Modular Building Institute

carltonThree Star General
Advocates Modular Construction

Interview with Dr. Paul K. Carlton, Jr.


This past June the Modular Building Institute (MBI) held a forum on government and military construction in Washington D.C. MBI speaks with keynote speaker Three-star General Dr. Paul K. Carlton, Jr. concerning his advocacy for modular construction in the military arena.


MBI: you seem to be quite an advocate for the modular construction process. Why is that?

General Carlton: Because it is time for innovation. Site built construction has far too many inefficiencies, not to mention weather restrictions. Change is difficult, but our government and healthcare industries need more focus on factory built component methods. Conventional construction costs are eating up too much of the construction budget- in all areas!

MBI: Where do you envision modular, or component construction techniques being of the most value to the public?

General Carlton: There are several areas and markets that lend themselves to component construction. I recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and after meeting with several government officials, I am convinced that the only way to meet that country’s infrastructure needs is with the modular construction industry playing a major role. Iraq has a current requirement to build 5 million residences, 2,000 schools, and 55,000 hospital beds in the next ten years.

modular in iraq
Modular construction industry members recently travelled to Iraq along with Dr. P.K. Carlton and were hosted by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley, Director of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.

Actually, any remote areas with facility infrastructure needs could benefit from this type of construction. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services are two agencies in particular with needs in remote regions. The planned construction budget for IHS shows a $2.4 billion backlog for healthcare facilities. I believe that component construction could easily increase the number of facilities built for same money and equal or better quality.

MBI: So it’s a better value for taxpayers?

General Carlton: Yes! Let me give you an example. I read about the new Naval Hospital to be built on Guam. $300M for a 38 bed facility that runs half full, according to the press release, $7.9M per built bed, $17.6M per occupied bed. I can show you a new hospital that was built in 2006 near Philadelphia using modular methods for 24 beds and $25M, $1M per bed. At 1/8th the cost, it is worth looking into!

MBI: What do you think about the quality?

General Carlton: I provided testimony on 11 June 2009 to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs stating my opinion that the Government would get “consistently superior quality" when using component construction methods.

MBI: So if modular construction, or component construction as you refer to it, produces a high quality facility for remote locations at a fraction of the cost, why hasn’t it caught on? What’s the downside here?

General Carlton: The downside is “change”. Change is hard for anyone, let alone government agencies. I summarize how difficult that change is with this summation of a mindset toward change:

“Every revolutionary idea evokes three stages of reaction”:
1) You’re nuts!
2) It would work, but no reason to change!
3) You like it? – It was MY idea!

We must understand that change is difficult but we must keep the pressure on so that the change needed for a brighter future arrives in a timely fashion.

MBI: Any closing thoughts?


General Carlton: I like to reference a quote by Eric Hofer: “In times of change the learners will inherit the world…while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I am convinced that component construction has a very large role in our country’s future, both here and abroad. I call that “skipping today and going straight to tomorrow.” Your industry is the future! Let’s get there expeditiously!

About Dr. Paul K. Carlton, Jr.
Three-star General Dr. Paul K. Carlton, Jr. is director of the Office of Homeland Security for Texas A&M University Health Science Center. Dr. Carlton is an advocate of modular construction and its innate ability to accelerate construction schedules. As surgeon general of the Air Force from 1999 to 2002 and having conceptualized and implemented the first Air Force rapid-response flying ambulance in Europe, he understands the importance of speed. Modular construction industry members recently travelled to Iraq along with Dr. P.K. Carlton and were hosted by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley, Director of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.

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