Vanguard Modular Building Systems LLC

Vanguard Building Structures 1Vanguard Modular Building Systems looks to increase its expertise in permanent modular construction projects.
By Jim Harris

Vanguard Modular Building Systems LLC is changing the way its clients think about modular construction, one project at a time.

“We go after projects that may not have been thought of as being appropriate for modular methods in the past,” says Mark Meyers, vice president of marketing services for the Malvern, Pa.-based company. “We are finding that architects, general contractors and owners are beginning to recognize the benefits of modular construction.”

Established in 1998, Vanguard Modular specializes in providing permanent and temporary modular buildings to the education, commercial, healthcare, oil and gas, government and religious markets. The company’s typical projects range from 700 to 20,000 square feet in size; the largest building the company has completed is a three-story, 40,000-square-foot facility.

“We do not supply 8-foot and 10-foot wide construction trailers; we construct large modular buildings,” Meyers says. “We focus our resources and time on custom building solutions instead of getting into the trailer industry, which we view as a distraction.”

Flexible Operations

Vanguard Modular’s capabilities include construction, delivery, engineering, permitting, project management, site preparation, foundations, installation and utility connections.

The company has offices throughout the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, allowing it to serve more than 20 states in the eastern and southern United States. The northern New England states including Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are served by Schiavi Leasing Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Vanguard Modular based in Oxford, Maine. Vanguard Modular

Vanguard Modular is privately owned, a status that Meyers says gives it the ability to work more closely with clients than many of its peers. “We have the opportunity for our leadership team to have some flexibility in the financial and operational decisions we make, so we can provide our clients with options that may not be available to our competitors,” he adds. “Not being publically traded allows us to focus on our clients and not just our stakeholders, which gives us the opportunity to spend time and effort on customer projects that others might pass on.”

Range of Applications

Vanguard Modular’s projects include classrooms, offices, healthcare facilities, laboratories, cafeterias, press boxes, libraries, break rooms, training facilities, police and military barracks, correctional facilities, dormitories, restrooms, locker rooms and visitor centers.

Modular buildings constructed by the company typically fall into one of two categories: Type VB, or wood-frame, buildings that can be relocated; or Type IIB steel and concrete non-combustible buildings that sit on a permanent location.

Much of the company’s progressive focus as of late has been on Type IIB projects, which it calls the major projects side of its business. “We are developing relationships, educational materials and infrastructure to expand that part of our business,” Meyers says. “I think there are many more applications where permanent modular construction can be used.”

Hitting the Target

One example of Vanguard Modular’s major projects expertise is its ongoing work on an administrative building on the Moon Island Boston Police Firing Range in Quincy, Mass. Foundation and sitework for the $1.8 million facility were completed in April by another contractor. Vanguard Modular, which is serving as the general contractor on the final assembly, anticipates finishing the project in September.

The two-story, 3,400-square-foot building, which includes an underground crawlspace for utilities, will serve a dual purpose. In addition to its main function as the gun range’s administrative offices, the building will also serve to deaden the sound of gunshots. The outdoor range is used by Boston police as well as other area police for training, and is located on Moon Island in Quincy Bay, which is joined to the mainland by a causeway.

“We are using an acoustic metal panel system that deadens the sound of gunshot over the water,” Senior Estimator Jim Bennett says. The Sound Transmission Class (STC)-rated metal panels will absorb sound that otherwise would travel across the bay to within range of several nearby residences. The building has a concrete foundation and a steel frame.

The two stories of the building will be joined by a custom-made stair tower featuring architectural latticework. Other notable aspects of the building – designed by CSS Architects of Massachusetts – include a stem wall exterior foundation on all four sides of the building that allows it to sit at grade instead of being elevated on piers.

The building site is roughly 20 feet above the bay’s sea level. “The visibility of this project will be amazing,” Bennett says. “Thousands of people in the surrounding community, as well as boaters who go by, will be able to see this building.”

Manufacturer NRB USA is assembling the building in its New Holland, Pa., facility before transporting it to the site to ensure its six modular components properly match up before final erection takes place.

Building modules will be shipped to the island in late July and early August. Assembly will be performed within a one- to two-day period immediately after all modules arrive. Interior finishing is anticipated to last one month, Bennett says.

The project is the first that Vanguard Modular has performed in Quincy, though it has performed several projects for its owner – the city of Boston – in the past. “None of our jobs are the same,” Bennett says. “They are all very different in size, shape and color, and we work with a wide variety of architects in the Boston area.”

Permanent Structures

Vanguard Modular’s other notable recent projects include a 6,258-square-foot classroom building for client Barnstable Public Schools in Hyannis, Mass. The building, comprised of 16 modules, houses four classrooms for Hyannis West Elementary School’s Enoch Cobb Early Learning Center. The project was completed in the summer of 2016.

The permanent building was designed to match the exterior of an existing early learning building. The exterior includes a custom combination of multi-tone Hardie board panels and HardiePlank lap siding. Features of the building include programmable thermostats, double glass exterior doors, oversized windows, upgraded hardware, roof-mounted HVAC and ceramic tiled restrooms.

Vanguard Modular in 2011 completed a two-story childcare facility for Bronx Community College in New York City. The 15,000-square-foot permanent facility includes a brick exterior, elevator, vestibule and fenced playground area. Site work on the project included extensive excavation work to remove a portion of a hillside, the company says.

Examples of the company’s non-educational sector work include a 1,500-square-foot, one-story permanent office building for faculty and staff of Germanna Community College in Culpepper, Va., completed at the end of 2015. Exterior features of the building include a custom standing-seam hip roof, vinyl lap siding, mud tape painted walls, decks, ramps, sidewalks and landscaping. The building also includes data and telecom lines, as well as electrical runs from an adjacent building.

“The installation of this modular building provided Germanna’s faculty and staff with space they needed much faster than conventional construction could offer,” Vanguard Modular says. “Furthermore, the disturbance to the site and surrounding environment was minimized, since trucks were not frequenting the site with building material deliveries.”

Vanguard Modular in 2015 completed a 1,600-square-foot, two-story scale house for Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. in Charlotte, N.C. The permanent facility houses high-tech security and data communication equipment, and features a fully custom design on its interior and exterior. Building features include a stem wall foundation with crawl space, ejector pump, lightning protection, tempered safety glass, an observation deck and a steel exterior.  

Reliant on Vendors

Modular component manufacturers and other vendors play a critical role in the success of all of Vanguard Modular’s projects. “We completely rely on our vendors and suppliers; they are with us from the beginning, figuring out how to put together a project as well as what it will cost to execute it. We require a high level of quality, and the vendors who provide that are the ones we use consistently and regularly,” Meyers says.

The company’s vendors include building set-up crews, suppliers of steps, ramps and other access systems, as well as electrical and other tradespeople it retains for larger projects. “Our vendors are an extension of our company when they are on site,” he adds. “We rely on them to professionally interface with our clients, just like our own team.”

Vanguard Modular works with several modular manufacturers. “We maintain excellent relationships with our manufacturers, visit them regularly and pay them on time. We take pains to understand their strengths and weaknesses,” Meyers says. “We match projects with the manufacturer we think will do the best job, and not necessarily one that will provide the best price. We’re more interested in a long-term client relationship than just a one-off deal.”

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