Real World Solutions: Pre-fab at Work in Student Housing

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Student housing developers continue to seek out real estate on the doorsteps of colleges and universities. However, “with diminishing site availability near campuses, developers have tailored their projects accordingly, building taller buildings,” says Student Housing Supply. The high-rise style lends itself well to prefabrication, as the approach addresses time and sustainability concerns commonly found in the multi-unit residential industry.

To illustrate how modular construction can translate into time savings and contribute to more eco-friendly buildings, let’s take a look at two SurePods prefabricated bathroom student housing case studies.

On schedule at Florida Atlantic University

According to Hire 10, “Often, if a project is not ready in time for the new school year, the opening has to be delayed by 12 months.” While this makes sense since construction noise can be a major disruption to the learning environment, it does prove challenging for construction crews already having to make do with fewer workers. Unsurprisingly then, “More than a fifth of the 47,000 new student housing beds scheduled to open for the 2018-2019 school year missed their scheduled opening day,” Hire 10 continues.

Prefab’s penchant for meeting and even exceeding tight schedules makes it a natural fit for this challenge. Take the Florida Atlantic University’s student housing project, for example. Two apartment-style buildings started in March 2010 needed to be completed in advance of the 2011-2012 academic year. Balfour Beatty turned to SurePods factory-built modular bathroom pods in hopes of accommodating the tight timeframe. Bathrooms are already one of the most common causes of delays, and the infrastructure group knew SurePods gets heads in beds faster than field-built options.

With prefabrication’s concurrent construction approach, employees, working in tandem with machines, assemble pods at the SurePods factory, consolidating skilled trade work. Meanwhile, on-site crews prep infrastructure, foundations and superstructure. Time savings also occur at delivery, as the manufacturer can predict precisely when the pods will arrive for installation, enabling developers to coordinate teams accordingly. With SurePods able to deliver and install up to 30 pods per day, it’s no wonder the Florida buildings were able to open their doors on time to students moving in July 2011.

Supporting sustainability at University of Tampa

Starting in 2009, “Colleges and universities have begun to embrace the concept of sustainable design within student housing construction projects,” a study in Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal found. The trend isn’t slowing anytime soon, as more residence halls base designs on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. Although the construction industry is trying to keep pace, “there isn’t the expertise required in certain areas to meet the demand,” explains US Green Technology.

Luckily, modular unit manufacturers like SurePods are no strangers to going green. For instance, when the University of Tampa’s Howard and Patricia Jenkins Hall project was bent on LEED® Gold certification, they utilized SurePods’ prefabricated bathrooms for their sustainable properties and environmentally friendly practices.   

SurePods’ materials include 100% recycled steel studs and wall board with 97% recycled content. The prefabricated pods also incorporate low flow plumbing fixtures, low energy consumption electrical fixtures and low VOC paints, caulking and adhesives.

However, LEED green building standards require projects to go beyond sustainable materials. SurePods and other modular unit factories fit the bill, with ecologically sensitive processes put in place from the start. In the factory, machines cut bathroom components with laser precision, resulting in little waste. Since the workshop is completely covered, there is no loss of product due to inclement weather. Framing materials further remain dry, improving indoor air quality once installed.

Backed in part by SurePods, the Tampa dormitory received LEED Gold certification and was named the outstanding project of the year in the category of LEED for New Construction, Higher Education.

Psst student housing contractors, let’s talk

Want to learn more about SurePods’ speed and sustainable advantages when it comes to student housing? Contact Bill Seery, SurePods vice president of business development at [email protected].

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