15 Aug Improve Your Project Schedule and Reduce Costs by Using Containers in Your Modular Construction Project
You Can Have It Fast and Save Money Too!
Most of us are very familiar with the concept of using shipping containers as the basis for houses and cabins. Containers are strong, durable and easily modified; their dimensions are held to strict tolerances so they make great building blocks, by their very nature containers make perfect components for modular construction. This flex ability has also found its way into the commercial world as more and more converted shipping containers are used on construction sites as portable offices, at events as temporary field offices or seasonal retail shops like bicycle rentals at the beach.
The most basic transformation of containers into portable offices include taking a single unit and installing a “person door”, some windows and finish the interior by framing and insulating the walls and ceiling, adding lights and electric duplexes (plugs) as required. The ceiling is covered with a ceiling tile or pre textured gypsum, the walls are covered with vinyl covered gypsum and the floor is covered in commercial grade tile. Some electric base board heat and air conditioning units are installed and the container doors are sealed and welded closed. There you have it, a very strong and very portable office.
Taking this concept to the next level, containers are also used as the basis for commercial modular office complexes. Using multiple boxes, the 40 foot by 8 foot or 20 foot by 8 foot architecture allows the designer almost limitless configurations. Set three 40’ containers side by side and you’ll have a nice 24’ x 40’, 960 square foot modular building that can be modified in a plant, delivered and set up in a matter of days.
Like standard commercial modular buildings, shipping container based modular building foundations can be anything from a compacted stone, a concrete pad, piers, or a full perimeter basement foundation. The choices here will be driven by many things including but not limited to; how temporary or permanent the application is, the load bearing capacity of the soil under the building, the use of the building and most importantly the local building officials determinations.
The entire shipping container modular building process goes something like this; the buyer and the container modification contractor work back and forth to finalize the building floor plan and desired look. Once a final contract has been agreed to the contractor will complete the engineering and design work then submit the design documents to the required building authorities for review and approval. A note about local and State building officials, it is important to involve them in the process from the beginning, don’t just show up at their office with a full set of drawings and engineering for a container building and expect them to approve it. Container buildings are not a common project for the building department, you and the contractor need to educate them and get them comfortable with the process. Meet with them early, let them know what you are trying to do and why, don’t be afraid to ask them questions, do what they ask, they have bosses too and never ever try to “get something by them,” if you get caught you will regret it.
Once all of the approvals are received the contractor begins construction in the plant and the installation crews provided by the contractor concurrently complete the foundation work. The building modules are then delivered to the site and set on the foundation with the appropriate equipment like a crane or a fork truck. The modules are leveled with shims and bolted together, now the roof seams and side walls or “mate lines” are finished so the interior is dried in. At this point utilities are pulled to the building. Most of the piping and wiring was completed in the plant so all that is required is several “crossovers” be completed and the supply be hooked to a single point. The flooring is finished over the mate lines and any remaining field trim is installed so the building is complete and finished.
While all the interior work is going on the contractor will have crews building any access points like porches, stoops, are ADA ramps, install any necessary landscaping, do any touch up work. Finally the big moving day has arrived, much sooner and for less money than with traditional site built construction, and a little more environmentally friendly too!