Modular construction is the process of manufacturing multiple building sections in a facility for assembly at a remote building site. The building sections, called modules, will fit together once assembled on site with plumbing, hvac and electrical connections running throughout. One of the great advantages in the modular construction process is that many of the processes happen at the same time which can cut the construction time in half.
While the planning to ensure all connections fit together properly involves some complexity, the overall modular construction strategy isn’t hard to understand. In fact, we have broken the modular construction process down to 7 easy steps from concept to completion: Design, Engineering, Permits & Approvals, Site Development, Plant Fabrication, Transportation, and Installation.
Step 1: Design
The design phase of the modular building process creates a description of the building, usually represented by detailed plans and specifications. A thorough customer consultation with a Palomar project manager gathers the information required to develop the building plan. Some of the building parameter questions include:
- What is the project budget?
- Has land been acquired?
- Is the building intended for temporary or permanent occupation?
- How soon will the building be occupied?
- How many people will the structure house?
- How much square footage is required?
- How many modules will be required?
- How many bathrooms are required?
- Are fire suppression systems required?
- Does the building need to be ADA compliant?
- What direction will the building face?
- What exterior finish does the customer want?
- What interior finish does the customer want?
- What flooring does the customer want?
- What kind of foundation is appropriate?
- What kind of roof is appropriate?
This is where we identify what the customer is looking for, whether it’s a cost-driven utilitarian building, or a modern energy efficient modular building. Once this information has been gathered Palomar’s veteran design team will produce the ideal modular building design to fit the customer’s needs.
Step 2: Engineering
Each building design goes through the Palomar engineering department for an engineering review. Like site built structures, modular buildings are subject to a series of national, state and local building codes that ensure the building meets a set of standards for safety and performance. State level building codes can be superseded or augmented by local building code requirements, such as the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone code adopted by many coastal counties. During the building review process the Palomar Modular Buildings engineering department confirms the design proposal meets all applicable building codes. For example, in the State of Texas all industrialized housing and buildings, modules, and modular components are required to comply with the following codes, as amended in § 70.101 of the IHB Rules:
- National Electrical Code (NEC), 2011 Edition
- International Building Code (IBC), 2009 Edition, including appendices C, F, and K
- International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC), 2009 Edition
- International Plumbing Code (IPC), including appendices C, E, F, and G
- International Mechanical Code (IMC), 2009 Edition
- International Residential Code (IRC), 2009 Edition, including appendices K, O, and P
- International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), 2009 Edition
- International Existing Building Code (IEBC), 2009 Edition – for alterations of portable industrialized buildings
After the Palomar engineering review has been completed the engineering documents are sent for approval from an independent third party engineering review.
Step 3: Permits & Approvals
A construction permit or building permit is a permit required in most jurisdictions for new construction or major renovations. Typical construction permits required can include:
- Site plan
- Building permit
- Mechanical permit
- Plumbing permit
- Concrete permit
- Encroachment permit
- Sign permit
- Flood district development permit
The building owner is ultimately responsible for securing building permits for work on their property. In practice most building owners appoint the general contractor as an authorized representative so the contractor can obtain the required permits. The building owner is advised to confirm that the general contractor has secured the proper building permits for their project. Failure to obtain the proper permits can result in significant fines, penalties, and even demolition of unauthorized construction.
Step 4: Site Development
One of the advantages inherent in modular construction is that the site development and building foundation are prepared while the modules are being fabricated at the manufacturing facility and transported to the job site. The site development and building construction processes happen concurrently instead of sequentially like site built construction. Projects are developed on a variety of geographic settings; typical site development includes:
- Site drainage
- Foundation construction
- Utility installation
There are two primary modular building foundation classifications; on grade and raised or full foundation. An on grade foundation is generally for permanent installations and is more expensive. A full foundation can be used for temporary or permanent structures, it is less expensive to install, and it is more cost effective to relocate the building later while causing minimal site disturbance.
Step 5: Plant Fabrication
All of our modular buildings start with a welded steel frame forged in Palomar’s steel shop. The steel frame is then loaded on the main factory production line where the sub-floor is insulated and floor decking is assembled atop the steel frame.
As the module moves down the production line framed wall sections are fabricated, insulated and hoisted in place. The truss roof assembly is built in components at ground level before it is hoisted into place. The module proceeds down the line where mechanical, electrical and plumbing services are installed while the last of the insulation goes into place. Interior finishes like drywall, painting and flooring are applied while doors and windows are installed.
On the last stop of the production line the exterior finish and trim are applied before the module is prepared for transportation.
During construction at the manufacturing facility a third party inspection agency is present to ensure the modules are built in compliance with building code.
Step 6: Transportation
The fabricated modules are shipped over the road by carriers that specialize in modular building transportation. In most U.S. jurisdictions building shipping limitations are 16’ in width and between 70’ & 90’ in length per module.
The scope of the project and the size of the modules determines how the project is transported to the job site. For large projects, like a man camp, that consist of dozens of modules the delivery is staged in phases so the general contractor can prepare and install the modules in a logical sequence.
Step 7: Installation
A general contractor, often one specializing in modular construction, will install the modules, complete any on site finish out and make the final utility connections.
The choice of building foundation determines how the building will be installed. Permanent, semi-permanent and on grade foundations will require the modules to be set with a crane. Raised foundations, typically used for temporary buildings, allow the modules to be set in place through simple mechanical methods.
With the modules in place final finish out of the interior and exterior proceeds. Finish out can include electrical and mechanical system connection between modules, stairs, wheelchair ramps, skirting, exterior siding, trim and utility connections.
As with any good plan, it requires time and effort, but modular construction isn’t as complex as it may seem. For more information or any questions, feel free to contact one of Palomar’s representatives at 1-866-312-4032.