Modular Goes Green—and Greener
|Modular office floor plans are flexible and green. Williams Scotsman developed a wall panel system that allows interiors to be reconfigured without having to tear down walls and fill dumpsters with construction waste.|
For more than two years, Williams Scotsman had tried bringing much-needed green modular units to market for the K-12 sector, but the company realized that the schools sector didn't have the money to support their effort. “We captured their hearts and minds, but not their wallets,” says Michele Cunningham, VP of marketing and business development for the Baltimore, Md.-based modular provider.
While modular units themselves can't be LEED certified (they're considered products rather than buildings, and the USGBC doesn't have a product certification category), the units may contribute at least one Innovation Credit. “Our best way of aligning with the green movement and enabling LEED projects is to offer a temporary solution that's part of a larger strategy for achieving LEED certification of the permanent structure,” says Cunningham.
Williams Scotsman's strategy for going green led to the manufacturer's three-model lineup:
Light- and medium-green units are positioned as Williams Scotsman's core sustainable products, and will be added to the firm's lease fleet (approximately 75% of the firm's units are leased), while dark-green units are expected to be purchased. All units have an updated exterior appearance with special skins or building wraps that will publicize the modular offices as being green.
Cunningham's expectations for the sustainable products are conservative. “These are niche offerings and we know they're never going to replace our fleet,” she says. “I think if they account for 5% of our installations over the next few years that would be incredibly ambitious.” She sees the green units appealing to a subset of the giant GC firms that place an importance on building green or who have clients who do so, and are willing to pay a slight premium (approximately 10%, depending on model and length of lease) for the sustainable units.
Cunningham hopes the green modular market takes off and creates a trickle-down effect that helps other modular markets go green—including the schools sector.