The administrators of School District 30 in Northbrook, Illinois had finally
run out of space. For a dozen years, the dedicated 12-person staff, which
serves more than 1,000 students, put aside their own space needs to focus on
school construction efforts. Housed in an aging office trailer,
administrators required more room to house employees and store key district
documents and files.
"We were running out of space in the trailer and couldn't stay there forever,"
said Chris Young, assistant superintendent, finance & operations,
Northbrook\Glenview School District 30. "Since we were planning an
addition to the middle school next door, we decided the time was right to build
a permanent district office."
Timing turned out to be
the district's greatest challenge. Major renovations were being made on a
middle school building and bus drop off area on the district's campus. The
close proximity of these construction projects meant the district needed to
build its new office without delaying the work being done on the school or
interfering with traffic patterns. Administrators turned to the fast
track techniques of modular construction to create their new
headquarters. GE Capital Modular Space worked closely with the district's
architect, Carole Donovan Pugh of Green Associates, to develop a single-story
building that offered enough offices, work and storage space and meeting areas
to accommodate staff and teachers, students, parents and other visitors.
"Going modular saved us at least $200,000 in costs compared to conventional
construction," said Young. "It also allowed us to have new offices ready
in a short time frame which enabled us to meet construction milestones for the
work next door."
Seeing is Believing
Although the administrators were familiar with off-site fabrication, they had
not seen a permanent, modularly constructed facility.
"We invited them to visit our new modular branch office building in Elgin,
Illinois," said GE's Bryan Ferry. "It's an upscale complex that is highly
functional and incorporates interesting architectural design."
According to Pugh, the branch office helped administrators envision the type of
building they wanted for their campus.
"This was my first time being involved in using modular construction to build an
administrative center," Pugh said. "Seeing the branch office solidified
the fact that modular could work as a permanent facility. The client
especially liked the 45-degree angled hallways of the branch office, which we
were not expecting to find in a modularly constructed facility." School
district officials wanted a similar facility that would fit over a basement
"Timing was critical," said Young. "We needed our new building installed
quickly so that we could move the existing trailer off the site and have the
necessary room for our middle school construction efforts. We broke ground on
the foundation on March 9, 2001 and moved into our new offices on June 29,
Bringing the Facility Up to Speed
From the start, modular construction allowed unique techniques to save money
and get the doors open quickly. Arrangements were made for the school's
contractors to install a drop ceiling for electrical wiring and a sprinkler
system during off-site building fabrication rather than on-site which could
take up more time.
For most modular construction projects, manufacturers typically use cranes to
lift modules onto the site and then roll the units into place. Northbrook
administrators, on the other hand, avoided the expense of a crane with the use
of a unique rolling method. To keep the project on schedule, the special
roller system was designed so it could be used to carefully set the building in
place while the basement floor was drying. Within 80 days,
the12,000-square-foot permanent office building was ready for occupancy.
The design adopted from a modular dealer's branch office provided an ideal
layout for the district's staff. Along the perimeter of the district
building are a reception area, seven offices, rest rooms, kitchen/dining area
and a large conference room. Flexible workstation space and a workroom
are in the center. To give it the distinctive diamond shape, angled
hallways were installed throughout the building instead of straight
corridors. With nine-foot ceilings, the building gets plenty of natural
light from its large Pella windows. The eggshell white wall coloring adds
to the brightness of the hallway and offices.
Several modifications were made to
better serve the day-to-day functions of Northbrook's administrators.
Closet space was added to most offices, while one room was enlarged to
accommodate teacher/student conference sessions. A moveable wall enabled
the conference room to accommodate gatherings and meetings of up to 60
people. Air-lock entrance doors were also installed to minimize energy
costs from wind flow and reduce noise from outside. In the rear, an
800-pound elevator was installed for easy access and transport to the
basement. A red brick exterior finish was selected to help the office fit
in with the other buildings on campus.
"We experienced a high level of comfort throughout the entire modular building
process," said Young. "This was my first major modular project and I was
impressed with the expertise in construction. I think we have a very good
"Going modular turned out to be a good move for the district. The
building is nicely laid out and looks good," added Pugh.