Modular constructing expedites reasonably priced housing and long-term care development throughout the pandemic

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While many sectors saw significant slowdowns during COVID-19, the pandemic created opportunities for Stack Modular and Bird Construction.

“COVID, bad as it was, was turning out to be a turning point in certain sectors and making it busier for us,” said Andy Berube, vice president of Stack Modular, a manufacturer of large steel frame modular construction projects across North America, who worked in collaboration deliver projects with Bird.

“The importance of housing and affordability was highlighted. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) launched the Fast Housing Initiative, highlighting modular construction as a way to get affordable housing up and running quickly. “

The pandemic has created the need to focus on affordable apartment buildings and long-term care projects across the country.

In contrast, the hospitality industry, which was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, has pushed some of the projects in the pipeline into the background.

Stack Modular and Bird have a number of long-term care projects in Ontario and across Canada.

“Fast delivery is important and COVID has made the need for it clear and perpetuated an existing problem,” Berube said. “Everyone is in a hurry to get this done, and with modular or off-site design, you’re essentially combining two design methods to speed up a project.”

The team was recently awarded the 2021 Award of Distinction by the Modular Building Institute for the Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Center in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Off-site construction is an effective way to speed up challenging projects.

“The key is to understand that with the modular structure you accelerate the schedule significantly and with the reduced schedule you reduce the risk associated with time on the construction site … As a developer, you turn capital faster,” said Berube. “With conventional construction in its current state, the challenges are having enough manpower and work stoppages, weather delays, especially in Canada. What we can deliver is essentially a shortened schedule that reduces risk and provides cost security. “

Bird Construction was recently awarded a contract to build extensions to the Kenora Prison and Thunder Bay Correctional Center in Ontario to improve capacity and provide additional space for programming and services. The accelerated builds are delivered through Bird’s partnership with Stack Modular.

“It is currently in the planning and design phase,” said Berube. “It really is the combination of conventional and modular structure to get the projects done quickly.

“It’s a turnkey solution.”

Most projects are not all modular, but a combination of modular and conventional design. The project team is studying the project to determine which components are best for which method, Berube said.

“There is a perception in the market that if you work modularly, you get rid of conventional designs, which is wrong,” he explained.

“Your bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens are usually modular, while public areas such as restaurants, entrance areas and podiums on the first floor are usually conventional.

“When you think of a hotel or long-term care facility, your entrance area consists of very large, expansive open spaces that are usually built on site. When you get into your corridor, into the hallways, this is really the ideal place for modular construction when you are building the accommodation part of a building. “

Modular is particularly suitable for long-term care and multi-family apartments or condominiums, as there is a sense of repeatability.

“This is really where modular shines,” said Berube. “But you still have the flexibility within the units to have multiple styles and it doesn’t have to be that every box is the same.”

Stack Modular is also working on other projects around the world. Devices are locally designed and manufactured according to local regulations at one of Stack Modular’s wholly owned facilities near Shanghai.

“Because of our unique position and our ability to deliver to unique regions, we have several projects in the Bahamas, Africa and the Philippines,” said Berube.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.