Trinity Western University (TWU) has landed on modular construction as the preferred solution for its new on-campus student housing.

Metric Modular is now installing 90 building modules on the TWU campus that, when complete, will be Canada’s first five-storey volumetric building. Students will be able to move into the 220-bed student residence no later than Sept. 1.

The Langley university opted for modular construction for three reasons: speed of construction; quality; and cost. Robert Nice, TWU’s senior vice president of business administration and CFO, said they wanted to be “able to build during summer when students are not [on campus].”

The construction site is located on a part of the campus that has a finite amount of space to work with and is next to an area where hundreds of students live in existing dorms throughout the school year.

The university also liked that the quality and schedule of the finished product would not be affected by the Lower Mainland’s weather. The building modules are crafted in “truck-sized pieces” in a climate-controlled factory in Agassiz, shipped to a site and then assembled to create an entire building. Depending on what the client wants, everything is built before shipping. In-house millworkers create all the cabinetry and countertops, sprinkler systems and plumbing are installed, as well as all fixtures, electrical and flooring.

As for cost, Nice said it’s “similar to stick build and less chance of variability compared to stick build.” He added that the university issued very few change orders for this development.

From project award to completion, the entire build will take just under nine months. Construction of the modules started March 14, 2018 and will take 110 calendar days to complete, using approximately 50,000 man-hours in the factory.

Craig Mitchell, Director, Innovative Solutions at Metric Modular said the company is hoping to change the way people think about modular building, especially the myth that modular is taking work away from the traditional construction industry.

“Modular is not for everyone, however, we encourage those who are interested in looking at a modular build to begin reviewing the project at the schematic design stage. If you are too far down the road with design, you will likely have additional design rework to undertake to really take advantages of what modular has to offer.”

Modular construction is gaining popularity in the areas of education, hospitality, affordable multi-family housing/office, commercial, resource sectors, and performance building.

Mitchell said owners considering modular construction should ask the modular builder whether they’ve worked under different contracting methods as Metric Modular has worked both as a prime contractor and a sub-contractor on its projects.

He also said it’s important that owners bring the modular construction team onboard early enough for owner and builder to collaborate on the project design.

“At Metric, we have significant Design Build/General Contractor experience which includes supervision over the design, engineering, civil work, and other site-built structures,” Mitchell said. “Additionally, Metric Modular can assist with permit drawings, project management, scheduling and project controls from beginning through completion of the project.

“We also work hand in hand with other contractors to complete the project. We do not take away work from trades, we actually allow more work to be done. Our trades are able to undertake more projects during a calendar year with us with minimal risk.”

Learn more about Metric Modular’s TWU project.

VRCA Members who contributed to project onsite include: