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Prefabricated modular buildings: lower cost, fewer headaches.

In the past, there have been few alternatives to on-site construction of large communications buildings. While small, prefabricated buildings have been used by the industry for many years, shipping constraints limited their size to about 360 square feet of floor space. If larger buildings were needed, the only options available were site-constructed buildings of concrete block, metal, or wood.

Problems associated with site-constructed buildings include high local construction costs, schedule delays because of weather or labor strikes, inconsistent standards of quality between multiple sites, and the logistics of dealing with remote sites.

Also, site construction generally requires the services of outside architects, engineers, and general contractors. Quite often multiple contracts will be required for various phases of the work, which in turn increases the owner's administrative work load.

Now there is an alternative. Modular prefabricated buildings of virtually unlimited size are available to the market. In addition to not limiting the size of the shelter based on shipping constraints, a modular prefabricated building offers three distinct advantages over site-built construction:

1. Shorter construction schedules. Construction schedules are improved by simultaneous construction of foundations, associated site work, and the modular prefabricated buildings. Your shelter can be manufactured at the same time your tower is fabricated, and will be available for immediate installation after tower erection.

Many local weather and labor problems can be alleviated because they do not affect the construction of a modular shelter. Thus, you avoid costly delays and can generate revenues faster.

2. Lower cost. Since prefabricated modular shelters are not subject to regionally high construction costs, installation costs may be lower as well.

Material and labor costs do not increase when shelters are located in areas where labor and materials are more costly.

Larger manufacturers of prefabricated modular buildings should be able to provide complete architectural and engineering services. This includes preparation of permit drawings sealed by a registered engineer, and assistance in zoning or permit hearings.

3. Fewer contracts for the owner to administer. Any larger site-built buildings will require multiple contracts. Site-work structure erection, roofing, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical construction will all require different sub-contractors and different contracts. By ordering a modular prefabricated building, the owner can eliminate the need for all subcontracts. Larger manufacturers also can coordinate site work, foundation construction, building, offloading, and setup.

According to the Ilinois Toll Highway Authority, modular prefabricated shelters have all the advantages listed above and more. To date, the Authority has had two modular prefabricated buildings designed and installed for its communications systems. The latest was delivered in three 12- by 24-foot sections for a completed building size of 24 by 36. It is used to house the radio equipment for the Illinois Tollway's communications network, which includes the state police, the toll booths, and the highway maintenance department.

Not only were the modular pieces delivered on time, but the shelter was fabricated and erected at the same time the tower was completed. The shelter was completely assembled on-site and ready for operation in about three weeks.

Since the shelter is located in a highly visible area, its architectural design was very important. The shelter has a fractured fin, fluted finish, and mansard roof.

The communications shelter had to be vandal-and bullet-resistant. Security is very important here. A breakdown in the communications network would affect the entire Tollway operation. The vendor provided documentation stating the shelter could withstand vandalism, bad weather, and bullet penetration.

The Illinois Toll Highway Authority had the building supplied with a Halon 1301 fire-suppression system, two 4-ton wall-mounted HVAC units, static dissipative floor covering, emergency ventilation system, and 300-amp electrical system with the 60-Kw standby emergency generator.

The building was completely fabricated and outfitted in the factory prior to delivery to the site in three modules. All site work, including foundations and grading, was performed by the manufacturer before the building was delivered. Once on site, the building modules were joined anf inal electrical connections between pieces were completed.

When evaluating your needs for an equipment shelter, several factors should be considered. Keep in mind that a modular prefabricated shelter will allow you to obtain a shelter tailored to your requirements, and there is virtually no size limitation. But first, an important decision concerns your vendor choice and how effectively this vendor will work with you. Some specific points to examine when deciding on a vendor and a shelter type include:

First, design assistance and engineering support.

If the manufacturer provides in-house design and engineering support, a considerable amount of your time and manpower will be saved. An efficient shelter design will help reduce lifecycle costs such as utility, maintenance, and upkeep.

Secondly, customer service and quality. Consistency and dependability must be demanded from your vendor. The ability to provide excellent customer service will "make or break" that shelter manufacturer in the telecommunications industry. The only way to determine if a manufacturer is providing you with the best quality and service is to check with other customers who have used that vendor's services.

Telecommunications managers have always been faced with construction problems. While small, single piece, prefabricated buildings have helped solve some of these problems, there has been no solution for those who need larger shelters. The new modular prefabricated buildings may prove to be the perfect choice; they warrant consideration for your next project.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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