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Modular Daycare Buyers Guide

If you’re considering the purchase of a modular building for use as a daycare center, there’s a lot more to it than just clicking ‘buy now’ on the internet.

Our modular daycare buyers guide will help you make the best purchasing choice and hit the ground running.

What Is a Modular Daycare Building?

A modular daycare building is a prefabricated structure tailored to the needs of a daycare center.

Common names you might hear these buildings referred to as:

  • Prefab daycare
  • Affordable structures
  • Modular daycare buildings
  • Portable daycare

Types of Modular Daycare Buildings

Modular daycare buildings can be temporary or permanent structures, depending on the needs of the customer. Either way, they are subject to rigorous code standards governing their construction, installation, and use.

Typically, before installation, you’ll need to survey and inspect your lot to determine:

  • The soil content
  • Foundation requirements
  • Adherence to any local setback requirements

After you do that, even before the installation can begin, a third-party inspection will likely be required to ensure adherence to all relevant standards and no building codes violated.

Finally, you can begin the application process for your local building permit that allows you to begin physical construction on-site. Keep in mind that you’ll also need utility permitting for water and electrical hookups. You’ll also need to plan for plumbing and sewage or septic.

After everything else is complete, you can apply for a certificate of occupancy or other final permitting required by your local building department for ensuring that your new daycare is safe for use, up to the standards of local building codes, and ready for you to provide daycare services.

Temporary

Some modular daycares need to be temporary to meet the needs of a client. For a variety of reasons, long-term or permanent structures are sometimes less than ideal.

Consider temporary communities near large construction projects or in the aftermath of significant storms or other natural disasters. They aren’t needed long-term, and their use will end when the temporary need has ended.

Though designed as temporary installations, these structures aren’t low quality, and they’ll still require permitting, utility connections, a foundation, and more. However, performing the entire project comes with the idea that the structure itself will eventually need removal and relocation.

Lease and Co-Op Options

You don’t even have to own these buildings outright. Since there is a temporary nature to their use, it makes sense that there are short-term options to lease temporary modular daycare buildings. Cooperative (co-op) solutions offer purchasing contracts in public and private settings.

Suppose a cooperative purchasing agreement is available for your agency through a municipal, state, or private program. In that case, it will help you to streamline many aspects of the process from procurement to the timeframe, the outfitting, compliance, bidding processes, and perhaps most importantly, total cost.

Instead of becoming mired in a complex and slow-moving bidding process, you may be able to find pre-approved modular daycare solutions that don’t require bidding, bonds, solicitation, or multiple points of contact.

If leasing or co-op plans don’t work, you may even be able to rent a modular daycare structure. But, keep in mind that your customization options are likely to be limited, and you may not have quite as many options when it comes to sizes and configurations.

Estimated Length of the Daycare’s Life

Based on how long you need your building, you can make the right spending choice. Lease options are great for short-term solutions. Yet, in the end, you’re left with nothing. Once the contract runs its course, ownership reverts to the leaseholder, and they will retake possession of the structure.

So, leasing is reasonably practical for modular daycares with a defined length of life without any possibility of relocation or a renewed need. Simply match the term of the less to the estimated length of the daycare’s life.

If you need more flexibility, a lease might not work well for you. Co-op purchasing can cut down on red tape, but it requires eligibility in a program to do so. So if you aren’t already a member of a cooperating agency or partnership and you’re on a very tight schedule, outright purchasing a modular daycare might work best for you.

Then, since your need for the building is temporary, but you have ownership of a modular daycare, you’ll either have to relocate the structure or arrange to sell it.

Permanent

Permanent modular structures take advantage of all the flexibility, speed, and other factors that make modular and prefabricated buildings appealing. Instead of temporary installations, they’re intended to last much longer, even remaining permanent as a daycare.

Finance Options

Since there will be a high up-front cost when purchasing a permanent modular building, you may need to look into financing. You can often find building loans at your local banks or through private lenders.

Estimated Length of the Daycare’s Life

Most permanent modular classroom buildings can last 35 – 50 years or even 100’s of years if you keep up with the care and maintenance the building requires.

Permanent modular daycares are probably the best solution if you will need the building for seven or more years. That’s the breaking point where depreciation and increased up-front costs turn slowly to your favor instead of renting or leasing options.

They are also the best bet if you want lots of custom options or an elaborate configuration.

Why Modular Daycare Buildings?

Modular daycare buildings offer a few advantages over traditional construction.

Speed

Modular construction has a tremendous advantage over traditional methods when it comes to speed. Consider that while your site is being prepared, the structure of the modular building can progress offsite with the manufacturer. That can lead to project completion times that are half of what might be expected with a traditional build.

This sort of concurrency doesn’t sacrifice any adaptability or adherence to construction standards. It does help limit the adverse effects caused by weather that might cause damage to materials stored on the construction site, unpredictable shipping delays, and the chances that one issue will snowball into a series of delays that puts an entire project behind schedule.

Prefabricated structures without much modification or customization can help projects move even faster.

Environmentally Friendly

The manufacturing process for a modular structure is quite efficient. Instead of building outside in the elements, subject to the whims of mother nature, these buildings come together in a controlled environment, usually utilizing an assembly-line style of manufacturing.

The use of this method, and the fact that it’s performed inside a building, help cut down on wasted materials. It’s much easier to damage supplies and materials or make mistakes when it’s pouring rain, cold, or the site is experiencing other potentially damaging environmental hazards.

Instead of relying on workers to measure, cut, place, fasten and inspect materials in the field where the potential for waste is high, all of that construction is done in a manufacturing facility’s controlled environment.

When you factor in that modular construction is most efficient and profitable when done with sustainability as a goal, the environmentally friendly nature of this type of construction becomes even more apparent.

It should be no surprise that eco-friendly and durable materials are the preferred choice of modular building designers and builders.

Perhaps the most easily measured factor contributing to the environmentally friendly nature of modular construction is the reduction in individual shipping needs. Think about how many fossil-fuel-powered truckloads of materials and equipment are needed for a traditional building. This includes:

  • Lumber
  • Concrete
  • Roofing
  • Plastic sheathing
  • Siding
  • Every other component

All of these parts must arrive on schedule and the bed of an emission-making truck. Much of that is negated by centralized manufacturing of modular structures.

High-Quality Standards

There’s no doubt that modular construction is cost-effective. What makes it particularly appealing is that it is still very high quality. There are rigorous standards that apply to all modular buildings, whether intended for short-term, long-term, or permanent installations.

Since the process is a new build, you’re not going to find outdated and potentially hazardous materials as you would in a retro fit building.

For instance, it’s reasonably expected that you can find an older building for sale near where you’d like to locate your new daycare. However, if the building is more than a decade or two old, you’re highly likely to find asbestos and lead within it.

The federal ban on lead plumbing wasn’t enacted until 1986, and it’s still quite common to find old layers of lead paint in old buildings.  If you find any asbestos, it is required that it be safely abated before using any structure as a school or daycare, which can be a tremendously expensive project.

Flexibility

The design of a modular or prefabricated daycare is not limited by much more than a customer’s imagination. Yes, there are some limitations on the footprint of individual modules, as each one must fit on a truck for final shipping.

However, there is a tremendous range of sizes, floor plans, and multi-story options that can meet the needs of either small or large daycare populations. Childcare services sometimes require technical outfitting, child-friendly features, and custom treatments to meet the needs of a diverse group of youngsters.

That accommodation isn’t a problem with the flexibility of a modular daycare design. Ramps, railings, interconnected corridors, and various design features can turn prefabricated daycares into attractive, functional facilities.

The addition of some of these flexible design elements can even transform semi-permanent or temporary structures into robust buildings that seem more of a fixture and incorporate well into the surrounding environment and community.

Cost Savings

One of the most attractive aspects of a modular daycare is the extreme flexibility they afford. While there is undoubtedly a lot of flexibility regarding the type of construction, the entrance, and other design accouterments, perhaps the most appealing flexibility of a modular structure comes from a financial perspective.

There are tremendous cost savings for savvy purchasers who look outside of traditional construction and take advantage of modular daycare buildings.

Rather than taking on the massive burden of the increasingly unpredictable costs of new construction, or the unknown and inherent risks of purchasing an older building that may need costly retrofits, upgrades, and reductions, modular daycare purchasers have much more predictable costs that are typically a tremendous cost-savings over other options.

More Favorable Depreciation

Permanent construction of a non-residential nature takes 39 years to depreciate fully. Tax laws currently offer an entire depreciation period of seven years for many modular and portable buildings.

That much shorter period to realize total depreciation provides investors and owners the opportunity to discover more significant tax benefits in the short term and perhaps more profit and flexibility in the longer term.

Pros and Cons

Even though the upsides tend to outweigh the downsides, it’s essential to go into a modular project with your eyes wide open to the potential negatives as well.

Pros

  • Streamlined manufacturing
  • Strict quality controls
  • Less subject to delays
  • More efficient, faster results
  • Less expensive
  • New construction is more affordable
  • Safer construction process
  • Less wasteful

Cons

  • Trucks required for module movements
  • Less resale value
  • Size of modules limited by transportation requirements
  • You can’t adjust footprints for zoning or obstacles
  • Permitting and inspections are still required
  • Small changes can become big headaches
  • All costs come at once

How Much Does a Modular Daycare Cost?

Just like in conventional construction, the scale of your modular daycare project will go a long way to determining the costs involved.

Size

Large modular structures will need multiple modules. The modules themselves can be thought of as a fixed cost. For instance, if one module costs x, and your project requires four of them, the price for the modules will be pretty predictable at 4x.

While that math is quite simple, it doesn’t account for the ancillary costs involved in increasing the scale of a project. Consider a short-term temporary daycare needing:

  • A simple foundation
  • A ground-level entryway
  • Utility hookups
  • A small parking lot

Now compare the cost of that relatively small project to a modular daycare with two levels, multiple interconnected modules on the ground floor, an expansive parking lot with a separate modular office needing its own foundation, and a series of ramps, staircases, and railings to make the facility code compliant and easily navigable.

Even without putting complex numbers down, you can see that the size and scale of your project will be a massive driver of costs.

Quality of Materials

Premium materials have premium pricing. If you’re looking to outfit a modular daycare inexpensively, you’ll be tempted to use budget materials. While doing so can help cut costs tremendously, it can also make your whole facility feel cheap and temporary. That might not be conducive to attracting families who want their children safe, secure, and having fun at daycare.

So, consider using premium materials despite their extra cost. Doing so is also likely to increase the durability of your modular daycare. So, aluminum siding, vinyl wall coverings, and comfortable floorings like vinyl, rubber, or carpet should be in your crosshairs.

Don’t spend much time considering cheap laminates, textiles, or other materials that will rapidly degrade and detract from the appearance and comfort of your new modular daycare.

Modular Daycare Options

As you can see, there are a wide variety of options available as you plan and detail your new modular daycare. If you decide to buy or lease a previously-used modular building, you’ll be a bit more limited in design potential. But, you can still take advantage of options that make the facility fit in well with its surroundings and meet your needs.

Depending on the configuration, floor plan, and the total number of modules, your modular daycare could be anything from a couple of hundred square feet to a massive 100,000 square foot complex.

Typical Widths

Typical widths for modular buildings include:

  • 8 foot
  • 10 foot
  • 12 foot
  • 14 foot
  • 24 foot
  • 28 foot
  • 42 foot
  • 56 foot
  • 66 foot

Typical Lengths

Typical lengths  for modular buildings include:

  • 36 foot
  • 44 foot
  • 60 foot
  • 66 foot
  • 70 foot
  • 84 foot
  • 98 foot
  • 112 foot
  • 126 foot
  • 140 foot

Typical Heights

There isn’t too much variation in the height of an individual module. That’s because of limitations on the maximum height of trucks and their cargo.

Even though the federal government doesn’t have a nationwide maximum height limit, most states limit a vehicle’s overall height and load to less than fourteen feet.

So modules are rarely much more than eleven feet tall so that they can be shipped without violating height restrictions or being damaged in collisions with obstacles like bridges and other low-hanging infrastructure.

Fully-assembled modular buildings and complexes might have a few modules stacked on top of one another. However, their components are all pretty much the same height.

Custom Designs

Custom designs can transform the boxy dimensions of a typical modular building into something entirely different. Even though the underlying modules might be standard dimensions, you can create a floorplan that maximizes the ambiance and makes the space your own by uniquely configuring them.

Some customer floor plans are even available in portable daycare or classroom configurations.

Some are pretty compact, starting at 36 x 24 feet, while other portable setups can be 68x 56 feet, 78 x 24 feet, or pretty much anything in between.

Exterior Design

There is a wealth of variety when choosing the exterior design of your modular daycare building.

Siding

Typically, modular buildings have aluminum siding. But, with optional embossing and a wide variety of colors to choose from, you can make the structure look much more inviting than the drab image aluminum siding might conjure up in your imagination.

Siding color options vary by manufacturer, but you should expect to see opportunities for:

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Orange
  • Black
  • Green
  • Dull White
  • Brilliant White
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey

Roof

For the roof of your modular daycare, you can choose from rubber in various thicknesses and colors, shingles in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and ribbed steel. Manufacturers have different options that change the look of your structure. And, some choices may also influence its durability.

You can also install gutters to match the roof and the trim. Typically they’ll be made out of aluminum. However, if you prefer, you could probably use a less expensive material like vinyl or PVC or a much more expensive material like copper.

Entrance

Choosing your entrance may depend on a few factors. ADA compliance is sure to be one of them. Everyone needs to be able to access your facility safely.

So while you have a lot of design options, you’ll have to stay up to code. You can use stairways, ramps, first-floor doorways with vestibules, and other options to make the space your own.

Foundation Type

Modular buildings can sit on a variety of foundations, just like regular construction. They will always need to be flat, but there are a few different ways to provide a sturdy foundation for a modular daycare building. You don’t always need to excavate, either.

Temporary modular daycares could simply sit on top of a well-paved asphalt or gravel surface. Compacted gravel will also be just fine.

More permanent or more significant structures and complexes might require an engineered cement foundation, especially if building on a sloped lot.

Every aspect of your project will require permitting, and the foundation is no exception. This arena is one place where your modular building supplier and contractor can help you understand the options and requirements.

Additional Factors to Consider

Beyond these design, dimensions, and installation options, there are a few other aspects of modular daycare buildings to consider.

Site Location

The site’s location for a modular daycare building will affect the cost and complexity of a project. While there are modular and prefabricated building manufacturing centers around the country, the project may become more expensive if your build site is in a remote location.

Remember, if your location is prone to severe weather, it may also become more complex and expensive. For instance, if you’re building a multi-story modular daycare, and your site is in a mountainous area that experiences high winds, using a crane to lift things in place might become much more problematic than if you were in a location that rarely had strong winds.

Shipping

If your location is in an area that’s difficult to access or remote, it will make shipping the modular building for your project a bit more complicated. The shipping cost can vary tremendously, but longer distances through rougher terrain will typically drive the price way up.

Sometimes, additional costs involved in shipping, like tolls and fees, should be accounted for to understand the shipping price thoroughly.

Complexities

There are myriad complexities that can affect your project. A few common issues include:

  • Seasonal weather
  • Sudden storms
  • Roadway access
  • Dirt or unpaved roads
  • Shipping to remote regions
  • Shipping to urban locations with traffic and more obstacles
  • Utility access
  • Coordination of on-site work, manufacturing, and delivery

Keep these factors in mind when building your project. It’s much easier to assume risk before it happens, so you can be prepared if it does.

FAQ

Some questions about modular daycare buildings come up quite often. Let’s examine a few.

Do all modular daycares look alike?

Not at all. By taking advantage of varying design options, you can make your structure your own.

There are indeed some constraints on the sizes of the modules and the way they are set up. However, with some tweaks, you can take what might be a standard floor plan and transform a modular building into a standout daycare facility.

Do modular daycares look temporary?

Not if you set them up correctly, intending to make them fit well with the site and the surrounding structures and community. If you’re looking for a budget solution to a temporary daycare need and don’t do anything to integrate your modular building into the building site, it will look impermanent.

Adding landscaping, hardscaping, and other design elements can help the structure mesh with its surroundings,  so it doesn’t look temporary at all.

What factors should I consider when choosing a modular daycare company?

The most significant factor to consider is experience. A fly-by-night or inexperienced operation might not be as reliable as a proven manufacturer.

Since modular construction projects rely on adherence to deadlines and close coordination between the manufacturer, the shipper, and the on-site contractor, you need an established and proven company.

How is modular construction different from traditional construction?

The most significant difference is that the construction of the building itself happens concurrently with the site’s preparation. Instead of waiting for the site to be ready and a foundation prepared for the start of framing a traditional building, modular construction can get started off-site before the ground is even prepared at all.

Modular construction starts with an assembly line in a manufacturing facility, yielding a semi-finished structure shaped like a shipping container and fitting on the back of a truck.  This is a much different process than traditional on-site construction, where designs are fabricated by erecting frames of lumber or other materials.

What’s the difference between modular daycares and prefab daycares?

Modular buildings are a type of prefabricated or prefab construction. Prefab just means that the component starts life at a factory, where it is built. Then it’s delivered and installed on-site, just like the building modules we’ve discussed.

Many parts of a building can be prefab. Some common parts include trusses, beams, staircases, precast concrete slabs, interlocking wall panels, and more.

How long does it take to construct a modular daycare?

Even though modular buildings can save a lot of time over traditional construction projects, there will likely be some complexities in your modular daycare project. The scale of your project will also contribute to the length of time needed to complete it.

Some significant suppliers of modular buildings advertise their ability to deliver turn-key modules in as little as 48 hours. That doesn’t account for permitting, site preparation, or final installation of non-prefabricated items, so don’t assume you can pull off a new building with the snap of your fingers.

You can also take advantage of pre-wiring, optimized floor plans, and even fully equipped and outfitted modules specifically for daycare and classroom settings.

Can a modular daycare be eco-friendly or “green?”

Absolutely. The manufacturing process is environmentally responsible, taking advantage of recycled materials whenever possible and cutting down on wasteful actions every day in traditional construction.

Plus, the increased efficiency of the process cuts down on potential damage and loss due to delays. You can take additional measures on-site to further improve the eco-friendliness of your project by limiting impacts on the environment.

Some modular buildings can be pre-fitted and optimized for the integration of solar panels and high-efficiency lighting.

Do modular daycare buildings come with bathrooms?

Depending on your supplier and the options you choose, they can come with integrated bathrooms pre-plumber. You can also find floor plans designed for other facilities like:

  • Locker rooms
  • Offices
  • A small gym or playroom
  • Classrooms

Typically, the fixtures themselves will still need mounting. The plumbing is all done at the manufacturing facility, but the toilets and sinks aren’t installed to avoid damage in shipping.

The plumbing work is much different than what you might see in a traditional build, and quality control is much stricter due to the controlled environment of the manufacturing facility.

Then you’ll need to purchase and install your fixtures on-site. This allows you to outfit your daycare with the toilets, sinks, and other fixtures you want.

Why do organizations buy modular daycares?

Organizations buy modular daycares because they offer a lot of advantages over traditional construction. Some benefits of modular construction include:

  • Efficient and eco-friendly manufacturing
  • The ability to stick to tighter
  • Faster schedules
  • Durable materials
  • Tax advantages
  • Cost savings

Since cost is often the bottom line for an organization, the appeal of modular daycares is usually rooted in its financial advantages and favorable depreciation schedule. The other benefits all add up to a viable option for creating a daycare building.

Who Should I Contact If I’m Interested in a Modular Daycare?

If you’re interested in constructing a modular daycare building for you or your organization, consider contacting an established and reputable modular building supplier or an experienced modular building contractor in your area.

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