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Featured Building: Westminster Christian Academy Modular Classrooms

In early 2009, Rose Offices installed approximately ten thousand square feet of classroom space for a private school in North Alabama.

Westminster Private School Modular Classroom Building

Buildings Feature:

 

    • Our signature “Architectural Block” Hardipanel Siding in stucco pattern
    • Specialty brick look perimeter foundation cover
    • EFIS trim molding package on corners, doors, windows and roofline
    • Designer paint colors
  • Pad mounted HVAC units

Because of varying age groups and functions, the school chose to separate the campus into three buildings.

Westminster Private School Modular Classrooms

For this project, we installed our new Architectural Block Hardipanel siding material combined with EFIS trim package on the doors, windows, corners and roofline.

The Rose Signature Architectural Block Hardipanel Siding is a new innovation in modular siding. The deep reveal edge pattern accentuates the seams rather than trying to hide them. This process eliminates the unsightly cracks that can develop over time. It also creates an appealing first impression for your commercial application. You won’t find attention to detail like this with anyone else but Rose.

Westminster Private School Modular Classroom Buildings

When asked to share their experience with our company, we received a glowing review and detailed overview of the installation of the buildings from start to finish.

We are pleased to share it with you:

Background

Westminster Christian Academy is the largest ministry of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, AL. The school currently has an enrollment of 640 students in grade K-5 to 12. In 2001 the church and school independently reviewed our missions and determined we needed to relocate to better serve our individual membership. We also surveyed the Westminster School family and they overwhelmingly (>90%) wanted the church to be located with the school. We were able to purchase a 42-acre tract in a prime location through a very generous arrangement with a local family at far below market value. A combination of challenges led us to delay construction until early 2008. Both increases in construction costs since 2001 and the uncertainties with financial markets caused us to build significantly less than we desired. Some of the facilities what we could not build were offices, library, and music facilities for the school, and a nursery for the church.

One of the blessings for our church and schools was number of dedicated individuals with design, project management, and construction backgrounds. This gave us the ability to give careful consideration to most aspects of our project. Even so, the approach to include modular facilities as part of the overall project was one of the three most difficult decisions we made on the project that ended up costing over $13.5-million.

The concerns, expressed by almost everyone, were how the modular facilities would look, and how they would last. These two concerns were persistent because the school had purchased two modular buildings to use as interim athletic locker rooms and the experience with these units was problematic. To start with, these two modular units were standard designs from (a competitive modular company who shall be referred to as Competitor A) for school use. We got them in used but functional condition at a favorable price. Installation was more expensive that we were initially quoted and one of the air conditioning units quit working the week after the warranty expired. The aesthetics left a lot to be desired, but this was a stop-gap measure for a specific time period—that has long-since expired with the units still in the same location.

Design Considerations

Westminster School had very specific needs in the modular buildings: Office space for day-to-day operations of the support staff, library and study facilities for the students, and music facilities for band and choir. The school was in interim facilities for a year where the band/choir room was adjacent to the office, so we quickly determined a separate building was needed for music. At the same time, the school acknowledge the permanent facilities for offices, music, and library were 5-10 years away since the next two phases for building were completing the parts of the classroom building that were deferred due to costs. This timeframe drove the separate consideration of longevity of the facilities under day-to-day wear and tear and aesthetic compatibility with other portions of the project.

The church had very different considerations. The first was projecting both the image and the reality of permanence for facilities for our children. The second major consideration was there were no areas in the school facilities that were age appropriate and available. The church realized several million dollars from sale of our previous property, but all that money was committed to secure the loan for the school to build the new facilities. The money will be released as funds are raised by the school, then the church will build a sanctuary on the same property. In the meantime the church is meeting in the school gymnasium. However, the final location of the sanctuary will be several hundred feet from the gymnasium. Both prudence and stewardship dictated the church not build conventional facilities since in 2-5 years, Lord willing, we will be building sanctuary that cannot be served by nursery near the gymnasium. The solution was to use modular facilities that can be relocated for about 10% of initial cost rather than building nursery facilities twice.

Our Process for Evaluation

I am an engineer and I make my living by figuring out the best way to do things. The “best way” is deceptively difficult because “best” is most decidedly in the eye of the beholder. Emotions are not bad, but it is very easy for Satan to use our emotions against us. We are also called to be good stewards in all things, and that means making considered decisions. The approach we took was to look at the critical features for the modular facilities. These features, which were somewhat mutually exclusive, were cost, functionality of spaces, aesthetic compatibility with the newly constructed facilities, and anticipated longevity of the buildings.

Our Experience

Armed with these factors for consideration and our assessment of space requirements, I contacted the largest provider of modular facilities in the area (Competitor A), the least expensive provider (who shall remain nameless), and the one other source specializing in church facilities (Rose Office Systems). It was clear from my initial conversation the least expensive provider did not meet the minimum standards of functionality, aesthetics, or anticipated longevity. In a word, they were cheap.

The regional offices for Competitor A and Rose are both in the Birmingham area and I visited both offices and took tours of representative facilities. The philosophy of the two companies are different and their products reflect the differing philosophies. Competitor A will build custom floor plans but their focus is on building existing designs and selecting finishes and materials. Rose will build from their “stock designs” but their bread and butter is custom designs for each customers. Competitor A normally uses metal siding with “mansards” while Rose does not offer metal siding and uses, as a minimum, Hardie Panel fiber-cement siding. Competitor A typically uses hard (sheetrock) ceiling while Rose typically uses lay-in acoustic ceilings. All these items fall into aesthetics and functionality.

Of greater impact were differences in construction. Rose significantly exceed industry standards metal framing under the structures, thermal insulation, and mechanical equipment. Competitor A meets industry standards. The installations I saw from Competitor A would be useable for 5-10 years or hard use. The installations I saw from Rose were better than most conventional wood frame construction I have inspected. Indeed, the units we have installed in Huntsville are rated for 110 mile and hour winds rather than 75-90 mile per hour from other manufacturers, including Competitor A.

In short, the real difference between Competitor A and Rose Office Systems is quality and how that impacts both operating cost and longevity of the structures.

Our Conclusion

I got baseline cost data from both Competitor A and Rose. It was a close as I could get to a direct comparison but Competitor A declined to provide pricing for Hardie Panel siding and 2’ x 2’ drop in ceilings. They priced hard ceiling and metal siding. The difference came out to be between $2 and $3/square foot between Rose and Competitor A with Competitor A being lower than Rose. This was about the difference between siding and ceilings, so the cost was essentially the same

Westminster selected Rose Office Systems rather than Competitor A based on overall quality that translates to aesthetics, and anticipated longevity, with advantages of lower operating cost at comparable up-front cost.

The Result

The decision to go with Rose has paid enormous dividends for Westminster Church and School. Rose worked with our architect to come up with a new approach for the exteriors that is minimally more expensive than the Hardie Panel with battens but is much more aesthetically pleasing. Our architects were so pleased with the results they are submitting the Westminster Modular project for an American Institute of Architects design competition.

Everyone is either happy or ecstatic with the results. The school staff was fighting to get offices in the modular building because they felt the spaces were better than in the new building. (I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but that was the objective feeling from the school staff.) The most common comment about the nursery facilities is “I wouldn’t know this was a modular building if I didn’t know it was a modular building.”

Other Comments

Admittedly I am biased, since I was heavily involved with making the decisions. However, I have had recent experience with both Rose Office Systems and Competitor A. I would recommend Rose unless purchased cost was primary consideration.

If cost was the key consideration I would consider a 60-month lease/purchase option rather than purchase a lower-quality installation. The Westminster church used a lease-purchase for our the Nursery facilities both because the church funds are being used to secure the school loan and because the church wanted to preserve funds for our future sanctuary.

I will be happy to discuss our experience at Westminster with anyone who is interested.

J. Keith Johnson
Integrated Ground Test Technical Lead
GME-T