polcom’s products’ ability to be adapted to suit a range of geographical locations and environmental conditions.

“As we move forward as a business, our primary objectives for the next five years are to refine our manufacturing processes, increase efficiency and expand our production capacity,” Ben concludes. “We will also focus on forging strong relationships with our existing and new clients, and work hard to develop long term supply chain agreements with key hotel brands and residential build-to-rent developers.”

Polcom UK
Services: Modular construction