Educators Place the Spotlight on Modular Construction

GCP students build homes
June 29, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.

By GCP Applied Technologies.

Students build smarter and safer homes for Habitat for Humanity.

It is no secret that the construction industry, like many industries, is facing challenges such as labor shortages, rising material costs and the need for faster project delivery. The modular construction system has been gaining acceptance as it presents a viable solution to address these challenges by optimizing labor resources, reducing on-site construction time and improving project predictability. 

The educators at Weitz Construction Academy at Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee, Florida have been practicing modular construction long before it became popular. The construction team at the Academy has been teaching and emphasizing the important role modular construction will play in the industry for years. Not only do they believe that modular construction will continue to grow with the advancement of technology and improved industry practices, the offsite construction system solves challenges for the Academy’s Habitat for Humanity home projects. 

In May of 2023, they completed their tenth modular house for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Palm Beach County. The houses built by the Academy’s students provide weather protected homes for hardworking families in Palm Beach County. The Habitat houses are 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths and come with a set of challenges for the staff and students to solve.

The story of Habitat House #10

The 1,200 square foot house is a labor of love, built by 170 construction students. The house was carefully built in modular sections by the students in the school’s workshop.

As the students built the house they consider many challenges and work together to uncover the solutions. One challenge is that the siding is installed on the modular house at the jobsite. Thus, the house is exposed to highway speed winds without the protection of siding when it is transported from the school’s workshop to the Habitat jobsite.

Another challenge that the student team focused on is the changing and dynamic weather in Florida. Tropical storms and hurricane seasons have intensified in recent years. The uncertainty of Mother Nature often causes construction weather delays, and most importantly — completed houses need to withstand the worst weather, no matter their size. 

One of the Academy's supporters, GCP, assists the students to help solve these challenges. For over eight years, the leading global provider of building materials has partnered with the Academy to provide needed products and educate their students. GCP’s residential building materials play a critical role in the modular construction process as well as the long term durability of the home against Florida’s extreme weather conditions.

The donation of GCP’s GRACE ICE & WATER SHIELD® HT self-adhered roofing underlayment was easily applied in the workshop, providing premium performance for the modular house’s roofing system, as it seals to itself at overlaps, seals to the roof deck and seals around the fasteners used to attach the shingles. All of these features help prevent water from leaking into a home, even in Florida’s rainy and windy climate. 

In addition, GRACE ICE & WATER SHIELD® HT was the only roof covering on the modular roof sections until they were delivered to the jobsite. The premier self-adhered roofing kept the modules dry while they sat outside of the workshop for months.

GCP also donated their VYCOR® Pro flashing and VYCOR®enV-S™, a self-adhered weather barrier that seals to the substrate. As the siding on the modular house had to be installed at the jobsite, the house needed to be transported from the school’s workshop to the Habitat jobsite without the protection of siding, exposing the house to highway speed winds.  VYCOR® enV-S™ resists damage due to jobsite conditions and wind. It also provides a longer term building envelope protector to keep the finished interiors dry until the Habitat team can install the siding at the jobsite.

"My observations of GCP's products are that the VYCOR® enV-S™ weather resistive barrier and the VYCOR® Pro flashing are miracle products, even when installed by novice high school students,” said Co-Founder of the Weitz Construction Academy & Architect David Porter. “The GRACE ICE & WATER SHIELD® HT roofing underlayment is slip resistant and remains firmly in place during transport of the modular home. In addition, VYCOR® enV-S™ passes our highway wind test each time. The truck drivers put the weather barrier to the test by hitting the highway at 70 mph during the trip. We call it our ‘category 1 hurricane test’ and the weather barrier survived nicely, without a hint of peeling away.”

Once House #10 was delivered to the jobsite, the modules were carefully placed on its foundation, shingles and other finishing touches were then installed. The modular construction process provided multiple benefits:

The elimination of weather delays 

By conducting the majority of the home construction inside the school’s workshop, they did not have to work around Mother Nature’s schedule.  

Safer construction

The indoor construction environment reduced the risks of accidents and related liabilities for the students.

A better build

According to the Modular Home Builders Association, modular houses have proven to be more resilient than on-site built construction. The reason for their strength is each module is engineered to independently withstand the stresses of transportation and the module-to-module combination of the units provides a rigid system. Building offsite also provides improved quality management. As a result, the use of the modular construction process and premium building products have provided a safe and stable place for these new homeowners.  

Porter, the architect for all ten of the Weitz Construction Academy houses, added: “The design of the house modules and dried in roof sections all had to be structurally independent and stronger than if they had been built stick-by-stick on the foundation at the jobsite. In modular construction completed modules are raised 60 feet into the air by a crane to load onto tractor-trailers and then off loaded at the jobsite to place them on the foundation walls and center support piers. The process is more like designing a water-tight boat that gets lifted with harnesses than a traditional house.”

The spectacular site of House #10’s modules being delivered to the home’s site and hoisted up into the air to be placed on the foundation attracted the community and local TV news. Not only does the program place a spotlight on the student’s hard work and construction collaboration, it shines a light on community collaboration.

“I love our partnership with the Weitz Construction Academy as it assists the community as well as contributes to the training of the next generation in construction,” said GCP Senior Manager of Residential Product Management Brian Chang. “This is exactly what building product manufacturers should do.”

The modular construction market is projected to continue expanding as more developers, contractors and clients recognize the benefits it offers in terms of time, cost, quality and sustainability. After the experience of building at least four modular houses, the graduates of Weitz Construction Academy will be well prepared to support its growth, thanks to their forward-thinking teachers.

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