Modular construction flips the typical design and construction process on its head. We as Architects are used to a series of "almost complete" design exercises. We work toward client design approvals, refine those approvals into permit and construction sets and then closely follow construction on-site, making changes throughout. Modular construction doesn't work this way.
With modular, the design approval is followed by a 100% shop drawing sign off process. From cabinet hardware to light switch diagrams, everything needs to be absolutely perfect. The construction period is compressed from several months to several days and you get EXACTLY what the drawings show. Imagine approving absolutely everything in your house/project up front and then cross your fingers because when it hits the production line it gets built FAST! This can be challenging for both the Architect and Client - decisions and drawings are front-loaded which dramatically increases the coordination efforts during the Design Development phase. But, once the approvals are complete, it's like strapping your project to a NASA rocket. When the project hits the production line it takes a matter of days to be completed.
Production line photos started streaming in during the initial days of factory construction. It was an incredibly exciting period for the whole team. Several pictures from the factory can be seen below.
From start to finish, it took 10 working days to complete the factory-built portion of the home. Our original scheduled delivery date was delayed 1-month, partly due to design delays but also due to factory constraints and delays on another project ahead of ours. The factory is an assembly line and when one project slows down, all those behind it slow as well.
From the day we started design, it took 11 months for the home to be delivered to the site. Our initial design period lasted 4 months, we wasted 2 months on a modular company that we ultimately decided couldn't execute at a level we felt the project deserved so we switched mid process to a new company. Our final shop drawing period took 4 months and one additional month was needed to finalize contracts, build the boxes and deliver. The process was challenging to say the least.
The magic of modular comes on set day. All of the hard work and preparation boils down to a single day build when the home seems to appear out of nowhere. We crossed our fingers and prayed for a rain free day.
Overall, the set day went smoothly and we watched as the home was assembled, 5 boxes in all, in a single day. Our contractor, VT Barns, was able to use his own set crew with a rented crane to build the house with oversight from our Simplex Homes representative. It was a successful day and we were excited to see all the hard work pay off.
Our time-lapse video of the set is below. It's amazing to think this was done in a single day.
In our next installment, we will talk more about the finishing process and how our expectations differed from reality. We were lucky to get the home in before the snow hit. A picture from the site in November 2016 is below.