The Pros and Cons of Portable Buildings Vs Bricks & Mortar

16ft premium portable cabin

If you are in need of more space or extra facilities at a school, hospital, logistics hub or business park, then you may be investigating the best means of putting it in place. The default choice is no longer a traditional construction method such as bricks and mortar, as the quality of premium portable buildings has come on in leaps and bounds.

This means that many businesses and organisations who once dismissed the idea of using portable buildings are now facing a difficult decision as they weigh up the pros and cons of each alternative. There may be circumstances when either option would be suitable, or one would have more advantages than the other. Here are some points to consider.

The pros of portable buildings

Speed of construction

Portable buildings are typically manufactured mainly off-site and can be assembled within a matter of days. They require a much smaller workforce and are rarely subject to delays and disruptions.

Cost effectiveness

Portable buildings are usually significantly cheaper than traditional construction, due to shorter timescales, fewer materials, and a streamlined manufacturing process.


Portable buildings can be installed at a wider range or locations than permanent structures, and in some cases may not require planning permission. They can easily be relocated or adapted to other purposes.

The cons of portable buildings

Site preparation

The installation of the building will require an area of flat solid ground and possibly a concrete base. Preparation of the ground can eat into some of the turnaround time, which might be an issue if an urgent solution is needed to provide extra facilities or space.

Site access limitations

If the proposed site location of the building is difficult to access due to narrow gateways, steep terrain, overhanging trees, or other obstacles, then due to the pre-constructed nature of the materials, delivery to the site might be an issue.

Public image of prefabs

Unfortunately, despite the very high quality of portable buildings, prejudices exist from earlier prototypes that were not always manufactured to such high standards. In the post-war period, thousands of prefabricated buildings were manufactured to replace homes and commercial buildings that were destroyed or damaged by bombs.

While some of these prefabs have stood the test of time, most were not built to last and have acquired a reputation for being draughty, difficult to heat, and prone to problems such as gaps and leaks. However, modern prefabricated buildings are constructed to very high standards, and are energy efficient, safe, and highly durable.

The pros of traditional buildings


Traditional buildings are made from durable materials that have stood the test of time, such as brick, stone, or timber.

Unlimited scope in size and customisation

The only limit on the size and design of conventional buildings is planning permission, the size of the plot, and the allocated budget. Portable buildings can be adjoined or stacked, and manufactured to custom sizes, but do not always have the same adaptability as traditional buildings.

The cons of traditional buildings


One of the biggest obstacles to a traditional method of construction is the cost of the project. The cost of materials has risen sharply over the past few years, and labour costs have also risen as the construction workforce has skills gaps and labour shortages. If the project overruns the schedule, then this stretches the costs even further.


Traditional building projects take months or even years to design, plan, and implement. From the earliest stages of appointing an architect to selecting and procuring materials, the project can be subject to delays due to labour and materials shortages, poor weather conditions, unexpected issues with the structure or site, disputes with contractors, and so on.


Traditional buildings are not able to adapt easily to changing needs. This may be an issue for businesses that experience fluctuations in demand or seasonal variations. It may be possible to extend them, but the UK has strict planning requirements so it’s best to think about this in the early stages if your business is projected to expand.

On-site disruption

Traditional construction sites are noisy, dusty, and sometimes dangerous places. The high volume of deliveries and workers will generate extra congestion and pollution around the site, disrupting local neighbourhoods as well as day to day site operations.

This may be a particular problem for hospitals and schools, where there are young, old or vulnerable pedestrians on the site.

Environmental impact

Traditional construction methods generate a lot of waste and involve a large amount of embodied carbon emissions.

Categories: Cabins for hire, Portable Cabins,
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