Critics of modular often confuse exterior aesthetics with structural design. The truth behind this myth of modular construction is that, like traditional buildings, there are no limitations on the exterior aesthetics of modular buildings. They can be designed and built using the most elegant exterior finishes, or made cheaply with no-frills, low-cost cladding. Exterior appeal is determined by the architect and his client, not by the construction process.
Small Town Debates Modular Codes
Similar confusion has led residents of Kilgore, TX to lodge complaints about the design of Meadowbrook Preschool, a small expansion project still in progress. The uproar has town leaders considering new codes for future modular construction projects.
While some may scoff at such an issue in small town America given modular’s widespread adoption for large-scale projects, the Kilgore case confirms continued misconceptions about modular construction.
In the Eye of the Beholder
The concerns expressed about Meadowbrook Preschool are little more than critiques on its physical appearance with no comment about the new classroom’s functionality or benefit to the existing structure.
The Meadowbrook expansion was properly planned and approved. It meets existing city codes, zoning requirements, and other regulations. Yet, the proposed ordinance (which would not affect Meadowbrook) includes a pair of regulations that could set an interesting precedent if approved. Future modular buildings in Kilgore would need to: 1) be comparable in value to surrounding homes/buildings within a 500’ radius; and; 2) have external facades that look similar to others in the vicinity.
The proposed regulations fail to consider that options for design aesthetics for both traditional and modular buildings are virtually unlimited and are the direct result of the architects vision. That vision is subject to the client’s final approval. They can be elaborate, polished or elegant. Or, they can be plain, unfinished or downright ugly. The fact that the building is modular is irrelevant.
The Right Resolution
We hope that the Kilgore City Council realizes the debate is about exterior aesthetics and not structural design. Given the advantages of modular construction, cities like Kilgore could benefit greatly from going modular more often.