What is a Commercial Modular Building?

Definition of a commercial modular building:
A standing structure or enclosure composed of multiple prefabricated sections, or modules, which are combined together in a systematical format allowing relative ease of assembly, quick installation and the ability to move the structure as a whole, in units or in its original unassembled sections for later reassembly and reuse.

On-frame or off-frame modular buildings:
Commercial modular buildings are typically built off-frame, in which the structure is secured onto a concrete surface (or similar solid surface). This may include an elevated concrete slab or a flush foundation. These types of modular buildings are assembled on location after the prefabricated modules are shipped by flat-bed (or other means) to the site. An off-frame modular building tends to look like a permanent structure. In some applications most people can not tell whether it is permanent or temporary.

An on-frame modular building is usually built onto a steel platform or frame of sorts. This may include a stationary mezzanine, a trailer, or a forklift-able (or crane-lift-able) platform. These types of modular buildings are typically assembled in-house at the manufacturing plant and delivered on its base structure. Although in some cases, depending on the dimensions, the building must be assembled on-site then fork-lifted or crane-lifted into its desired location and position.

Typical Types of Uses:
Commercial modular buildings come in handy for temporary solutions wherein one might need a structure that will be moved or taken down relatively soon. For structures that must be moved regularly, transportable bases provide the best solution (for example, trailers or forklift-able platforms).

Companies which expect future expansion also find modular buildings as a convenient solution to foreseen or unforeseen growth. Such companies may decide to expand the size of the building, move it to a different location or simply leave as many options open as possible.

Modular buildings are also a viable solution for permanent projects. The options left open by a modular building may allow peace of mind for a company that truly expects the unexpected. The savings in time, money and environmental waste are also an attractive incentive to a company seeking a permanent structure.

Sizes and Configurations:
A commercial modular building can be built in just about any size. The preliminary measurements are usually based on interior or exterior dimensions (depending on the manufacturer). They can range from a small 4’ wide, 4’ deep, and 8’ high guardhouse to a 100’ wide, 50’ deep, and 20’ high two-story office complex.

Configurations are also an endless array of options with multiple rooms, hallways, 45 degree angles, multiple levels, various heights and much more. Configurations are usually governed by the clients’ specific needs and desires.

The difference between commercial modular buildings and residential modular homes:
Though it is true that commercial modular buildings and residential modular homes share many similar traits and building methods, the two are not one in the same. Residential modular homes, which are in fact closer yet significantly different from their cousins—mobile homes, are regulated and inspected according to residential home standards. The building codes usually differ fairly well from commercial building codes.

Commercial buildings follow codes that are based around occupancy levels that tend to be higher in number and density then residential applications of similar size. For example, a 5000 sq. ft. single-family home would usually occupy and house 5-8 persons (this includes parents, children and sizable pets). A commercial building of equal size however, might occupy 25-30 persons for at least 12 hours of the day. The occupancy, flow of traffic, lighting standards, electricity, emergency exits and so much more must all be considered a little more diligently in a commercial setting compared to a residential home. Thus, many things about a commercial modular building’s structure and layout differ greatly from a residential modular home.

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EPDM Roofing

EPDM – Traditionally, single-ply roofing is one-size does it all.  yet more and more modular manufacturers and dealers are reaping the benefits of Mule-Hide Professional Roofing Systems, custom sized to fit modular structures

Black EPDM .045 (Non-Reinforced) – Custom cuts or Master rolls with modular industry sheet sizes up to 18×305 ft. The most economical single-ply membrane.  Excellent for fully adhered systems when using Water Base Bonding. Adhesive – fast installation keeps lines moving.

BLACK EPDM .060 (Non-Reinforced) – Custom cuts or Master rolls with modular industry sheet sizes up to 17×255 ft. Ideal for fully adhered systems.

White-on-Black EPDM .045 – Reflects the sunlight & cools the building interior – leading to lower BTU usage and energy costs. Custom cuts or Master rolls with modular industry sheet sizes up to 17×305 ft. Fully adhered application is required.

System Benefits

Easy to Install & Retrofit – EPDM Roofing Systems install quickly and economically.  UL & FM listed assemblies are available upon request.  Non-penetrating mate-line & bridging system keeps dealer multi-unit leased fleets fit.

Fast Roofs

The EPDM membrane is fully adhered with Water Base Bonding Adhesive, a must for in-plant installation.  It’s single-side, wet application requires fewer workers and offers easier sheet positioning.  All the accessories you need to complete roof details around edges and penetrations are also stocked locally for delivery along with your EPDM.


EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) is a high tensile strength, single-ply membrane ideal for long-term watertight integrity.  EPDM is lightweight, making it ideal for new construction and retrofit installations without adding excessive weight to the roof deck.  Meets or exceeds ASTM standards.

Quiet Protection

Eliminates “roof rumble” while it protects against leaks.  Our insulated roofing system rids modular structures from the noise made by rain and hail or when wind passes over metal roofs causing vibrations.


And yet the membrane remains flexible in hot and cold temperatures so it will not split or crack.  EPDM stretches to 425%.

Long Life Cycle

It provides excellent resistance to ozone and UV and can handle the coldest winters or the desert heat.

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Bullet/Blast Resistant Window Systems

 Icon Construction delivered the complete design and construction of a modular administration building for a total of 5,880 square feet.   This building will serve as the new office space for the U S Border Patrol.  Presidio is located along the Rio Grande River in a very remote point of Texas about 210 miles from El Paso.   

Blast Resistant windows were a required element of this building.  To meet this requirement we decided to use teh USAW300 Window Series:

The USAW300 Window Series construction consists of heavy-duty aluminum extrusion and 1/8″ minimum wall thickness. The extrusions allow for the insertion of armor consistent with specified threat level.

• Glass components are easily replaceable.

• Blast protection available.

• Standard finish: Clear or bronze anodized (custom Kynar paint, brass cladding, stainless steel cladding available)

It is recommended that the window be used in conjunction with protected wall and door areas.

Each end user should determine the ballistic and forced entry threat to ensure the correct product selection tomeet and exceed security needs.


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Defining Prefabricated Buildings

A prefabricated building is defined is a type of building consisting of a factory-built components or units that are to be assembled on-site. Standardized sections can then be easily shipped and assembled on site.

In the U.S., manufactured homes, including mobile homes, are constructed according to the Department of Housing and Development (HUD), while modular buildings are constructed in accordance to the International Building Code (IBC). In Canada, the National Building Code of Canada is used as a guide.

There are three categories of ‘prefabricated’ buildings: modular, manufactured and mobile. These are buildings either made of built-in components, modules or sections. Although all three building types are similar, the methods of construction and design of the structure itself varies. Prefabricated buildings range from small storage sheds to custom designed multi-level residences. The three types are detailed below.

Modular Buildings

Modular buildings are constructed in sections then transported to the site for construction and installation. These are typically then installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes. This is the most expensive of the three and although the sections are prefabricated, the sections or models are assembled on private land, much like typical construction projects.

Manufactured Buildings

Manufactured buildings are those that are built onto steel beams and then transported in sections to the site where they are then assembled.

Mobile Buildings

Mobile buildings are structures built on wheels so that they can be moved according to need.

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HealthCare Modular Solutions

With growing demand in the healthcare industry, space needs continue to rise at a larger rate than budgets can follow. Icon Construction has a modular solution to address this urgent requirement. Our customizable modular buildings are a prime solution for anything from temporary medical clinics to rehab facilities.

If it’s healthcare related space you need, modular building construction is an extremely viable option to solve space requirements in a fast paced industry.

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Educational Facilities

The pendulum of ideas about what classrooms should look like and how to structure learning environments has been swinging back and forth for years. The only thing constant, it appears, in school and classroom design, is change itself. However, today change is occurring in the most dramatic ways in the history of education.

Students are faced with the most intensely stimulating world ever. We have 2nd graders keying 60 words per second, 5th graders publishing creative works on line, every textbook a child will ever use fits on a tablet sized portable computer. Technology will make many traditional aspects of education obsolete very quickly.

The Speed of Change in Traditional Education

Those of us in modular construction have accelerated the process of building a school, but I’m not certain we can grasp the speed of the changes occurring inside the classroom. We can’t fall behind when it comes to understanding the changes occurring in pedagogy overall. I suspect this, only because of the relative newness of our industry in relation to the history of public education.

A Changing Perception of Modular Buildings

The perception of inferior “modular” trailers is slowly fading and now we have a new challenge – keeping up with the pace of change. In principle, modular buildings provide incredible flexibility and seem to have natural aptitude for advancements in learning spaces. In temporary classrooms and ready to use longer term swing spaces,  we can design to be more open and flexible, e.g. modular walls, openings to outdoor learning spaces, carefully placed teaching walls, movable storage areas etc. For permanent buildings we collaborate with designers to show them the process of permanent modular construction and we apply the process to meet any permanent design.

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Good Reason to Opt for a Modular Building

Modular buildings can be used for many purposes. Popular uses include permanent or temporary facilities for businesses, construction sites, schools, and military establishments. The cost of modular buildings is fairly inexpensive compared to complete construction of new buildings.

Modular buildings are popular for people with a limited time frame for building. They are popular for schools which need to quickly expand capacity for the coming school year, as well as fast food restaurants which need to open locations. Recently, the popularity of these models has expanded to include cruise ship cabins, neighborhood banks, as well as restaurants.

In terms of residential complexes the use of modular buildings has expanded to include townhouses and condominiums. This helps to meet the demand for growing communities which are growing quickly. Modular buildings can be constructed to look just like traditional town homes or condos. Another common residential use is for dormitories which need to quickly increase their capacity. Universities can create multi-story buildings which blend into the appearance of existing dorms.

Educational communities can greatly benefit from modular buildings. If an administration or school district grows in size, these buildings can be used to quickly construct offices for administrators. If the school capacity expands during the summer, these buildings can be established during the summer in order to meet the classroom capacity needs. They can be set up to match the existing school or administrative buildings.

In terms of office buildings, it is common to see modular buildings used for a variety of reasons. Administrations can use them for small offices, individual spaces, or for multi-story buildings. Larger modular buildings can be used for conference rooms or established with windows for large cubicle areas. Medical offices benefit greatly from modular buildings as well. Doctors can use them to create additional exam rooms when their company expands. They can also be used to house medical staff or store on-site files. Law firms can incorporate modular buildings as well for library space, old client file storage, or as hosting and reception areas for incoming clients.

Hotels and motels have benefited from the incorporation of modular buildings as well. These can be used to create additional rooms for guests, particularly when they need to expand. Cruise ships have popularized the use of modular buildings for extra rooms as well. Banks and restaurants, particularly franchises, have used them in order to accommodate growing facilities which still match the existing name associated with the company.

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