Trinity College's $25 million Crescent Street housing project will finish faster and cheaper using modular construction.
Modular construction, or prefabrication, can cut a three to four month project down to about two and a half months, said Aaron Krueger, project manager for Trinity's general contractor, Consigli Construction Co. Inc.
"All the units need is a coat of paint, flooring, and to be assembled when they arrive," said Krueger, who is working on his first true modular unit build.
In this process, individual units are made off-site in factory warehouses, freeing construction from weather constraints and associated onsite clutter. Onsite preparations including laying foundations are done simultaneously with unit construction, a time saver not possible with ground-up building.
Additional costs that accompany modular building include unit transportation and giving each room both a floor and ceiling, rather than using one unit's floor as another unit's ceiling. Krueger said the efficient assembly line nature of how the near identical units are made still allows for lower overall costs and higher quality.
The whole Trinity project is being done in two phases; the first includes three apartment buildings with room for 203 students to be completed in August. The second phase includes two apartment buildings with room for 150 students and 7,500-10,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The second phase will be ready for the spring 2014 semester; a semester earlier than originally planned.
Krueger said each of these buildings requires about 52 prefabricated units that have already started to be shipped to Hartford from Maine manufacturing warehouses. They made their journey on the back of trucks protected with sheets of plastic, and upon arrival the units are almost completely ready to be lived in.
Project financer Kirchhoff Campus Properties encouraged Consigli, with offices in Hartford, to use modular construction.
Kirchhoff does not always push for modular construction but it was the right choice for this project, said Brian Cohan, Kirchhoff director of project development.
"The lack of time and space that modular construction needs were the contributing factors in our decision," said Cohan. "Along with the uniformity of the rooms, it was clear that this was the right path to take."
In recent years this mode of prefabricated building has become a more viable option for the Pleasant Valley, N.Y. company.
"There are now companies with modular building warehouses big enough to handle commercial jobs, and technology has evolved to a point where I trust the quality will be as good if not better than traditional stick builds," Cohan said.
The school is happy with the path the project is taking, said Trinity spokeswoman Michele Jacklin.
"The first phase of housing needs to be ready for our students by the start of the fall 2013 term and using this process makes that deadline achievable," Jacklin said.
Kirchhoff is leasing the land the apartments will be built on and will own the buildings. Trinity will manage and rent out the housing.
Consigli, based in Milford, Mass., is using KBS Building Systems of South Paris, Maine to construct the units.