Why you would and wouldn’t want to use modular construction for your next high-security facility

Over the last few decades, modular options have become a standard solution across many commercial implementations. But in the last decade, interest in modular construction has drastically increased specifically for secure facilities.

The rise in popularity makes sense, with the host of benefits that come with traditional roll-on modular construction, particularly the time and cost savings. In our experience, modular SCIFs/SAPFs oftentimes ring up as less expensive than new construction. That’s because of things like off-site construction and bulk pricing of materials. On top of that, the quality control can be higher thanks to a specialized labor force and standardized practices.

With that being said, modular construction doesn’t work for every client or every situation. Here’s how you know if it’s right for you:

A modular SCIF might be right for you if …

… you’re out of space. If you’re completely out of space within your building and looking to create new work area for your group, a modular building will be faster and less expensive than new ground-up construction. However, you’ll need some space—whether that’s an outdoor location like a dirt lot that can be secured or an indoor location like a warehouse.

… you’re on a budget. In our experience, tenant improvement/building renovations are the least expensive SCIF construction option in a cost-per-square-foot comparison. However, if you don’t have the building space, modular construction is the next least expensive, and of course comes with the benefits names above, such as reduced safety and quality concerns.

… you’re on a time crunch. Factory construction typically equates to a shorter timeline and faster deployment than traditional construction. In addition, we’ve found that the accreditation process actually goes more smoothly with modular than with a building renovation. That’s because with T.I., you may have to reroute transiting utilities or try to get exceptions for things that are preexisting on the building; however, with modular, the facility is brand new and built to spec, so there are no problems with retrofitting it to make it work.

… you would have on-site construction complications. Many clients who are in need of high-security facilities may have existing programs that could be disrupted by on-site construction and add an extra layer of complication with things like escorted workers, power or network disruptions, shift work, etc. With modular, though, the facility is almost entirely constructed off-site in a factory-controlled environment before being shipped and assembled, which significantly cuts down on the actual time on site.

… you’ll need to relocate it. Modular buildings can be considered “temporary” or “relocatable,” which could satisfy a property, zoning, funding or other requirement for your location or project.

A modular SCIF might not work for you if …

… you don’t have space to put one. A modular building needs its own site—whether that’s inside of a larger building, such as a hangar or warehouse, or on a dirt lot that can be secured. Clients with space limitations, such as in urban environments, might not have the space to add a modular building.

… you need specific architecture to be matched. While the external finishes on modular buildings have come a long way—they can be finished in a variety of textures and colors—they can’t match everything perfectly. A modular building can blend in with most traditionally constructed buildings, but it won’t match, say, Spanish Revival architecture.

… you have extremely heavy equipment. Typical modular buildings use a raised floor system, and with that comes some limitations. These floors can be engineered to handle substantial loads that might occur in a typical office or engineering space, but if you have heavy-duty manufacturing equipment or aircraft that requires an extreme point load on the floor system, then a modular building might not work.

Other modular options to consider:

Container SCIFs: Also called Conex SCIFs or “SCIF in a box,” container SCIFs are shipping containers converted into high-security facilities, and they are a fast solution for certain clients. They work well for situations in which you only need two or three workstations, or when you need a room for a handful of people to be briefed. They can stand alone outside, or they can be placed inside of a larger building, like a warehouse or hangar.

Panelized modular: Panelized construction, which consists of walls, ceilings and floors fabricated in a factory-controlled environment as flat panels, is the most expensive construction option, but it does create a solution for certain clients. It works best for retrofitting an existing space, so if, for example, a client is in need of a high-security facility inside their leased property, but will only be able to use it for a year or two before they move buildings (and will then need a second SCIF), panelized might be the right fit. That’s because panelized buildings changed to SCIFs can be broken down, moved and reused. While moving them is expensive, it’s not nearly as expensive as building two separate high-security facilities.

If your needs line up with modular construction, then it can be a great solution for you. While you might worry about some of its limitations, know that most needs can be worked around (for example, modular facilities can accommodate a second story or high ceiling clearance). Adamo has constructed modular facilities from 300 square feet to 40,000 square feet, and everything in between, so reach out to us if you think modular might be the right fit for you.

Related: How Much Does It Cost To Build a SCIF or SAPF?