Contributed by Tom J. Moverman, Esq
A long time ago modular construction had a limited understanding that brought it down to parked trailers and temporary metal buildings that did not retain heat. Fast forward to now, increased efficiency in the modular business has shifted the focus from stick building methods to new building processes.
What Is Modular Building Or Construction?
Put simply, modular construction or building is the method of having all the components of a structure pre-built in a secure and dry factory and finally assembled at the respective site. Most people who have seen this type of building have witnessed it in the construction of a home. An increase in modular construction saw nearly three percent of all commercial construction done using modular methods. Using modular construction is growing in popularity in the construction industry and with very good reasons.
One of those reasons for this popularity is that modular construction saves time and money. For example, construction slows down in the colder parts of the country, but using modular building methods means this is not normally the case. Construction is done inside a climate-controlled factory where workers do not have to battle the elements and construction companies don't have to be concerned about losing time and money due to inclement weather. It's estimated that a structure built through modular methods can be constructed 25 to 50 percent quicker than standard construction methods. This further adds to its popularity with companies looking to save money on building costs.
Questions That Come With This Type Of Construction
One of the most pertinent questions that come up when talk about modular construction happens, is how this type of construction will affect American workers' jobs. The most viable answer to this question is that foreign companies can try to create modular building segments to be used in America but they are not going to have the best insight into building exactly for American needs. This lessens the potential threat of job loss that this construction is perceived to bring.
Furthermore, shipping costs associated with getting big modular segments to the United States can prohibit foreign companies from building for American projects. As already stated above, foreign manufacturers might use materials and methods that do not meet American building costs. It is likely that foreign modular construction companies are going to be reluctant to change their methods in order to meet American specifications. What all this means is that there is a less chance American jobs will be taken out of the country and into foreign hands.
A Degree Of Accuracy Is Required
Another element of modular construction that needs to be taken into consideration is how precise the site preparation needs to be in order to for a structure to be built correctly. With regular building projects, imperfections in the foundation can be corrected by making adjustments on site. However, when it comes to modular buildings, the foundation has to be accurately level to within one-half of an inch otherwise the entire structure will need to be rebuilt. Many American construction companies have adjusted to this unique facet of modular construction, however the thought that one wrong move could ruin the whole project can certainly elicit a lot of frustration sometimes.
Will All Buildings End Up Looking Similar?
Modular structures used to look alike a lot, regardless of their structure. Thankfully, technological advances have helped modular construction companies find ways to offer a lot of variety to their clients. Some of those advances now allow architects to design modular structures with curves and other various shapes that were not possible before. A desire for modular construction companies to acquire more of the commercial market is the reason behind this new innovation. Modular manufacturers turned to commercial construction after the residential housing market fell. Many manufacturers have found success in this market.
However, despite the changes and successes, modular construction still faces some limitations based on the look and functionality of a structure. That still does not mean modular construction is not something to consider for your projects. It is also worth noting that modular does not have to be done for the entire structure; heating, cooling or plumbing systems can be built in advance and shipped after completion. Whichever way modular construction is used, it is worth considering for its time and money saving purposes.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Brooklyn Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm’s focus is in products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice.
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
Many products offer not only a selection of standard finishes at a standard price, but offer more options at additional cost. Some will offer those options in price groups, such as Standard, Group 1, and Group 2, where each group is more expensive than the last. Finally, some manufacturers offer to match any color.
Unfortunately, the requirements for getting a custom color often are vague, and a minimum quantity may be required or other limitations may apply.
The result? I may tell a project architect that a custom color will cost more, but because I often don’t know how much, the response usually is, “It doesn’t matter; we want custom.”
The problem, of course, is that bidders, who are trying to get the job, are forced to either comply with the specifications and risk losing the job, or bid a standard color in hopes of getting away with it - which too often is the case. I recall a project that required all exterior metal finishes and all concrete coatings to be bid as custom, to match a specific color. Had that color been something unusual or exotic, that might have made sense, but the chosen color was essentially off-white. Trying to get all those colors to match was a nice theory, but in practice, there was as much difference in appearance between adjacent panels, one in shade and the other in full sun, as there was between the colors submitted. And then there are the effects of dirt and UV exposure… Colors change, and some change more than others, so the carefully selected finishes may no longer match after only a short time. For that project, the owner probably paid the price of custom color and got a standard color for some of the finishes.
A couple of years ago we had two projects going, which just happened to have the same custom color for the metal roofing. An astute supplier was able to combine materials for both in a single order. Individually, neither project had enough material to meet the minimum for a custom color, but together they almost did, so the supplier was able to cover most of the added cost. It's always possible for the architect to insist on a custom color regardless of quantity, but that can be more than a bit embarrassing when the contractor tells the owner that the cost can be reduced by a large amount simply by changing to a slightly different color.
Some joint sealants can be produced in virtually any color, and architects are accustomed to always asking for custom colors. It’s usually not a problem for a large project, but the architect should know that the contractor might have to buy fifty gallons of sealant for a joint that's only ten feet long.
Specifying acoustic properties presents similar challenges. Many assemblies will meet a given STC or NRC rating: brick, CMU, CMU with filled cores, multiple layers of gypboard, high density gypboard and similar products, resilient channels, clips, resilient adhesives for multi-layer assemblies, etc. What do they really cost? How do they really perform? Without knowing the relative costs and properties, detailing a particular assembly may result in performance that is lower than expected, or it may cost more than another assembly that would perform just as well.
And what about dimensions? It's easy to draw a large panel in elevation, but can it be produced? Do the length or width force the fabricator to alter the orientation of panels, which can affect appearance of some finishes? Do the dimensions require greater thickness of material, thereby increasing the cost beyond what the designer expected?
These are all very real issues that big-D Designers don't think about, yet it's essential to evaluate such information early in design - before the client has been sold on the design.
Contributed by Jerry Fossey
How do I specify Metal Composite Material (MCM) manufacturers vs. fabricators?
This is probably one of the most confused topics in the ACM/MCM industry, so I hope that this short post will help clarify the difference between the Manufacturer and Fabricator of Metal Composite Material (also known as Aluminum Composite Material or ACM).
MCM consists of two skins of metal sandwiching a core material, which provides greater rigidity and superior flatness than sheet metal or plate.
The MCM Manufacturer is the one that makes sheets of MCM, in a process where the skins and core are fused together in a continuous coil process. There are also some manufacturers that press skins to a core one sheet at a time, however this is generally known to be a lower quality bond, which is important when you consider the harsh conditions an exterior building envelope is required to withstand.
The MCM Fabricator cuts, routs, folds and otherwise processes the MCM to fabricate panels to mount on the building. These fabricators can either have their own tested installation system using aluminum extrusions, or they can use a third party’s installation system.
So which one should I specify? The MCM Manufacturer or the Fabricator?
The answer is BOTH! There are many testing requirements, some of which apply to the Manufacturer and some to the Fabricator. Anything related to the MCM itself, such as fire rating and surface finish belong to the Manufacturer. Tests that require panel fabrication generally apply to the Fabricator, such as wind loads and water penetration.
It is important then to clearly differentiate between the Manufacturer and the Fabricator in your specifications. I hope this helps build a greater understanding in the Composite Metal Wall Panel industry!
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