Getting Modules from Carrier to Foundation: How Do We Do It?

Modular Construction is becoming more popular so the fascination with the process of moving big boxes on the highway and then from the carrier to a foundation is growing. We answer the same questions many times each day: How much does a module weigh?  How big can a module be? How do you get something that big to my building site? One of the remaining questions most home buyers researching modular construction ask is: How do you get that big module from the carrier onto my foundation? Well, there are two main methods.

Moving Modules

Modules are moved on things called carriers. A carrier has several jobs:

  • Transport modules or home sections on a wheeled chassis
  • Protect the modules during transport to home sites
  • Support modules, both at the factory and at the home site while stored

Once a module gets safely to a home site the carrier has done the hardest part. However, it has to be positioned at the home site in such a way that the module that it is carrying can be moved from the carrier to the foundation. One of the questions typically asked is: How much does a module weigh. While the answer varies greatly, most factories will tell you to estimate 45 pounds per sq ft of a module. While that is usually high, the average module will weigh between 27 – 37 pounds per sq ft. So, say a single section of a home is 14’ wide and 56’ long. That would mean it could weigh over 31,000 pounds or 15½ tons! The trick is to get that much weight moved from carrier to foundation without damaging a home section that is upwards of 80% complete from the factory.

Sliding Modules

This method is less used in the eastern U.S. It is mostly used where there is large, open access around the foundation and cranes are hard to come by, or very expensive to get to a remote area. It is also a great option if powerlines or other overhead obstructions prevent lifting or picking the modules (the most popular method).

The sliding method works exactly like it sounds. A carrier is placed at either side of the foundation (preferably) or to the end of the foundation and the module is slid from the carrier to cover the foundation. It is then gently lowered precisely into place and attached to the existing foundation at the home site.

There are 5 primary tools for sliding a module:

Steel box beams –  to support the weight of the module and provide the slide path
Trucks – to rest the module on and that provide the mobility to pull the module across the beams
Com-a-longs – to move/pull the modules across the beams
Cribbing – to support the beams at the right height
House lifts – to lift the modules off the carrier and to lower the modules onto the foundation

The Process*:

*This process is repeated for each module

Picking Modules

While sliding modules onto a foundation is the method that has to be used in some cases, picking the modules from a carrier using a crane is the method used most often. It is accomplished by placing a large crane beside a home’s foundation, attaching cables or straps around and under the module, and then lifting the module from the carrier and gently placing it onto the foundation. In the industry, this process is called a “house set”.

The cables or straps used are called rigging. Rigging is the equipment or materials used with cranes to relocate materials or items. The type of rigging used to install a module on a foundation is usually determined by the location in the country the home is being set. In the east, cables are commonly used. In the mid-west and west of the Mississippi, the preferred rigging is straps and clevises.

The Process*:

*This process is repeated for each module

Safely on Your Foundation

Getting a module from the carrier to its final resting position on the foundation is dangerous work. Experienced teams of workers called Set Crews are typically engaged to perform this specialty function. It takes special knowledge, special tools, and lots of patience to place modules that weigh thousands and thousands of pounds onto a foundation that may or may not be perfectly square and level. Each module must be positioned so it positioned within predetermined tolerences with the other modules that make up the completed modular home.

Just like the good old-fashioned barn raisings from years gone by, a house set is an amazing process to watch. For most, the day their house is set is a spectator event in which their family, their friends, and their neighbors come to watch. It’s a great time to share the joy of someone getting their new home… but from a safe distance!

Understanding Modular Construction

Have you ever watched a baby as it learns to walk? As a parent you watch your child try to take its first steps and fall. They try again and fall. You worry they will hit a wall, land too hard on the floor, or hit their head on a piece of furniture. They don’t have those same worries. Their reactions are based on their physical drive to walk, on making a bold step forward. A parent’s fear is taught by external forces. The parents dwell in a fear that the child cannot fathom. The child learns and adjusts as she masters her new mode of locomotion. In the construction industry, building systems have become the new way forward. There is a new generation of savvy builders and home buyers that are learning how new building methods make better, healthier, and more energy efficient homes. They are unimpeded by the past, unafraid of modern building methods. However, there is still the fear of something new that has been instilled in past generations that holds back better building methods.

Getting Past the Past

Modular construction is a method that has evolved and grown over the years. The method itself, just like any other construction technique is being constantly improved. Factories are using new structural materials that allow for larger open spans. Home designers are able to create just about any home plan or design using modular construction. A modular home has evolved from its infancy and now leads in the residential construction industry in creativity, energy efficiency, design, and value while providing some of the healthiest living spaces.

One of the biggest impediments is the misconception or misunderstanding of what modular construction is. This is primarily driven because of modular constructions affordable housing cousin, the mobile home (manufactured home). Everything starts with an “M” and sounds the same. While modular and manufactured homes both take advantage of the efficiencies of factory construction, they do it for very different purposes. Manufactured homes are targeted to affordability. They are built to a building code that is very different from the building code that both modular homes and homes constructed onsite are required to follow.

Moving Through the Fear

Many builders and homeowners only know their perception in the past of what modular homes are or aren’t. Modular construction is a building method. It is a very different building method than building onsite. It requires different processes, different staffing, and a different skill set than traditional builders know. It’s human nature to resist change. For many, change is painful. However, in today’s world of construction, change is imperative.

There is a growing labor shortage in the United States. Builders that don’t embrace new ways of a building will be forced to staff skilled positions with unskilled labor. Attracting employees will require higher pay, requiring home prices to rise. This is a terrible combination of paying more and getting less. The custom home buyer becomes the loser in this proposition. Modular construction is a method that concentrates the construction of many homes in one place. It turns home construction into a manufacturing process. It helps train labor than can work indoors year round and produce homes cost efficiently and with the quality only found in a manufacturing process. A process much like one that is used to build your car, your phone, or your computer. If homeowners and custom home builders can get past the fear of something new, they can take the next bold step towards something that is actually better than the current method they have become so comfortable with.

Taking the Next step

When it comes to building a custom home, home buyers have the internet. The internet is a great research tool to find out what today’s leading edge architects, builders, and modular home factories are doing with modular construction. Research home designs that can be built with modular construction. There is practically no limit on what type of home can built. Learn how building in a factory to tighter tolerances and with higher quality control than can ever be achieved in field construction makes new homes more energy efficient. A home that has never been rained on eliminates the breeding ground for mold and doesn’t leave moisture in the walls to create mildew odor just has to be healthier.

Builders should be looking at modular construction as the next step in their evolutionary process of building better homes for their customers. Thirty years ago many builders would have never used those 2”x4” engineered trusses in their homes roofs. Now there is barely a builder today that doesn’t use them. Why? Because they are better quality, stronger, built offsite, and then installed faster onsite helping to speed up the current building process with a strong roof. By assembling more of the components offsite and delivering onsite, modular construction takes that same concept to a whole new level. Modular isn’t a competing building system, it is simply the next step in the evolutionary process of building custom homes.

Modular Makes it Better

Whether you are a home owner building a new custom home or a home builder frustrated with trying to provide a quality custom home to your customer in today’s construction environment, modular construction offers an alternative. It provides an option today that offers flexible design, provides great value, and deliver a consistent level of quality. It just does it in a different way than using conventional, outdoor construction. Modular offers a change for the better.

County Waives Rebuilding Permit Fees after Lilac Fire

San Diego County will waive permit fees for the rebuilding of more than 200 structures that have been destroyed or damaged in the Lilac Fire.

The County Board of Supervisors approved the waiver Monday after hearing the damage done by the 4,100-acre Lilac Fire. The supervisors also extended an emergency declaration. Get the latest updated information on the fire here.

San Diego County Disaster Recovery manager Amy Harbert reported that 104 residential and two commercial structures were destroyed along with 78 accessory structures such as barns, sheds and outbuildings.

An additional 13 homes and five commercial buildings were damaged.

The permit waiver will apply to structures within the fire’s perimeter in unincorporated areas and any other areas in which county approval is needed.

County public works employees were removing debris from county maintained roads and replacing damaged street signs. In the near future, they will be repairing guardrails and establishing erosion control in the burn areas.

Also, an estimated 200 acres of park land burned in the fire. No park structures have been affected, according to Harbert.

A center has been set up to assist residents with questions and resources. The center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Vista branch of the county library at 700 Eucalyptus Ave. Residents can call (858) 495-5200 for more information.

Contact USModular, Inc. for more information on building using modular construction!