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Understanding the Advantages of Commercial Modular Construction for Permanent Space Needs
By: Tom Hardiman

Communities everywhere are starting to see the advantages of commercial modular construction for permanent space solutions. When you need a building fast, commercial modular construction is a great option. And, in some cases, the cost of the modular construction may be less than site-built construction. The best part is that, in the end, you get a building that looks like, feels like, and is in all respects comparable to a site-built structure. The major differences will be experienced in three areas of the construction process:

* The amount of time you have to wait for your building; it will be less
* The site disruption during construction; there will be less
* The input you have in the building process; you will have more

The Modular Building Institute (MBI) is the international trade association that represents commercial modular construction providers. Each year, MBI conducts a survey of the industry, and MBI’s 2006 survey projects growth rates in excess of 15 percent for both dealers and manufacturers of modular buildings. Indeed, the popularity of accelerated construction solutions cannot be questioned.

Case Study
Washington State, constructs modular churches throughout the Northwest and California. They are not at all surprised that religious modular buildings are being sought out more and more. Their clients generally report that modular structures are approximately 15 to 40 percent less expensive than site-erected structuresand are built significantly faster. Additionally, change orders are minimal because the blueprints have to be approved “upfront” due to the requirement for state approval (before constructing the buildings). Pacific Mobile also shares that several of their customers report back that the modular structure purchasing process is more straight-forward and customer-friendly due to the fact that the client is more involved in the decision-making process.

One Pacific Mobile project recently completed is Samoan Christian Fellowship Church in Des Moines, Washington. The 12,488-square-foot structure was designed to seat 500 people. It has a large foyer, business office, treasure’s office, children’s ministry, four large classrooms and multi-use men and women’s restrooms. The structure is unique in that it is half modular (foyer, business offices, and classrooms) and half panelized (sanctuary). “Panelized” means that the exterior walls are built in the factory and shipped to the site, where they are lifted into place. The rest of the building is “modular,” whereby the already-constructed modules are delivered by trucks and then crane set onto the foundation. Finally, the roof trusses are lifted into place, and the roof is completed over the entire structure.

The administration portion of the church features 11-foot suspended ceilings, while the sanctuary features 25-foot-high painted sheetrock ceilings. The sanctuary also features a concrete sloped floor to allow parishioners to see the stage better. The appearance is designed to fit into a mixed-use neighborhood, with family homes, a large public school and another church/school nearby.

Many people think that modular buildings can only address short-term facility needs. But Samoan Christian Fellowship Church is a prime example of the quality of technology, materials and transportation being used to deliver permanent modular solutions to religious markets every day.

Finishes for today’s modular buildings are also comparable to site-build construction projects. From wood to multi-story steel and concrete non-combustible materials, you can get a structure completed with the same materials, and aesthetic feel, as site-built buildings. 

Five Reasons to Choose Modular Construction
Besides the comparable quality in look and finishes of modular buildings, there are five reasons why more religious institutions are turning to modular construction for their permanent building needs.

1. Quality Assurance
Because accelerated construction projects are built in a factory, you will get a level of quality assurance that is well defined. Most states require that the building manufacturer have an approved quality assurance program, and that it is monitored by an accredited third-party agency. These third-party agencies make inspections on both the modular builder’s plant and the building under construction. Where a third-party agency is not a local requirement, building department officials and/or certifying engineers typically assume the same inspection role. Within the factory, quality inspections will be conducted for production standards, methods and materials. In-house inspections are also conducted to ensure the building is constructed in accordance with both architectural and design plans. 

2. Decreased Liability from Ongoing Construction at the Site
There is less site interruption for modular buildings because they are built in a factory, and then delivered to the site. This factor can be really important in situations where there might be heightened safety concerns or increased liability associated with ongoing construction at the site. Furthermore, with buildings being built off-site, activities can safely continue at the current location right up until the delivery of the building.

3. Less Site Disturbance and More Sustainable Design
Every day, there is greater attention placed on green building practices. For sustainability, the off-site construction features—leading to less site disturbance—cannot be stressed enough. In fact, The United States Green Building Council’s LEED rating system awards additional points for reduced site disturbances. And more than ever, component suppliers are offering energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems for the modular structures. These factors, too, lead to more sustainable design. You can ask for these features when you specify your building. 

4. Simplified Management Process
One big advantage of a modular construction project is the “one-stop shopping” that modular construction can offer. Modular construction companies provide everything you need under one roof. Be it the design, construction, delivery or installation phase of the project, a modular building company can handle them all. They can even offer the engineering services you will need, while being knowledgeable of state code and permit processes. When you have one place to go for all these services—start to finish—you will have a more customer-friendly and simplified management process. 

5. Flexibility
Modular buildings offer application and acquisition flexibility. Modular buildings can be purchased or leased, depending on the need. And, modular buildings can be relocated.  Some projects are actually designed around this feature with the knowledge that a building can be used at one location for a set period of time, and then moved to another location for permanent use at a later date. This is particularly effective for religious campuses, medical missions or community outreach facilities.

Choosing a Modular Builder
If you will be purchasing a modular building, you can take a few steps in locating the right builder for your project.

Ask for referrals. Most likely, you have some colleagues who have been through this process and can provide recommendations for vendors.

Look at other modular projects. Visit other churches where potential vendors have provided facilities so that you can see the end result.

Research the vendor. Ask how long the modular provider has been in business and inquire about their knowledge of both local and state codes.

Check references. Providers should be able to supply you with a list of past customers. Call these references to see what the other purchasers’ experiences with that builder have been.

Tom Hardiman is the executive director of the Modular Building Institute, www.modular.org, an international non-profit trade association representing commercial modular construction manufacturers, dealers and product component suppliers. 

Product Roundup

Wick Buildings
Wick Buildings are designed and engineered to be strong, smart and safe for your church.  Each element is chosen to meet those objectives, including the:
* Components
* Panels
* Fasteners
* Latches
They are passionate about the way they build and invite you to see for yourself. 

Premier Modular Buildings
The temporary church building program is an option for a quick need, or a shorter time frame. They provide clients with a quick solution, while still maintaining the quality environment. Premier Modular Buildings are built to meet or exceed all the same codes as site-built buildings. The differences are:
* The amount of time saved, as the buildings are built at the same time the site is being prepared
* The financial savings, due to a heavily controlled labor environment
Weather and labor shortages are no issue, as the buildings are built inside a climate-controlled environment.

Allied Steel Buildings
Allied Steel Buildings, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of steel buildings, has announced the recent completion for the new Family Life Center at Lexington Church of God. The new multi-purpose facility stands two stories tall with a 450-seat congregation hall. The exterior finish is Pearl White with a Charcoal Bronze Trim, coupled with a brick facade. Allied Steel Buildings works closely with church leaders to assure accurate:
* Estimate
* Schedules
* Logistical plans prior to delivery

VP Buildings
A beautiful structure can be created using a metal framing system, offering strength and durability at a lower cost than traditional construction. VP Buildings is one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of metal buildings. VP engineers and manufactures a variety of:
* High-quality, pre-engineered steel framing systems
* Wall and roof panels
* Building components for low-rise steel building systems
The company markets its products through a network of more than 1,000 authorized builders. 

Rhino Steel Buildings
Rhino Steel Buildings offers a complete line of pre-engineered buildings. With clear span designs up to 150 feet wide as a standard design, the buildings are ideally suited for the church community. 
* The structure is a bolt-together design with no welding requirements.
* Every building is designed to meet the wind, snow and seismic requirements of the local area.
* All structures are accompanied with a letter of certification and engineered stamped prints.
The staff at Rhino Steel Buildings works with many architects in the early planning and design stages. 

Vanguard Modular
Vanguard Modular provides award-winning space solutions for churches and church schools, ranging from:
* Classrooms
* Offices
* Fellowship halls
* Nurseries
The company can custom-design buildings to visually match a church’s existing facilities’ exterior or create a specialized floor plan. From design through final inspection, Vanguard Modular handles as many of the details a church desires.

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Religious Product News