The Modular Solution

A nearly $1-billion, mid-year budget is under review by Georgia lawmakers for K-12, university and technical college construction. About half the budget, $488 million, is earmarked for new schools and additions needed to achieve the smaller class sizes required by a bill signed last year by Georgia Governor Roy Barnes.

In Douglas, Mass., a $26 million tax measure has been endorsed to pay for a new 700-student high school. Due for completion in 2003, the new facility will be built next to the town’s existing schools, creating a unified campus.

In Beebe, Ark., a $3.7 million project is underway to build a new high school and middle school that suffered damages from a fire and a tornado.

Building reports like these are not unique in today’s fast-growing school construction industry. If you are in the educational facility industry, you are already aware of the billions of dollars that are being sought, legislated or spent each year to fulfill the exploding demand from the private and public sectors for state-of-the-art schools.

Each of the above scenarios captures some of the issues that face school planners every day. While the issues may seem diverse, they clearly represent common areas of major concern for planners and facility managers, such as:

- the need to rebuild, expand or accommodate change;

- the need to deliver a quality product within a highly scrutinized budget system; and

- the need to deliver completed building projects within a critical window of time.

What is the solution? Modular structures are uniquely qualified to address and resolve all three of these major issue areas.

Accommodating Change

People in the modular industry are seeing increased interest in applying “the modular solution” to the exploding space expansion needs of educational facilities. St. Stephen School of Kingsville, Md., approached Wilmot Modular Structures recently to fulfill their critical need for more space. They chose a modular structure for their new technology laboratory and library center, which opened at the beginning of the 2000 school year. At the opening ceremonies, Tim McNamara, chair of the St. Stephen technology committee, said, “The benefits of this facility are limited only by the applications you envision, and the will to make them real.”

A modular-structure village became “Learning Cottages” at the St. Paul’s Schools when the Baltimore County, Md., private schools were looking for transitional facilities to replace old buildings while new permanent facilities were being built. According to Kirk Evans, business manager for the boys’ school, “The modular learning village fulfilled a year-long need for a comfortable classroom environment without compromising our standards for educational excellence.”

Modular classrooms can be designed and constructed in complete harmony with existing structures, thereby maintaining the integrity of the campus. Ranging from single units to double- and triple-wide configurations and multi-story assemblies, the modular building can be customized to match existing exteriors or complement existing structures.

Classroom units can also be customized with high-grade interior finishes that include fine treated or painted gypsum, as well as maintenance-free fiberglass walls. Product selections are virtually unlimited.

Modular classrooms can be easily expanded by adding more units, further supporting the expansion needs of educational facilities. This is especially applicable with fluctuating enrollments and student demographics.

Quality on a Budget

Quality modular classrooms can be built with upgraded insulation and high-grade windows and doors to insure total climate comfort year-round and full energy efficiency. In response to market demand, the modular industry has developed completely non-combustible units with all-steel construction, concrete floors and a full range of upgraded interiors and exteriors, including brick, block and stucco, to blend well with existing structures.

Other innovative features include sound-attenuation walls to reduce noise between classrooms, as well as plenum walls that can be used to reduce the noise from central HVAC systems. Facility planners and managers can also choose from numerous types of mechanical systems that can be wall-, pad- or roof-mounted.

Timeliness

Is your school lowering the student-to-teacher ratio by reducing the size of classes? Are facility modifications or expansions needed before the start of the next school year? In that case, increasing the number of classrooms is probably on your priority project list. Solving space problems in record time with high-quality construction has become the norm in the modular building industry.

Study after study has shown that modular construction can save as much as 50 percent on the delivery-time deadline. The efficient use of factory-built units allows for construction of the modular buildings to take place concurrent with site development and preparation of the foundation. In addition to saving money by bringing the project in on time, this efficient use of time has led to a much faster rate of occupancy that puts the building to work sooner. Further, it saves money by enabling shorter-term construction financing.

Statistical Support

In the 1999 statistical survey conducted by the Modular Building Institute on the Commercial Mobile Office and Modular Building Industry, modular building dealers were asked to provide their gross revenue figures over nine market segments. Educational facilities ranked second on the list, at 31.2 percent of dealer gross sales. While we eagerly await the 2000 figures, currently in tabulation, we anticipate that educational facilities will, at the very least, hold their own in market share, and may in fact appreciably increase in the new surrvey.

President of Wilmot Modular Structures in Maryland, and a board member of the Modular Building Institute, Mike Wilmot can be reached at 800/966-8833, or on the Internet at .

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