Modular Construction

Situated in remote northern Arizona, the Shonto Preparatory School, a 32,000-sq.-ft. high school, serves Navajo students in the north central part of the state. The two-month design process included design assistance from a Navajo architect who created culturally significant design elements throughout the building interior and exterior to honor the Navajo culture. The design process included charettes with the school's design committee, which included board members, administrators, community members, and educators. The two charettes helped focus on budget requirements, general uses, technology needs, as well as cultural elements. During preconstruction, the design/build team also worked with the Shonto Board and the consultants to bring the design within the budget. Several floor plans and classroom configurations were explored with the team to get the most building for the budget.


Design inspiration came from a trip to the Navajo National Monument and a hike into the canyon at the monument to view the Anasazi ruins. The foliage and Aspen found in the bottom of the canyon were the same at the top of the mountain. This was the inspiration for the hallway patterns. The canyon is depicted in the middle of the design and at the base by the dark area, which represents the mountain foliage. The entry patterns are developed from mountain patterns that represent the Navajo Four Sacred Mountains. The floor entry and assembly areas display the mountain patterns. The downspouts mimic corn stalk patterns intrinsic in the Navajo culture. The geometric pattern at the roof parapet was based on local jewelry and rug patterns of the Shonto region. A traditional Navajo Blessing by the tribal Medicine Man highlighted the dedication ceremony. The building features 13 classrooms; a computer lab; library; cafetorium; administration offices; and a 3,500-sq.-ft. vocational building with welding classrooms, auto shop classrooms, and woodworking classrooms.


Modular Technology, the company that managed the design/built operation, currently has eight charter schools in design or construction, making a total of more than 40 permanent charter schools and additions built since the Arizona state legislature approved charter schools. Additionally, there are currently five district schools in design or construction using modular building practices. The modular technology is chosen by schools because of the accelerated construction process using a parallel method of constructing the permanent custom building in a controlled environment while the site and infrastructure are under construction. This eliminates 50 percent of the time, yet the quality, materials, and subcontractors are identical to traditional construction.


Catherine Walley is the director of Marketing for Modular Technology in Phoenix, AZ. She can be reached at 602/272-2000.

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