Modular Building Institute

Discussion Forum

Forgetting the Fleet? Not a Chance!

Original Comment:
With so much publicity surrounding our website and articles placed in magazines featuring multi-story projects and permanent modular construction (PMC) in general, we occasionally hear the cry of “Don’t Forget the Fleet!”

About half of the industry revenue each year is derived from activity associated with relocatable buildings. MBI represents 56 companies with a lease fleet ranging from fewer than ten units to some of the largest lease-fleet companies in the world.

While those PMC PR efforts are very visible and prominent in MBI publications, we have spent an equal (likely greater) amount of resources over the past decade on protecting the fleet. MBI estimates that if you own fleet in Maryland, our efforts have saved your fleet from being completely renovated four times over! We’ve worked to carve out exemptions and exceptions that didn’t exist and added and removed language from numerous regulations and requirements.

We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of our major victories for the fleet owners:

In 2003/2004, the most pressing issue facing fleet owners was the adoption of the ANSI S-12 classroom acoustics standard. Written by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and gaining traction on a number of fronts, the standard could not be applied to relocatable classrooms. Industry estimates concluded that entire units would need to be stripped down and rebuilt at a cost greater than acquiring new units. Widespread adoption of this standard as written would have cost the industry billions in assets. MBI fought its adoption as written anywhere it was considered and won every battle, almost. We fought the adoption of this standard in Connecticut during the general session and blocked it, only to have it added as a midnight amendment on a budget bill during a special session.

That setback led us to start working with the ASA on an addendum to the standard specific to relocatable classrooms. After numerous meetings, the working group developed the addendum providing a path for industry compliance when this standard is considered.

A few years later, there was a strong push for greener buildings encompassing more than just acoustics. Misguided architects and self-serving green building consultants led the charge for the development of the IgCC or International Green Construction Code. Once again, relocatable buildings were not considered in the early development of this code. And once again, adoption as written would have ended the fleet as we know it. With the support of many companies, MBI led the charge to make amendments to the green code so that if adopted, the industry again would have a clear path for compliance.

This code effort spilled over into the existing Building Code where MBI again sought to remove code barriers and add more industry-friendly language to the code. Once these efforts were successful, we became more proactive with the base model code. Currently in progress, MBI is working with code officials to add a new section to the IBC for 2018 that would provide a clear path for the industry and eliminate the confusion over new vs. existing and moved vs. relocated buildings.

Exempting single-wides in Maryland, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts; helping to create new a statewide programs in Louisiana and Pennsylvania (still pending!); helping to kill anti-industry bills and regulations in Nevada, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia; addressing tax issues in Arizona and Illinois; and addressing transportation issues from Alabama to Maine are just a few more examples of how MBI protects your business through our government affairs committee and its advocacy efforts.

We have also submitted code-change proposals in Michigan, Colorado, Ontario, Alberta, and California. And while sometimes these efforts don’t yield immediate results, we find that we need to be constantly pushing back against the tide of increased regulations simply to hold our ground.

MBI is the industry watchdog protecting your business against any unwanted regulations or legislation.

MBI Executive Director Tom Hardiman heads up the Government Affairs efforts of the association.
Started on June 2, 2015 by Liz Burnett
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Additional Comments:
Julian, I agree with some of your points below and sorry if I left the impression that we are in a race to the bottom with the fleet. Over the past few years I have seen some huge gains in efficiency and asthetics within the relocatable industry.

However, when companies invest billions into assets under the assumption that they should be able to generate revenue from these assets for a reasonable amount of time (always open for debate), we do not think its fair for code officials or policy makers to pass laws or determine that their code compliant product today is no longer compliant tomorrow.

Should the auto industry continue to improve the efficiency of cars? Absolutely. Should we ban all cars that get less than 20 mpg? No! That not only increases the cost of all cars, but eliminates an otherwise practical solution from the market.

How environmental friendly is it to deem that all relocatable classrooms built prior to 2010 should be obsolete and not used? The industry would build new ones but the increase in any efficiency per classroom would surely be offset by the carbon footprint needed to build the new unit. And what would you do with the old unit? Does anyone think that all relocatable units should be upgraded every three years when a new code gets adopted? If so, what about all other buildings-should they be upgraded every three years as well?

We support reasonable policies and standards to protect a company's investment in their fleet.

As a last point, many of these companies that we help also support MBI in huge ways through thier membership dues, sponsorships, and purchase of MBI Seals. Without this support, MBI would not be able to invest in PR, research, and more professional development opportunities that can and will lift all boats.
Updated on June 12, 2015 by Tom Hardiman

At the risk of offending some very hard-working and established companies who are fellow members of the MBI, I feel the end to state that I am opposed to initiatives aimed at lowering the bar for modular construction. If anything, I feel we should be raising quality standards and thereby pushing our product in to the mainstream. I had to spend time in a "portable" years ago and it wasn't pleasant. I would sure hate to think that is still the case!

As the saying goes: A rising tide lifts all boats. So while regulation aimed at improving the performance of relocatable buildings might cause short term pain to some, over time, meeting the need for better buildings will result in rising prices and increased market penetration.

In fact my impression of the market is that the low-end reputation that modular construction has gained is damaging the industry, trapping producers in a low-end market niche where cost, not quality, is the dominant driver. And sorry to have to say it, but the race to the bottom is precisely what drives business offshore. This is of no consequence to dealers who buy offshore, but it is a big concern for domestic manufacturers.

If we instead focused on innovation that delivers performance, quality, energy efficiency, longevity, carbon neutrality etc. I think the industry would see greater relevance, increased acceptance and enhanced revenue. And there are noteworthy examples of such products, including the modular expansion that was very capably added to my daughter's school a year ago by a fellow MBI member.

Bottom line: The times they area changin' and we need to be part of the sustainable future, not the disposable past.
Updated on June 12, 2015 by Julian Bowron

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