The pod approach to new
Cost Sector Catering)
Lee Vines of PKL Group explains how modular, permanent kitchens can be
the ideal solution for schools requiring upgraded catering facilities
Many schools, particularly primary schools, are faced with a need to
improve their catering facilities in the face of constraints imposed by
existing buildings. In these situations it may be necessary to add a new
kitchen as an extension and this can be achieved in two ways.
Traditional construction of a new building or extension is clearly one
option but this is costly and potentially very disruptive to the
Alternatively, it may be viable to use a permanent, modular kitchen,
constructed off-site and delivered fully equipped. This option can be
integrated with existing buildings and be up and running within just a
Both methods are eligible for various sources of extra funding (see
below)and for a straight capital purchase. However, modular kitchens can
also be procured on a contract rental basis, requiring little or no
capital outlay. Also, lead times for modular kitchens are often far
shorter than traditional building.
For both options there are some key considerations. For example, is
there a suitable space that is easily and safely accessible to delivery
vehicles? Also, will the new building be stand-alone or linked to
existing buildings? In the latter case, is there suitable access
already, or will additional corridor links be required? And will it
block existing access routes, fire escape routes or fire assembly
In the case of traditional construction it will also be necessary to
plan for several months of disruption to school activities and make safe
arrangements for regular deliveries of construction materials.
In contrast, once delivered to site a modular kitchen pod simply needs
to be connected to services and commissioned, taking a few days– often
over a weekend.
Aesthetics may also be an important consideration and, if required,
modular buildings can be clad to match most building fabrics or, if
preferred, made to look completely different.
Clearly, it’s also vital that the kitchen is tailored to the needs of
each school in terms of cooking and refrigeration equipment, preparation
and wash-up areas, staff facilities etc. Needless to say, functionality
such as extraction systems and health and safety considerations need to
Additionally, it’s important to determine whether there is access for a
pod to be delivered by lorry, or whether a crane will be needed to lift
it into place.
The size of modular buildings – ranging from 10 sq m for a regeneration
kitchen for 120 meals per sitting, to 15 sq m for a full hot and cold
preparation kitchen for several hundred pupils at one sitting – means
that this will usually qualify as a ‘permitted development’ and not be
subject to full planning requirements.
Clearly there are some limitations with specifying a kitchen pod.
Although the exterior can be finished to end user requirements, this is
a pre-finished building so there are restrictions on the size and shape.
However, it is possible to have additional space such as cold rooms and
dry storage facilities linked to the main pod.
There are various ways to fund such building improvements, at school or
local authority level. Schools can use their Devolved Schools Capital
allowance or approach their Local Authority for capital funding. Until
2010/2011 Local Authority funding includes access to the Targeted
Capital Programme for school kitchens.
Or funding may be available through the Regional Development Agency or
the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) and the Primary Capital
programmes. Gaining government funding may be easier for solutions
approved through Buying Solutions.
As noted above, kitchen pods may also be procured through a contract
hire arrangement with fixed monthly payments, where the supplier assumes
the financial risk for the equipment through the life of the kitchen.
Given all of these factors, it’s clear that this is an area that
requires careful consideration, perhaps with the aid of specialist
advice. In most cases, if the criteria for traditional construction can
be met, a pre-fabrication approach will also be viable, and less
demanding on budgets. However, the key is to weigh up all the options,
keep an open mind and make an informed decision.
Further information about the KitchenPod concept can be found at
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