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March 5, 2019

Designing for Modular Part II: Planning, Concepts and Schematics

By Chris Schmidt

In our last blog on designing for modular, we looked at a general overview of the construction process. As we dig deeper into the process, there are certain rules of thumb that should be considered when you bring the planning, concept and schematics phase of your project together. Let’s take look at six rules you should follow in these initial phases of your next modular construction project.

Rule 1: Discuss the design and construction intent of the project with an architect experienced in modular design, and clearly communicate the intent to design the building using standard modular dimensions. At the same time try to work with a construction manager/cost estimator experienced in modular construction, and who has relationships with modular fabricators, to get initial pricing for feasibility analysis.

Rule 2: Discuss site challenges that might reduce efficiencies of modular construction with the architect and general contractor, particularly regarding irregularly shaped sites, hindrances to staging and deliveries, and obstructions for cranes and setting, and determine if the site is appropriate for modular construction. If possible, procure the experienced construction contractor during the schematic design phase to work with the architect and the modular fabricator, and coordinate efforts to maximize efficiency in the design to reduce construction costs.

Rule 3: To obtain more exact pricing, begin working with a qualified modular fabricator with financial and scheduling capacity during the schematic design phase. Obtain agreement and approval of general building plans, height, massing, setbacks, etc. as soon as possible.

Rule 4: Work with the architect and modular fabricator to select interior unit finishes. In addition, modular fabricators typically have preferred vendors and suppliers that might bring additional savings. Develop and agree on a fabrication and construction schedule prior to proceeding to the design development phase.

Rule 5: Obtain pricing from the construction contractor with an itemized breakdown from the fabricator, refine design to maximize efficiencies and reduce costs, and agree on a preliminary construction budget prior to proceeding to the design development phase.

Rule 6: Direct the architect to coordinate with the general contractor regarding MEP, crawl spaces, access, vertical rise space, etc. that will be constructed on-site (vertical runs) and those that will be part of modular unit fabrication off-site (horizontal runs). Finalize and agree on finishes and specifications – interior finishes, structural elements, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fixtures, etc. so that modular unit is ready for vertical connections from floor to floor. Obtain, refine, and agree on final pricing for modular units and the fabrication/construction schedule.

In part three of our Designing for Modular we will explore design development, construction documents and fabrication. Is your project ready to go now? Contact us today and find out why we are The Only Way to Build®.


Modular Construction – Multifamily residential development Type III and Type V Construction, Mercy Homes, page 12-14