The administrators of School District 30 in Northbrook, Illinois had finally run out of space.  For a dozen years, the dedicated 12-person staff, which serves more than 1,000 students, put aside their own space needs to focus on school construction efforts.  Housed in an aging office trailer, administrators required more room to house employees and store key district documents and files.

“We were running out of space in the trailer and couldn’t stay there forever,” said Chris Young, assistant superintendent, finance & operations, Northbrook\Glenview School District 30.  “Since we were planning an addition to the middle school next door, we decided the time was right to build a permanent district office.”

Timing turned out to be the district’s greatest challenge.  Major renovations were being made on a middle school building and bus drop off area on the district’s campus. The close proximity of these construction projects meant the district needed to build its new office without delaying the work being done on the school or interfering with traffic patterns.  Administrators turned to the fast track techniques of modular construction to create their new headquarters.  GE Capital Modular Space worked closely with the district’s architect, Carole Donovan Pugh of Green Associates, to develop a single-story building that offered enough offices, work and storage space and meeting areas to accommodate staff and teachers, students, parents and other visitors.

“Going modular saved us at least $200,000 in costs compared to conventional construction,” said Young.  “It also allowed us to have new offices ready in a short time frame which enabled us to meet construction milestones for the work next door.”

Seeing is Believing
Although the administrators were familiar with off-site fabrication, they had not seen a permanent, modularly constructed facility.

“We invited them to visit our new modular branch office building in Elgin, Illinois,” said GE’s Bryan Ferry.  “It’s an upscale complex that is highly functional and incorporates interesting architectural design.”

According to Pugh, the branch office helped administrators envision the type of building they wanted for their campus.

“This was my first time being involved in using modular construction to build an administrative center,” Pugh said.  “Seeing the branch office solidified the fact that modular could work as a permanent facility.  The client especially liked the 45-degree angled hallways of the branch office, which we were not expecting to find in a modularly constructed facility.” School district officials wanted a similar facility that would fit over a basement storage level.

“Timing was critical,” said Young.  “We needed our new building installed quickly so that we could move the existing trailer off the site and have the necessary room for our middle school construction efforts. We broke ground on the foundation on March 9, 2001 and moved into our new offices on June 29, 2001.”

Bringing the Facility Up to Speed
From the start, modular construction allowed unique techniques to save money and get the doors open quickly.  Arrangements were made for the school’s contractors to install a drop ceiling for electrical wiring and a sprinkler system during off-site building fabrication rather than on-site which could take up more time.

For most modular construction projects, manufacturers typically use cranes to lift modules onto the site and then roll the units into place.  Northbrook administrators, on the other hand, avoided the expense of a crane with the use of a unique rolling method.  To keep the project on schedule, the special roller system was designed so it could be used to carefully set the building in place while the basement floor was drying.  Within 80 days, the12,000-square-foot permanent office building was ready for occupancy.

The design adopted from a modular dealer’s branch office provided an ideal layout for the district’s staff.  Along the perimeter of the district building are a reception area, seven offices, rest rooms, kitchen/dining area and a large conference room.  Flexible workstation space and a workroom are in the center.  To give it the distinctive diamond shape, angled hallways were installed throughout the building instead of straight corridors.  With nine-foot ceilings, the building gets plenty of natural light from its large Pella windows.  The eggshell white wall coloring adds to the brightness of the hallway and offices.

Several modifications were made to better serve the day-to-day functions of Northbrook’s administrators.  Closet space was added to most offices, while one room was enlarged to accommodate teacher/student conference sessions.  A moveable wall enabled the conference room to accommodate gatherings and meetings of up to 60 people.  Air-lock entrance doors were also installed to minimize energy costs from wind flow and reduce noise from outside.  In the rear, an 800-pound elevator was installed for easy access and transport to the basement.  A red brick exterior finish was selected to help the office fit in with the other buildings on campus.

“We experienced a high level of comfort throughout the entire modular building process,” said Young.  “This was my first major modular project and I was impressed with the expertise in construction.  I think we have a very good building here.”

“Going modular turned out to be a good move for the district.  The building is nicely laid out and looks good,” added Pugh.