Modular Building Institute

MBI and BD+C Modular Advantage | Spring 2012

Modular Dorms are

The need for efficient building solutions in the student housing market are more necessary than ever as enrollment rates continue to increase and as campuses are becoming more cost and environmentally conscious, seeking innovative, affordable and sustainable living options for students. One industry that is stepping up to the challenge is permanent modular construction to provide greener, faster, smarter benefits to meet clients’ needs.

Permanent modular buildings are 60% to 90% completed offsite in a controlled environment, then transported and permanently affixed at the final building site. This method of construction is often integrated with site construction, leveraging the resources and advantages of each type of construction. 

Student housing complexes have features that are well-suited using modular construction. Because of the assembly line process of modular construction, it is most effective when used for the repetitive portions of a project that are similar in design and layout such as dorm rooms because they can be built in a factory one after the other with a lot of quality.

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    Case Studies:


Building the majority of a building in a factory provides key benefits in terms of sustainability. The automated, streamlined process can provide advantages in meeting LEED requirements, generating less waste, fewer site disturbances and allowing for tighter construction, creating better indoor air quality. Buildings are also more easily disassembled and repurposed for new uses.

The modular projects described in this article were all designed to have energy and water-conserving attributes and less waste than projects constructed completely on site. One example of how modular can make green construction even greener is only 12% of waste from the Ferrum College project was sent to the landfill; 88% was recycled. The Modules at TempleTown in Philadelphia, PA is over 60,000 sq. ft. and might be the largest modular-constructed LEED for Homes project in the United States.

The modular construction process can allow modular buildings to be completed 30% to 50% faster than site construction. A 25-story, 805 module project at the University of Wolverhampton, England, was completed in only 27 weeks, in time for students to start fall classes. The project would have taken would have taken at least 24 months using site construction. At Ferrum College in Ferrum, VA, an all-brick colonial structure capable of housing 120 students was completed on budget in only 120 days. A dormitory complex at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC was 80% finished when it arrived on site, thus lessening time that was spent on trim work and finishing on site. Also in the works is a student housing project for Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY with 240 modules set in 40 days. The time savings the modular process offers helps colleges/universities meet tight deadlines and see a faster return on investment. 

Modular buildings are also built to the highest quality and efficiency, to meet or exceed the same building codes as site construction. Also, since modular is a construction process, not a particular product or building type, modular student housing can be constructed to any architectural and customer specifications. The new dorms at the University of Wolverhampton look like old English homes, and the all-brick colonial residence halls at Ferrum College in VA echo the architectural style of other buildings on the historic campus. Modular buildings can be built to blend in with any existing campus building and can be virtually indistinguishable from buildings built with site construction.

Permanent modular buildings can also be constructed to as many stories as building codes allow. The University of Wolverhampton residence halls, at 24 stories, are the world’s tallest buildings built with offsite construction methods. Modular systems can also work well with uneven, sloped, or rough terrain. The Mountaineer Hall at Appalachian State University sits on the side of a mountain and efficiently uses the available land.

Ferrum College in Ferrum, VA

Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY


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