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Historic Washington elementary school incorporates modular design

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Historic Washington elementary school incorporates modular design

Williams Scotsman | October 29, 2014
Saltars Point Elementary, Steilacoom, Wash. Photos: Williams Scotsman

Customer Spotlight: Saltar’s Point Elementary, Steilacoom, Wash.
First Place MBI Award of Distinction, 2014.


Historic buildings, while important community relics, can present challenges when renovation or expansion plans are discussed. Matching the design aesthetic from a forgone era can be challenging for even the most experienced design professionals.  

More and more architects and designers are leveraging modern modular building techniques for expansion projects planned on historical sites. Permanent modular building can help maintain historical roots while building anew.  

For example, the historic town of Steilacoom, Washington was established as a National Historic District in 1974 and is known for its striking views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. Its school district, established in 1855, is the oldest organized school district in Pierce County, Washington. Any new construction must abide by very strict design criteria.

Recently more families have laid down roots in the area and as a result the township experienced an increase in the student population. An additional classroom building was needed at Saltar’s Point Elementary School, which is part of the Historic School District Number One. After the school district contacted our local Williams Scotsman branch, we developed a base modular design that made full use of the benefits and efficiencies of factory construction that that took place concurrently with the site work. This enabled us to begin the site development when summer break commenced in June and target building occupancy by mid-August. 



The challenge was to match the existing school’s appearance which features high, sloping, shed-style roofs, accented entry porch cover, nautical elements and high windows allowing for an abundance of natural daylight. The final design had to be in complete harmony with the town and school’s existing historical appearance.

The design was achieved by utilizing eight modular sections: four for the lower building layout and four size-matched roof sections that were factory complete with windows, exposed trusses and most mechanical systems. Because we used a higher slope roof system, stronger LVL beams were incorporated to independently support the individual roof sections until secured to the lower sections. The front clerestory design with high, east-facing fixed windows provides an abundance of natural daylight, which is supplemented by a mix of wall mounted and pendant light fixtures to be used as needed. Strategically placed casement windows allow for cross ventilation of cool fresh air off the Puget Sound during the warmer months providing additional energy savings for these large open classrooms.

The Result
Saltar’s Point Elementary has the additional classroom space—2,240 sf—needed for its 4th-5th grade students. The new building complements the aesthetic, architectural and historic values of Steilacoom. Once again, permanent modular construction provided a timely, effective, sustainable, energy efficient and attractive answer to a community’s needs. 

Have you incorporated modular building techniques into your projects to maintain the historic integrity of a building site? Tell us about your experience in the comments section. To learn more about our wide range of classroom solutions, please visit us online


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