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January 8, 2019

Four Rules of Modular Efficiencies – Design Scope of Work

By Chris Schmidt

It may helpful to think of design services in terms of the Architect of Record (AoR) providing the full range of architecture and engineering services, and the modular fabricator providing engineering design advisory services. The modular fabricator, engineer/architect, and the AoR should coordinate at the commencement of the first design phase, Concept or Schematic Design, to ensure that the parameters of the module dimensions, scope, shipping constraints, and other considerations which maximize, or reduce modular design and construction efficiencies are understood.

To facilitate effective coordination between the AoR and the fabricator architect/engineer, reduce or prevent scope redundancies, and ensure that the design is maximizing the modular efficiencies, there are a few rules of thumb to follow with the architect and engineering team in scoping design services.

Rule 1: Select an architecture firm with experience in modular design and construction. Until the design industry has a larger pool of experienced firms, architects with experience in modular construction can be challenging to find. An alternative may be to identify firms that have staff architects or engineers with experience in modular design and construction. This strategy is highly advised for a developer’s first modular project, as the design team will bring the do’s and don’ts, and design and construction oversight experience, to reduce potential risks.

Rule 2: Include the development of the permit set of documents for both the municipal, as well as the state building departments in the AoR scope of work. The state building department reviews permit documents and factory inspect the modules, i.e. the building elements that are fabricated off-site, in the factory. The municipal building department reviews permit documents and inspects on-site construction. A complete permit set of documents should be submitted to both building departments, even though each department is only responsible for reviewing, permitting, and inspecting either the site-built or factory-built construction elements.

Rule 3: Prepare to identify finishes and specifications in early design phases so that the modular unit fabricator and cost estimator can more easily advise on potential cost and time savings and provide more accurate cost estimates. Also, consider the possibility of standardizing finishes and specifications when working with a few modular unit fabricators so that costs and time for developing specification packages are reduced.

Rule 4: Anticipate an increase in the AoR fees (approximately 20%) to cover the additional dual role of coordinating with the modular unit fabricator, as well as submitting two separate permit set of documents to state and municipal building departments. While this is an unfortunate potential cost increase in architecture fees, centralizing and working with an experienced architecture firm will reduce risk during the modular design and construction process. Also, it should be noted that this fee would have otherwise been paid to the fabricator’s engineer for design services and is now going to the AoR to centralize responsibilities, which also increases scope of work efficiencies and makes it easier to manage the project team.

There’s one more rule to follow – rule 5 – contact Z Modular. We are your one stop shop for modular construction and have engineers and architects on staff with the necessary experience in modular construction. It’s the reason Z Modular is The Only Way to Build®.

Modular Construction – Multifamily residential development Type III and Type V Construction, Mercy Homes, pages 10-11