Frequently Asked Questions about Modular Buildings

What is a modular building and how does it differ from a conventional building?

A modular building is a building that is built in a manufacturing plant under close supervision by quality control personnel. The term modular is used because the building is built in sections (referred to as modules) in which flooring, wall covering, electrical, and mechanical components are nearly complete which make each section a modular component of the finished structure. These modules are transported over the road and upon arrival to the site are staged for installation on the prepared foundation and the finishes are completed on site by either a contractor or the installation crew depending on the scope of site work to be completed. The modular building compares favorably to conventional buildings based on savings in time and lower costs. Like a conventional building, the modular building is built to applicable codes usually following the International Building Code (IBC) as adopted by the applicable state or region the building will be placed.

How does a modular building compare in costs to a site built building?

Depending on the specification, the modular building should price out lower than the conventional building. Cost benefits come from the efficiency of the manufacturing process, no downtime due to weather or other uncontrollable factors on site, and less site work required to complete the installation of the building. In addition to cost savings, the fast pace to completion for a modular building project will result in sales and service fees coming in much sooner than that of a conventional building.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a modular building over conventional construction?

The advantages of a modular building over conventional are time, money, and flexibility. The conventional building employs a sequential project path which requires that one phase of the project is completed before going on to the next phase. For example, the foundation must be completed before the walls can be constructed. In contrast, the modular building employs a concurrent project path which allows for the building to be constructed while the foundation or any other required site work is being completed. This can shave 30-40% off of the time required to complete the project. The disadvantages would be that the ceiling heights are limited, usually to 9 feet and sometimes 10 feet. But there have been recent developments of a new modular building system such as the High Ceiling Clear Span System that has much less of the dimensional limitations. Other disadvantages include architectural design limitations and high pitched roofs; however, neither of these limitations is insurmountable as long as there is a willingness to employ a site contractor for the work required to be done on site.

How do I plan a modular building project?

There many different approaches to planning a building project but no matter how you set your plan in place, it is likely you will go through at least six stages that are critical to a successful project. These stages can be found at http://www.tlgmodular.com/modular-buildings/planning

Can I get budgetary pricing for a modular building project before I am ready for a formal quotation?

It depends on the company you are requesting your information from. Some modular building providers are reluctant to give budgetary figures because every building project is different and they have concerns about misleading someone resulting in a budget surprise if the budgetary number is too low. Likewise, they are concerned about losing a prospect if the budgetary number is too high. At TLG Modular, we are willing to give a price per square foot range to assist the customer in determining whether or not the project is even feasible in the early stages of planning.

How long will it take for my modular building to be complete?

Depending on the size and complexity of the building, the modular building should be complete within ninety days after contract completion and issuance of any upfront monies required. The following is typical: Approximately ten days after the execution of a contract, shop drawings, material and color samples will be presented for approval and selection. Two sets of activities will take place during this stage; (1) the preparation of the site including clearing and grading, if necessary, and foundation work. It is a good idea to have a clear delineation of responsibilities to make clear who is responsible for what with regard to site preparation and work; (2) the building will go into a production slot at the manufacturer (typical lead time for the building production is approximately 8-10 weeks). Most modular building projects less than 5,000 square feet can be completed within ninety days of contract execution, but it is always best to get an estimate of the completion time once the full scope of the project is known and it is a good idea to set contingencies in the event of unexpected and uncontrollable delays.

What options will I have for my modular building specifications?

A modular building can be built to your specification with little or no limitations. Besides dimensional limitations, the modular building can be specified similar to a conventional building. It is important to note however, that some selections and finishes are better completed on site such as ceramic tile, drywall taping, floating and painting, and some exterior finishes such as brick and stucco due to the impact over-the-road transportation can have on these finishes causing cracks and damage.

What is involved in the permitting process for my modular building project and who is responsible for this?

It is best for you to start this process by checking in with the local building department to see what will be required to obtain the permit. This can be done by contacting them by phone, walking in, or by checking their website. It is best to hire a General Contractor to pull the permits and, at a minimum, the contractor will need a copy of the site plan, modular building plan, and any other documentation relevant to the project. In some municipalities, the owner of the project property can pull the permits, otherwise, they will require a licensed General Contractor. The customer is typically responsible for permits, licenses, taxes and fees associated with the modular building project and it is best to sort this phase out early in the planning.

What is a mansard roof?

The mansard is a roofing style characteristic of French renaissance architecture, and is uniquely elegant. Mansard roofs were revived and popularized by French architect, Francois Mansart. The mansard roof is characterized by four sides, each double-sloped, the lower slope being significantly steeper than the one above it. The upper slope is not usually visible from the ground, as it is angled only enough to allow the run-off of water.

How high are the ceilings in a modular building?

The typical ceiling height in a modular building is between 7 feet, 5 inches and as high as ten feet. Ceiling heights in a modular building are limited due to height restrictions for over-the-road transport based on the height of passes on the selected routing. The higher ceiling heights in the range given above can result in an over height building module and can impact transportation costs. There have been recent developments in modular building designs that allow for much higher ceiling heights based on a collapsible design of the structure which is loaded onto a low mount trailer with a crane and is not transported on its own wheel assembly.

What level of sound deadening can be achieved in a modular building?

Methods for sound deadening include double layers of gypsum board, interior wall insulation, walls rising above the ceiling grid to the under layer of the roof, and in more extreme cases, sound deadening panels can be installed. The exact level of sound deadening should be specified by the customer and the manufacturer will determine the requirements to meet that specification.

What is the life cycle of a modular building?

If properly maintained, the modular building will have a life cycle comparable to a conventional building. For amortization and depreciation purposes, companies that lease modular buildings will depreciate the buildings over an 18-25 year period.

Will my modular building be built to code?

Yes. Qualified manufacturers of the modular building are required to submit their quality control programs and building specifications for approval by the state for which they wish to build. The State will have a 3rd party inspector come to the plant and inspect each building during the manufacturing stages and upon completion and passing inspection, the inspector will give the building a State Seal of Approval. The code the building must meet is based on the International Building Code (IBC) adapted for the state or region for where the building is going to reside. Upon installation, the only inspection the local building inspector will perform will be to check and see that the building has the appropriate State Seal of Approval.

How will the finishes of my modular building compare to conventional construction?

The best look is obtained when the interior finishes such as the taping, floating, and painting of the drywall is done on site. Otherwise, the manufacturer will install standard finishes customary in the industry such as a pre-finished sheet rock with a vinyl clad covering and there will be a seam every four feet, usually covered by a batten strip. The other item to be careful of is the ceiling material which, if not drywall to be finished on site, looks best if an acoustical tile (T-Grid) ceiling is used vs. a pre-finished sheet rock, which will also have seems every four feet.

How can I get the look of a permanent/site built building with my modular building?

To achieve the look and feel of a permanent/site built building, you will want to consider doing some portion of the building on site. Building part of the basic modules in a manufacturing plant can still bring the benefits of saving time and money, but finishing the building on site with a high pitch roof, a drive through canopy, and below grade foundation to achieve a grade level access into the building as examples, will result in an attractive building that looks as though it was built on site.

How do I protect my building from mold?

Mold is a problem that can be quite costly if it occurs and is left unresolved. Typically, mold is found in areas where the temperatures are hot and the humidity is high. In these climates, it might be best to consider little or no wood products in your modular building, for example use a steel perimeter frame with steel floor joists, steel wall studs, cement and fiber based floor boarding, and siding which consists of little or no wood. The problem with this as a solution is costs. The cost of your building will be higher if you build with steel and concrete vs wood. If you do not limit the amount of wood in your building due to budget or other considerations, you will want to seek expert advice on how to prepare your site so that water does not settle under or near the building. You will also want to be sure to address any existing or potential leaks immediately so that water does not find its way to secret areas inside the walls and ceiling to moisten the wood and create an environment where mold can flourish. Again, the best advice here is to seek expert advice on how to protect a building from mold and what to do should mold occur.

Will my modular building withstand hurricane strength winds?

Based on the State or Regional building code your building will be built to, wind load capacity is covered for the potential weather in the area. For instance, in some parts of Florida, codes require that the modular building be engineered to withstand up to 140 MPH winds. It is important to follow all evacuation policies and procedures put into place from your local authorities during a hurricane.

What is the floor loading capacity of a modular building?

The standard floor load capacity in a modular building is 50 lbs per square foot. However much higher floor loading capacity can be achieved in a variety of ways including, double layer floor decking, tighter spacing between floor joists, and tight spacing of the foundation piers. It is not uncommon to see a modular building with a floor loading capacity of 150 lbs per square foot.

What financing options are available for my modular building?

There are several options available. Click on the following link for more information. http://www.tlgmodular.com/financing-options

What type of a foundation will be required for my modular building?

The typical foundation is a pier and pad foundation which is based on a composite pad that sets on the grade and a pier is constructed on the pad and the building set on a multiple of these piers then anchored to the ground using auger anchors that drill deep into the ground. Other foundations include poured in place footers instead of the pads and then the piers are constructed on top of those footers and concrete is poured in the center of the piers to create a solid concrete pier. There are other types of foundation systems including a perimeter foundation which is a concrete block wall built below grade that the building sets upon, and in some cases, a basement can be built with the modular building setting on top of the perimeter walls and welded into place using steel plates that the frame set upon. The foundation is going to be determined by two things, budget and local code requirements. In the early stages of planning, this is a question the building department will be most helpful with.

What is the soil bearing capacity required for a modular building?

Usually the soil bearing capacity should be 2,500PSI but may differ from region to region based on soil conditions specific to your region. It is recommended that you hire a soil testing company to determine the soil bearing capacity of your site and who can recommend compaction requirements based on the size and weight of the building to be installed.

Who is responsible for the site-work and what are the key considerations?

Unless contracted otherwise, the customer is responsible for any and all site work not including the installation of the building on a pier and pad foundation or on a foundation constructed by others. There are options available if you do not have a General Contractor or do not want to be involved with planning and completing the site work. You will want to consult with your TLG Modular representative in this regard.

Is a general contractor required for a modular building project?

Usually, a General Contractor will be required to pull permits and coordinate the site work including site clearing, grading and compacting, utilities and their connections to the building, approaches and ramp ways, and landscaping just to mention few.

What if I need a multi-story building?

TLG Modular works with manufacturers who have engineered and code approved structures to go as high as four stories.

Can I visit the manufacturer of the modular building?

Yes. TLG Modular works only with customer-friendly manufacturers and we would be happy to arrange a tour for you. In the events were our customers have toured the plant, the experience was very positive and helpful to gaining a good understanding and appreciation for the process, quality, and professionalism that goes into the manufacturing of a modular building.
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