February 2021

Long-term strategic facility planning can a daunting and difficult task, especially when the reality of a budget is weighed against an often volatile student growth population and ever-changing shift in demographics. “How much infrastructure should we built?” and “what way?” are often the two main questions when expanding a school campus. Modular (off-site constructed) facilities frequently offer the best solution; however, facility planners tend to shy away from using modular facilities because of preconceived ideas.

While many facility planners are familiar with the many benefits afforded with modular facilities, many parents and faculty within the community may be resistant to modular classrooms on the school’s ground due to the misconception of inferiority with traditional stick built facilities. To help combat these fears, we wanted to compile some verified information you can use to address some of the most common modular classroom myths that your community may hold as true.


1. Modular Buildings all look the same

Materials used for the interior and exterior of modular projects can vary from wood, stucco, vinyl, masonry, metal, or other materials that are used for traditional on-site construction facilities. The overall aesthetic of a modular building is only limited by the imagination and budget of the customer. 

2. Modular construction is poor quality

Factory constructed buildings take advantage of precision machinery and a well-trained workforce. The assembly-line like factory allows for the workforce to conduct repetitive tasks at each work station as it makes its way through the factory. These repetitive work habits lead to a consistently better product at a faster rate. On top of being constructed within a dry and controlled environment, the building has to be constructed to withstand often several hundred miles of ground transportation. 


3. Modular structures are built to some lesser or other code.

 Modular constructed facilities are built to the same construction code that is required of on-site structures. Traditional on-site construction relies on inspections once certain phases are completed, potentially enabling gaps and construction defects to go unchecked and unnoticed.

Modular manufacturing facilities require strict adherence to consistent material standards to assure productivity. Sub-standard materials cannot be used in this format due to the slowdown in productivity this variation in the material would present.

4. Modular structures are not strong. 

Factory units use the strongest of all construction methods, based on the highway-transportable sectional design. Once a sectional unit is completed, it must be transported by highway to the site. To make sure it gets there, each unit is designed to endure seismic-type stress many times greater than could ever be found on site. 

 

Sectional units are often picked up as a whole by a crane and placed in position. Once in place, these strong sectional units are then tied together to provide a honeycomb-type strength that is difficult to replicate with traditional on-site construction methods. 

 

5. Modular construction is as slow as site-built. 

Since construction and engineering are provided under one roof within the factory, monitoring and oversight can be handled directly and efficiently. What would take months to produce bit-by-bit on-site can now routinely be accomplished in just hours inside a modular manufacturing facility. 

 

 And since construction is not affected by weather conditions, quality construction continues when it could not if done outside. Sectional units can be produced and then stored weather tight for shipment, so weather also has little effect on stored materials or job progress. 

6. Modular construction does not last. 

Since modular structures are built to the same standards as on-site structures, in addition to structural strength factors, durability is based on the selection of exterior finishes and maintenance. In this case, modular and on-site construction is the same. 

 However, a human factor enters into the equation--when an item is not owned by the user, appropriate care and attention to maintenance are frequently secondary. This seems to be prevalent for structures that districts lease. 

 Frequently, modular structures are initially thought to be a short-term concept. Therefore, the selection of materials based on first-cost-only consideration frequently leads to premature replacement. Many 20-year-old modular classrooms prove that these structures have a long useful life-span--if they receive the maintenance that other buildings receive. 


Conclusion 

 Weighing the advantages of modular construction must account for the volatility of student demographic shifts and population bubbles. The closer in time between availability and need, the more likely it that modular construction may play a beneficial role in your strategic planning for present and future facility needs. 


Further statistics:  https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=94

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