Commercial Modular Renovation
On August, 29, 2011 The Gazette published a response article in defense of modular buildings.
” Re: “Failing grade for trailers” (Gazette, Aug. 6).
The Gazette’s story on emergency classrooms in Haiti called into question the quality and durability of those modular classrooms.
The reporters cited issues such as “incredible heat, unsatisfactory sanitation facilities, lack of ventilation, leaks, mould and, in one case, high levels of formaldehyde,” as well as questioning whether they are, as billed, hurricane-proof.
In 2004, four hurricanes hit Florida, causing over $50 billion in property damage. What went underreported was the fact that 1,600 manufactured homes built to the 1994 wind standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were hit by those hurricanes.
How many were blown off their foundations? None.
How many were destroyed? Zero. Based on reading The Gazette’s story, would readers know that those classrooms, if properly installed, could withstand 140-mile-per-hour hurricane winds?
The story also said that the modular classrooms did not have running water and latrines. Imagine Haiti’s devastation. There are problems with infrastructure, transportation, shortages of materials and a host of other things.
Bathrooms in classrooms require hookups to sewer lines. There is no failure in design or construction if proper utility hookups were not done.
On the reported issues with air quality and mould: no air conditioning was evident in the photos, and it was not mentioned in the story. These modular units were probably designed to have air conditioning installed on site. Without air conditioning in a highly humid climate, mould could form. Blame nature, but not the builder or those who provided humanitarian relief.
Formaldehyde exists in most construction. It is found in building materials, resins and fabrics. It is also part of your body chemistry. Energy-efficient construction is “tighter,” so formaldehyde’s effects on the eyes in hot conditions are more acute. Air conditioning is a solution.
Can we believe that those involved wanted to do a bad job for Haitians? We do not know enough to cast blame on anyone or anything, other than the difficult conditions in Haiti.
Modular and pre-fab construction is used worldwide in commercial, office and residential housing. More than 20 million people in the U.S. and Canada live in factory-built homes.
Hundreds of thousands are employed by the industry and its suppliers. The article does an injustice to builders of manufactured and modular homes and those who dwell in them by using derogatory terms like “trailer.” The media should use proper terminology and avoid outdated stereotypes.
L.A. (Tony) Kovach Publisher, Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management (MHMSM.com) Chicago
Below is an article by Nicole Hemsoth from HPCwire. A full version of this article can be found here
Purdue University made waves last year with its selection of HP’s POD containerized datacenter, which was hauled in to help them cope with a power inefficiencies stemming from an existing brick and mortar datacenter on campus.
The university set the proof point for cost and efficiency of modular datacenters, with their associate VP of Academic Technologies, John Campbell claiming that for 60% of the cost of a collocation facility the university could install a POD.
The selling point for containerized datacenters in general is that they come fully configured (although customizations can be made) with all the cables, power, cooling and racks in place and ready to roll. For Purdue, the savings mounted in the arenas of colo leasing, cutting back on staff to man datacenters, extension of on-campus networks, reduced power costs—which came, in part, because of the university’s own power plant.
UCLA announced this week that it has climbed aboard the containerized datacenter bandwagon with its head of academic technology services and managing director for the Institute of Digital Research and Education, Bill Labate, extolling the benefits of containerized HPC.
Labate’s group is responsible for providing university research cyberinfrastructure via its shared cluster system, which allows researchers who want to build their own clusters to instead buy compute nodes that Labate’s team integrates into the shared cluster. This allows the team to make the cycles available for over 170 research projects, from particle physics to genomcis and beyond.
As the need for cycles grew steadily, Labate saw a need for new equipment. He said that they had an existing datacenter that was a target for retrofitting, but when the team examined the possibility, it was clear there would be power and cooling limitations even though the space itself would have allowed room for growth. Labate’s team was able to secure $4.4 million to retrofit the existing data center, but when they received their final estimate for $7.2 million for the project, the shortfall led Labate down a different path.
Since it was not possible to scale down the potential retrofitted datacenter to remain within budget constraints, the possibilities of modular datacenters entered the picture. Labate said that to scale down to the level needed to suit the allotted funding would not have served even intermediate needs. Furthermore, since the goal of this undertaking was to enhance growth potential for the shared cluster resources, the retrofit would have been a waste of effort and money.
Labate approached UC San Diego for opinions about their experiences with a Sun-Oracle Black Box containerized solution, but found that they faced challenges with the U-shaped layout. UCSD told him that one thing they did not like was that the Black Box required specialized equipment and brought logistical challenges when it came to replacing and maintaining hardware since entire sections needed to be pulled out for fixes. This would not suit UCLA’s needs since, again, their system of buying new hardware was based on price-performance options among vendors, thus requiring flexibility to swap components based on what individual vendors offered. Besides, the Black Box solution was only a 20-foot container, and Labate knew that he needed to be able to power more cycles than the smaller Sun-Oracle solution could provide.
Labate’s team eventually settled on HP due to its high density, which was a good fit for what they were trying to accomplish in terms of providing as many cycles as possible. Other vendors they evaluated offered attractive density but Labate said there was not enough flexibility–that they needed to be able to grow with solutions that weren’t specialized for a particular container environment.
Before choosing the high-density, 40×8 feet POD container from HP, the team also looked at options from Dell, Rackable and as noted previously, the Sun-Oracle Black Box, which Labate says was the first to be struck from the list due to the size and shape limitations. He did not go into detail about the reasons behind abandoning the Dell and Rackable solutions, other than to say that for their specific needs, density was the deciding factor. Still, he noted that there were many similarities between the HP, Dell, IBM, and Rackable solutions—the choice simply came down to price, performance, flexibility of equipment solutions, and density.
The site preparations for the container began in October 2010 and moved swiftly until ending in mid-April of 2011. This entailed extending the university’s existing chilled water, power systems and pumps, fiber networks and laying the solid foundation required to support 110,00 pounds of steel and equipment.
Many modular datacenter makers emphasize the quick installation and set-up of their containers, claiming that it can be humming away in a few short weeks. As Labate says, however, anyone who knows anything about datacenters knows that you “can’t just plunk down a datacenter in your backyard and hook into your garden hose.” All told, from site prep to shared cluster bootup the team was looking at several months.
The shared cluster is distributed across campus with one building housing around 300 nodes, another with roughly 500 and now the POD, which packs in over 1500 nodes. His team ran a wide area InfiniBand network throughout, pulling all the nodes onto the same fabric for efficient management. They connected the Ethernet network for storage traffic, creating what he describes as a “geographic spread out single cluster.”
The team chose to keep the storage resources outside of the POD, in part to protect the valuable applications and results of long runs, but also because the POD has been optimized for compute nodes according to his team’s purpose to deliver shared cluster resources as if it was a single system. He emphasized repeatedly that their needs are specific—they wanted to be able to maximize the number of cycles available for university research.
When asked about usability or performance tradeoffs, Labate was adamant that containers are more efficient and perform for their needs, which again, are focused on providing more compute for the shared HPC cluster. He said that in many ways, the container streamlines their HPC operations by shedding the maintenance and efficiency hassles of brick and mortar. As he noted, “there are no other people in the POD, in fact, we limit our time in there since we want to keep it buttoned up as tight as possible. It’s been freeing, no operators in the pod, no need for anyone to sit in there and monitor—it’s all automated with all the tools we need for monitoring, powering on and off and so forth.”
According to Labate, there were no power and energy consumption problems with their use of POD. He said that compared to one of their brick and mortar datacenters which was operating at 1.5 PUE, the POD was running a steady 1.17 PUE. He claims that this translates into roughly a $200,000 difference in power costs, which represented a secondary but very important consideration as they looked at the POD capabilities.
Despite the lack of wide user adoption of modular datacenters, it was nearly impossible to get Labate to remark on any drawbacks to such solutions. He said that outside of the obvious negative factors, which include working inside small boxes with 36 raging blowers and tight quarters (which his team overcomes by saving fixes inside for once-weekly missions) and the aesthetic problem of having an giant, ugly shipping container fitting in with an artful sense of campus uniformity (an issue he said gave the campus aesthetics folk a few gripes) he can’t imagine traditional datacenters to address growth ever again.
When pressed about what he might warn others about when considering such solutions, Labate said environmental conditions were critical. First, in terms of making sure it is possible to locate the container close to needed power and cooling resources. Also, in terms of actually environment—he said that during a recent conversation with someone in an snow-bound region, he suggested that to avoid preventing access to the container they might need to consider building enclosures or renting indoor space.
Snow might not be a problem for UCLA, but earthquakes certainly are. Labate said this is another important distinction between brick and mortar and containers—while he notes he hasn’t researched his hunch, these massive, solid steel, windowless shipping containers were far likely more structurally sound than any existing traditional datacenter on his campus. Let’s hope he never gets a chance to prove that theory.
Prevost Construction is proud to participate with Modular Building Institute. A brief history can be found on their website: www.modular.org. Founded in 1983, the Modular Building Institute (MBI) is the international non-profit trade association serving non-residential modular construction. Members are manufacturers, contractors, and dealers in two distinct segments of the industry – permanent modular construction (PMC) and relocatable buildings (RB). Associate members are companies supplying building components, services, and financing.
This is a great association to be a part of to get the latest information on modular buildings as well as discuss information with other contractors, manufacturers or dealers. Being that Prevost is a big part of school and modular buildings, education is a big part of this association. Below find an article that can be found here, to learn more about the school system’s involvement with modular buildings.
From single classrooms to complete campuses, permanent modular construction offers public, private, and charter schools what other construction methods cannot: accelerated project timelines, more economical pricing, and less disruption. Permanent modular schools are indistinguishable from other schools and can be constructed to any architectural and customer specifications. MBI members design and build schools of all types and sizes using traditional building materials like wood, steel, and concrete. Virtually any size permanent school can be built, installed, and ready for occupancy, some in as little as 90 days. Perhaps most importantly, by using off-site technology, open construction sites are eliminated while school is in session. Students are safer and teachers compete with less disruption.
High Tech High in Chula Vista, CA by Williams Scotsman. Find case study here.
Millmont School, Reding, PA by Triumph Modular & NRB Inc. Find case study here.
Relocatable buildings have become a critical factor in managing student demographics and increasing enrollments. Relocatable classrooms are also ideal for use during new construction or renovation. Convenient, flexible, cost-effective buildings can be delivered and operational in as little as 24 hours. Relocatable classrooms are measured for quality and code-compliance by state or third-pary agencies through routine and random inspections, testing, and certification services. Single classrooms or multiple buildings can be arranged in clusters to create a campus feel. MBI members supply steps, decks, ramps, and even furniture. Members also offer lease, purchase, and lease-to-purchase financing for a variety of public and private school needs.
Harvard University, Child Care Center by Triumph Modular.
Performance IQ, High Performance Green Modular Classroom design by M Space Holdings LLC.
Dearcroft Montessori School, Oakville, ON by Provincial Partitions Ltd.
Modular classroom design by Perkins+Will.
Case Study-North Andover Early Childhood Center:
“The modular panels are built in the German factory to very exacting standards, using wood from sustainable sources. This project is at the cutting edge of modern methods of construction and it’s been a great experience to learn more about the approach and see it in action on site.”
Modular Construction is becoming more popular as the days go by. This article features a construction company from the UK that paired up with a manufacturer from Germany to build houses and build them quickly!!
Seddon teams up with German manufacturer to build new homes ‘in hours
By: Jon Land
A Stoke-on-Trent construction company has joined forces with a German manufacturer to deliver the latest innovation in building techniques at a site in the city – creating new homes built in hours.
Under a partnership between Seddon Construction and specialist off-site manufacturer Streif, flats have been built at the new North Staffs YMCA Young Persons’ Village in Hanley, through an off-site construction process.
In just four weeks, 30 flats have been built over three floors on the site, to the highest green standards.
The process began with the manufacture of the flats at Streif’s factory in Weinham – before a team of workers from the company then joined forces with Seddon in Hanley to erect the major structure.
Despite language barriers – an interpreter was needed to aid communication between both parties – the team worked without a hitch, delivering each flat in just 4.5 hours.
The approach is one of a number of innovations introduced at The YMCA Young Person’s Village to ensure the development is built with sustainability in mind.
As part of the process, Seddon Construction’s chairman Stuart Seddon made a trip to Weinham last year to find out more modular building. His son Joe – currently completing an apprenticeship at Seddon Construction – then undertook a week-long training programme at Streif to understand more about the concept, joined by Dean Parkes, an apprentice maintenance worker at North Staffs YMCA.
Joe said: “I had a really interesting time and was able to bring a lot of knowledge back to the site.
“The modular panels are built in the German factory to very exacting standards, using wood from sustainable sources.
“The wood is then insulated and clad, windows and doorframes fitted, and electrical sockets and letterboxes cut out.
“These panels were delivered to Hanley, and put in place during 650 lifts with a 55 tonne crane. Due to the fact the structure went up so quickly we could put a roof on at an early stage, making the building watertight and alleviating the usual weather concerns we face on site.
“This project is at the cutting edge of modern methods of construction and it’s been a great experience to learn more about the approach and see it in action on site.”
With the structure in place, the Seddon team are now carrying out the second fix. The precise nature of the scheme means ceilings and doors are fitted and correct to within one millimetre.
Tony Cameron, site supervisor for Strief, said: “All has gone very well with no problems. The work has been completed on time and ran smoothly.
“We had great assistance from the team at Seddon. We have given them a great product and in return they have provided us with good facilities and health and safety. I have never been to such a clean site.”
Rodney Leake, Seddon Construction’s site manager at the YMCA Young Persons’ Village, said: “I have not worked on this type of modular building before and it has been a fantastic experience.
“This approach has considerable green benefits. As the preparation work is all done off-site there is virtually no waste to deal with and as the panels are solid, insulated and airtight, so there is little heat loss.”
Danny Flynn, CEO of North Staffs YMCA, said: “We are very excited to be working with Seddon Construction and Streif. The build process has been amazing to watch, the speed on construction literally took our young customers’ breath away.
“The buildings were constructed in 28 days, and as they begin to reach completion the quality of provision is already being commented upon by customers and partners.”
To view the complete article, visit by clicking on www.24dash.com