“Speed of build was leagues ahead of using a traditional system.”

PCflex Isle of Man

First Standalone Modular Custody Block in Britain Installed on the Isle of Man

For a number of years, the Isle of Man Constabulary have been looking to upgrade their custodial provision.  Preference was for a new building to consolidate all of their custodial facilities into one location. Their brand new custody suite, featuring 20 cells and 8 interview rooms, became operational in April, after having been manufactured offsite in a factory in Neath.

When procuring the building speed was a primary concern, which quickly led to exploration of a modular solution. “Modular allowed rapid design of the block to ensure it fitted our needs,” explained Inspector Derek Flint. “And the speed of build was leagues ahead of using a traditional system.”  Electing to use a modular approach at this early stage was vital to a smooth design process.

The tendering process was won by Wernick Buildings, based in South Wales. Wernick have manufactured and installed over 200 modular cells in the past, using their patented PCflex™ system. Launched in 2008, the system is Home Office compliant and can be fitted out to meet nearly any client specification. These were vital requirements for a police force looking to achieve best practise standards.

With an existing product and an experienced team, the largest challenge of the project would be one of logistics; how to get the 34 units that would make up the building to the Island? “While we had to be conscious of transport at the design phase,” commented Andy King, Managing Director of Wernick Buildings, “we knew from the start it would be a case of finding a method of transport that could deliver the building quickly so as not to delay the programme. We were never going to compromise on the building just to make delivery easier.”

One important consideration was that no matter the method, the units would have to be stacked for transportation. Fortunately, the PCflex™ system allows for multiple stories by design, meaning the units could be easily shipped to the Island.

The obvious solution would be to use the ferry service from Heysham. However, this would be costly and time consuming, as well as requiring a lot of road travel. Coupled with a limit on how many units could be transported at once, this would severely prolong the delivery process.

Instead, Wernick Buildings chose to charter a ship to sail from Swansea docks, only ten minutes away from the factory in Neath. “We had to be just as precise loading the units onto the ship as we would have been installing them on site,” Andy told us. Loaded onto the ship over two days in November, high winds caused some minor delays in lifting the units, but otherwise the process went smoothly.

Once on the ship, however, the wind wouldn’t slow delivery down. Despite gale force 9 winds blowing on the day the ship sailed, it arrived at the Isle of Man 24 hours after departing, with another two days of unloading the units into a temporary storage area. This meant that the units needed to travel less than fifteen miles by road.

Whereas a traditional building might have taken 15 months, it took only 15 weeks on site to complete the 875m2 building. At £2.8 million, it is less than half the quoted cost of a traditional build.

Fortunately, there were several aspects of the product which dovetailed nicely with client requirements. One planning specification was that no plant was placed on the roof of the building which, while it may have posed a significant design challenge to a traditional build, was part of the standard design of PCflex™.

The nature of the product also meant a shorter fit out period, even compared to other modular projects. As each cell is by definition self-contained, they could be 95% finished before leaving the factory. This included the cell doors, wiring, wall finishes, cell bed and WC.

The building features an array of high end security and IT equipment. From the bespoke charge desk, staff can control the cell doors, make telephone calls to the cells or monitor the building through the 70 CCTV cameras throughout the block.

The extensive factory fit out and the specialist equipment specified in the project reduced the scope of what could be achieved by island trades, which was nevertheless used wherever possible. This included flooring, painting, and the installation of suspended ceilings.

The project was delivered on time, and on budget. “We need a few months of operation to declare it an absolute success,” Inspector Flint commented “But indicators are that it will be. We are very happy with the new building, and bearing in mind that this was effectively an ‘overseas’ installation, communication and logistics have been commendable, and the inevitable snagging has been dealt with robustly by Wernick.“


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