Fabrication for the Future: The Modules

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The Modules at TempleTown is an impressive project. It embodies what many in the industry believe to be the benefits of off-site fabrication: waste reduction, speedy construction, and cost savings. Designed by Interface Studio Architects, The Modules is a student apartment building in a double-H shape specifically designed to allow natural lighting in all of the rental units.

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Importantly, this is expected to become one of the largest, modular, LEED certified buildings in the country.  The aim is Silver certification under the LEED for Homes Mid-rise pilot program.

The 72-unit building has ground-level parking, four levels of apartments, and a top level with a green roof terrace.  The storm water management system, which includes a rain garden, green roof, and pervious paving, reduces water runoff by 50%.

The Modules is located near Temple University in Philadelphia and units are now available for rent.  I was able to email with Brian Phillips, principal and LEED AP at Interface Studio Architects, to get some feedback on using modular construction for the project.

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Q: Do you think prefabrication offered any advantages throughout the construction process?

Phillips:  At this scale there appear to be clear advantages on cost of construction and speed of deployment.  This 80,000 square-foot, 5-story building was built from excavation to finish work in 9 months.  The ability to fabricate elements of the building outside of Philadelphia County allows for a more competitive labor rate.  Also, if time is money – the speed of modular is a savings.

Q: Did you learn any lessons to apply with future projects of this nature?

Phillips: Lessons are coordination, coordination, coordination.

Since this is a student housing project, there is an annual cycle for completing a project.  If you don’t get it open in August, you’ve lost a year.  We basically started design 12 months before construction was finished which is quite a quick schedule.  Unlike field building, where last minute changes can be accommodated, the pre-fabrication process requires the documentation to be complete well in advance of fabrication – as the modular manufacturer needs to procure material, produce shop drawings for approval and then fabricate.

While modular prefab can save a lot of time in construction – it almost takes more time on the design and coordination side.

Q: Now that students are moving in, do you still expect LEED certification?

Phillips: Yes, the project was designed under a pilot called LEED for Homes Mid-rise.  We are anticipating a LEED for Homes Silver rating, which we are quite proud of considering the building-type, budget, and rapid schedule.

The Modules was developed by Carlisle Street Partners, LLC, with Equinox Management & Construction, LLC as the general contractor and Excel Homes as the modular manufacturer.

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See interior photos of the apartments in The Modules at TempleTown.

Credits: The Modules.


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