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Modular Building Advances in the Last 25 Years — Part I

By May 20, 2012July 31st, 2015Uncategorized

A lot has changed in the past twenty-five years. Let’s take a quick look back at 1987. Back then, gasoline cost the outrageous price of $.89 per gallon, an Oldsmobile Ciera (remember Oldsmobile?) was $11,000, and eggs were $.65 a dozen. That year Fox Broadcasting Co. made its prime-time TV debut, Ronald Reagan was President, disposable contact lens first became available, and Kitty Litter was invented.

And you could buy a modular building to suit your needs … as long as your needs could be shoehorned into a long, unsightly box with low ceilings, fake wood grain paneling, and sheathed in your choice of screwed-on aluminum panels or hardboard siding. There wasn’t much choice, and modular buildings were certainly considered cheap, temporary, and partial solutions to a customer’s building needs.

Yep, a lot has changed in twenty-five years. Gasoline prices now bounce around $4 per gallon, Fox Broadcasting is usually number one or two in the ratings, and you can take your troubled kitty to a pet psychologist for behavior modification. And you can get a modular building in almost any shape, size, configuration, and design, for almost any purpose. Modular buildings are now so well constructed the industry considers them “a permanent solution”, not just temporary shelter. The sky and your imagination are pretty much the limits.

Just to cover a few of the advances and changes in the modular building industry, consider that you can now get them up to four stories high, and consisting of almost unlimited modules. Current employees at Palomar Modular Buildingsfinished a multi-story, mixed use 150,000 square foot building not so long ago. Today’s modular buildings come with floor structures either of a skeletal framework or perimeter framing. Modular building floors built of wood, steel, concrete, or no floors at all, provide the option of installation on a concrete slab. Energy efficient walls made of wood or steel, sound deterrent construction, can be bullet-proof, or built to deal with extreme heat or cold.

Instead of the typical 7′ ceiling height (“Hey, look Mom, I can touch the ceiling!”), modern-day modulars have 8′, 9′ or even 10′ ceiling heights for more spacious and comfortable occupancy. Ceiling materials are no longer hard, thin, prefinished slabs of gypsum screwed to the ceiling rafters with “rosettes”. Typical ceilings now consist of suspended, acoustic tiles available in a variety of design and finish. Ample recessed fluorescent lighting is common.

As mentioned, modular buildings are single or multi-story and can consist of one or many modules, each varying in width and length. A “typical” module is 12′, 14′, 16′, or 18′ wide and up to 80′ in length. They are assembled side to side, end to end, and top to bottom. Flexibility in design and configuration are hallmarks of the modular industry today. The cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all mindset of old was left somewhere back in the past. Design purpose, plan layouts, and configurations are now customer driven.
Modular buildings are routinely delivered to almost anywhere in the world using conventional I-beam and axle configurations, or they are skid-loaded, winched onto lowboy carriers, crane mounted or delivered by rail or ship. Once on location, they are quickly assembled by professional crews who can install buildings on piers, slabs, over basements, with cranes and hoists.

Today’s modular buildings are sturdy and rugged. Strict adherence to a variety of building codes insures professional and quality construction. In addition to the three traditional national building codes to which a modular is built, there is now the International Building Code that governs and regulates building construction, including all structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing requirements. These codes are exactly the same for site-built and modular construction buildings. However, today it is generally accepted that modular building construction is more rigorous than site-built construction. Modular buildings are built in a controlled environment with no exposure to damaging weather during construction. A modular factory has strict procedures and processes performed by well-trained craftsmen, and buildings are inspected at every step of the process. Plumbing, mechanical and electrical testing of systems and components are 100% compliant. No building is exempt from this process. Every building must meet these requirements. In addition, many modular buildings are built to meet the US Green Building Council LEED standards. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Not many site built buildings meet or comply with these standards. Want a Green Building? Buy a modular building.

To strengthen the argument that modular buildings are now actually better built than comparable site-built buildings, consider that they are built to the same or newer, more demanding construction codes. They must be so well constructed that they can withstand the rigors of then being transported many miles over road, rails. or ocean travel before they reach their destination. Imagine moving a site-built building anywhere. Nothing good will happen. Please don’t try that at home.

Yes, modular buildings have changed tremendously over the past twenty-five years, all for the better. Today’s modular buildings can fill almost any need a customer might have, and can do it with a permanent solution to the problem.

Next time, we will discuss more of the incredible progress that has occurred in modular building construction in the past twenty-five years.