Introducing GuardRailed Construction

Glenn CortModular Construction1 Comment

GuardRailed Construction

6 critical areas of focus to help the construction industry have more success!

Welcome to GuardRailed Construction, By Glenn A. Cort


I was at the AIA Build Boston conference last year and saw two different presentations of project teams who had signed up to give presentations (months earlier ).  There they were, on stage,  struggling to talk about their projects in a positive way but nonetheless smiling,  smirking, nodding and winking, and saying things like :  “we certainly had our challenges,”  “we all got through it” .. “ in the end we have a great building.”    Of course we’ve all had this experience, but how many projects are we just “getting through” without everyone reaping the rewards they had planned for?

According to the latest report by McKinsey Global Institute that rates efficiency and productivity gains for our federal government, “construction is one of the few industries that are less productive now than it was 60 years ago.”  They go as far to refer to “lagging construction productivity as an intractable productivity problem.”  Sadly, despite many of our best efforts, the majority of commercial construction projects fail to meet deadlines and cost targets and result in dissatisfaction for many involved.  There are gains being made.  Greater use of technology in the field and information sharing software is helping, but our progress as in industry can be better. Everyone reading this should be thinking the same thing – we can do better.

For a long time I’ve asked myself, “who are you to change it ?” Could I possibly make a difference?  I will let you know here at the outset of my “blog series,” that I consider myself a relative “newbie” and have a ton of things to learn.  Also, the company for which I am a principal does not aspire to build the largest of buildings, our projects are relatively small which enables us to apply our learning to less complex projects overall.  I’ve been building for twenty years but only have twelve years direct experience with sizable complex permanent buildings.  I am an attorney however, (full disclosure..) but I believe that training has given me a fairly good handle on how disputes arise.  I  have also been deeply involved with the formation of no less than fifty contracts for construction in the last five or six years.  At this stage of my career I have begun to see clear patterns emerge, problems that could be avoided if more “guardrails” are set up between the parties.   Guardrails is my way of saying “shared understanding”.

Construction is an inherently complex undertaking.  How do we achieve greater understanding and excitement between all parties involved in a permanent construction project and maintain that until the end ?    The answer is we need to set up guardrails that create shared understanding.   Whether you are a designer or contractor we need to do a better job to set a predetermined course to eliminate complexity.   To replace disorder with order,  the dynamic with static, the unpredictable with foreseeable ..  I set up actual road guardrails in our offices to help us along in our journey.  That is me in the back right of the photo.  The obvious analogy is that if you follow the road and heed the cones you will limit your accidents and reach your destination in a predictable fashion.  Like a trip to the mountains with the kids, arriving successfully with everyone happy. (a bit tired however is naturally understandable).



The Six “Cones”  or topical areas of discussion to get us there are :

(click the cone name above to learn more about each section)

I never want to be the loudest voice in the room and it’s easier to remain quiet but I cannot deny what I’ve seen – the same issues misunderstood over and over.

Therefore, in conclusion I believe it would be a shame not to share the lessons we’ve learned with others.  By learning, asking the “stupid” questions and by being curious we are having far more satisfaction in our own projects.

What we have learned may not be revolutionary but I do believe that if the issues presented in these categories are discussed by project teams, it will no doubt improve your projects.

Welcome to “Guard Railed Construction”, a series of blogs and informational content to improve our company and yours.



About the author :

Glenn CortGlenn Cort is a principal at Triumph, and is responsible for delivering commercial building projects on time and on budget for clients. His interests are in leveraging prefabrication, setting up rules of the road for project teams to be sure everyone enjoys and benefits from the building experience.

Exploration of Modular Manufacturing Capacity for Northeast US Commercial Construction

Glenn CortModular Construction0 Comments

Do we have enough modular manufacturing capacity to meet demand here in the Northeast?  That’s a key question for the modular industry.

The cost of construction continues to rise in New England.  This is due in large part to increased demand construction services remains high and a shortage of skilled labor in traditional construction disciplines.

Google turning to modular manufacturing for housingModular construction is often presented as solution.  This view has been bolstered by several headline-making stories.  For example, Atlanta Developer featured stories about developers invested in modular construction plants, committed to manufacturer their way to fulfilling the need for constructed housing, schools, etc. in their communities.  The Wall Street Journal featured Google’s plans to use modular manufacturing for housing near its headquarters in Mountain View, California.    Marriott and Hilton have generated a much attention for their use of modular for many of their newest hotels, building large pieces of living quarters in factories.

But can modular work as well here in the Northeast?

Like other forms of manufacturing, modular requires a large investment of capital in order to achieve economies of scale – specifically modular manufacturing facilities.  In other regions that investment has been aided by large projects such as oil and mining “man camps” and military barracks.  We don’t have a large oil, mining or military presence in New England and therefore haven’t had this catalyst for the commercial modular manufacturing base.   There is a high level of demand in New England for top-notch buildings which modular could accommodate, but most of the modular manufacturers here in New England currently specialize in smaller-scale projects.  

As noted in the previous post, the capacity and interest to meet demand for large scale housing projects as well as other commercial buildings is very much in question.  Building multi-family housing is known as a Commercial Building endeavor which introduces elements of the building code that are much different than single family homes.  Also, the use of steel, glass, and mechanical systems that are required in sizable commercial projects introduces more complexity.   The focus on home manufacturing helps increase awareness and hands-on experience with the modular process, but currently doesn’t expand the capacity for commercial projects.  There are some companies such as Champion Builders in Pennsylvania who already provide production for projects in the northeast.

As part of our 2020 efforts to expand the use of modular construction into new markets, we plan to contact other modular manufacturers explore with them their capacity to build multi-unit commercial buildings, including multi-family housing, schools, hotels, dorms and office buildings.  We’re eager to work as an industry to present modular as a solution to New England’s construction challenges.  I’ll report back as we make progress.

Glenn CortGlenn Cort is a principal at Triumph, and is responsible for delivering commercial building projects on time and on budget for clients. His interests are in leveraging prefabrication, setting up rules of the road for project teams to be sure everyone enjoys and benefits from the building experience.

How much does a Portable Classroom Cost?

Glenn CortModular Classrooms, Modular Construction0 Comments

Classroom SpaceHaving been in the modular classroom business for over 25 years, we’re often asked about portable classroom cost so we wanted to provide a direct answer. As you probably know, each site is unique so please use this as general guidance only and please inquire about your specific project:

Having a code compliant beautiful modular classroom delivered, installed, leased and removed will likely cost in the rage of $95,000 dollars for one year of use.

It’s important to note that the bulk of the cost is in the permitting, installation and hook up of utilities.   The lease rate could be $30,000 per year.   The installation could cost about $45,000, and the removal about $20,000 (if it’s removed).  Please note these figures are for a nice classroom that parents and teachers will be happy with during the time period that they’re using it.

Here’s even more detail on how this cost breaks down on a per-square foot basis: 

Assuming a two-piece modular building of either 1500 or 1700 square feet in size that equates to 1500 ft2 x $20 dollars per foot or $30,000 for the annual rent.  1500 ft2 x $35 per foot is a bit over $50,000 installation, and 1500 x $15 per foot for the removal is a bit over $20,000.   This square footage calculation can be used to approximate the cost for any square footage, but as the building gets larger the estimate can get skewed and you should consult one of our representatives.

What if I needed 4 or 6 or 8 modular classrooms for a few years – what would this cost?

HereModular Building Institute's 1st place winner in Temporary Modular: Education’s an example using square footage for an estimate for 4 classrooms of 1000 ft2 each (4000 square foot building space would include bathrooms, corridors and closet spaces).  Take the square footage of 4000 and multiply it times $15-20 per square foot – think of the higher end of this scale is for the nicest of units.  Multiply the total square footage by the cost per foot to get a budget for the annual cost of rent only:   so, that’s $20 x 4000 sf =  $80,000 in rent.   For installation services use $33 per foot ($33 x 4000 sf = $132,000). For removal use $15 per foot. ($15 x 4000 sf = $60,000) paid upon removal.  Total cost for first year use for 4000 square foot, 4 classrooms and left over spaces  =  $272,000. Please note the $20 per foot per year for the rent is for a high end building.  Also, costs of installation and removal depend heavily on a number of factors to be discussed at a visit of your site.  And finally, the shorter the lease, the higher the per foot rate.

How long does it take to get a portable or modular classroom if I needed one ?

If you can use a stock unit without modification it could take as little as 90 days from the time you decide to use our company to get the unit operational.  The schedule typically depends much more upon permitting with the city or town and checking sufficiency of utility services.  Actual site preparation and installation of modular buildings is fast.  If permitting is handled concurrently 90 days is possible and it also depends on how large the building is.  Speed to occupancy also depends greatly on how you procure the modular classrooms. Design – Bid – Build , with multiple bids and little collaborative planning geared toward lowest cost will result in much longer schedule. A collaborative choice of partners can make a project go very fast and efficiently.

We provide a variety of other budgeting resources including broad budgeting for leased buildings and an overview of Cost Considerations for permanent modular construction.


Glenn CortGlenn Cort is a principal at Triumph, and is responsible for delivering commercial building projects on time and on budget for clients. His interests are in leveraging prefabrication, setting up rules of the road for project teams to be sure everyone enjoys and benefits from the building experience.

The 4 Best Modular Home Manufacturers in the Northeast

Glenn CortModular Building, Modular Construction0 Comments

Modular home by KBS Builders

We’re lucky to have several modular home manufacturers serving New England, producing very high quality, beautiful residential homes.  At Triumph Modular we do not build single-family residential homes.   We build commercial buildings and, as such, multi-family housing is a market we serve.  We tend to work with developers on these projects.  However, we are often called by homeowners asking about modular homes, and we have worked with several manufacturers on our multi-family projects, who for the most part built their businesses on building single family homes.  The list below are the companies that we recommend most often. They are among best modular home manufacturers in the Northeast:


KBS Builders KBS Building Systems (Oxford ME)
preferred building systems Preferred Building Systems, (New Hampshire)
Westchester Modular Homes Westchester Homes (NY)
Signature Building systems Signature Building Systems (PA)


The success of modular home manufacturing helps increase the overall awareness of the benefits of the modular process – and therefore helps Triumph the context of a “rising tide lifts all boats.” And from our conversations with some of these providers, demand for modular homes has never been higher.

But we also recognize that the expansion single-family modular construction currently doesn’t expand the capacity for commercial projects.   Their capacity and interest to meet demand for large scale housing projects as well as other commercial buildings is very much in question.

In fact in a recent article in Construction Dive they polled various industry participants and found:

“..out of 14 market segments, GCs and trade representatives found medical facilities the most promising for modular construction. Forty-one percent selected healthcare as being in the top 10 most-promising sectors.  Designers cited multifamily as the strongest contender for increasing modular inroads. Half of the more than 200 architects and engineers polled ranked it in one of the top spots.”

What is worth exploring is their capacity and interest to meet demand for large scale housing projects as well as other commercial buildings. Leveraging modular manufacturing capacity for different, larger-scale markets, is very important issue for our industry and one that we’ll be addressing in more detail in future posts.

Glenn CortGlenn Cort is a principal at Triumph, and is responsible for delivering commercial building projects on time and on budget for clients. His interests are in leveraging prefabrication, setting up rules of the road for project teams to be sure everyone enjoys and benefits from the building experience.

Triumph Modular Receives Trademark Renewal for “Redefining Modular”

Glenn Cortcompany news, Modular Construction0 Comments

Redefining Modular Requires Redefining the Process

Five years ago Webster’s dictionary defined the word Modular as an “efficiency unit” or “relating to modules.” Today if you ask Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, each will define Modular as “a construction process where individual modules are built off site and connected together on site.” Or it may say “employing or involving a module or modules as the basis of design or construction.” We can’t take direct credit for this improvement, but it is fair to say that we have played an important role in creating a greater shared understanding among a wider audience. In the last five years we have completed nearly twenty permanent projects as a CM at Risk using offsite construction. In the next five years, we aim to provide great clarity as to when and how modular construction should be used. We were one of the first companies, fifteen years ago, to start using the phrase Volumetric Modular Construction and Offsite Construction which has also been helpful for owners and contractors to define the differences between panelized versus modular.

A problem well defined, is a problem half solved. By defining Modular Construction as a unique process that is distinct from other forms of Prefabrication we hope to add value to the design community. Our ultimate goal in “Redefining” Modular is to deliver great value to our customers. This means honing in on the best practice to utilize this form of construction. The only way to add value, and to have people come to know offsite construction as an alternative form of constructing a building with more speed — and reliability that actually works! — is to also Redefine the process that enables this form of construction.

More on that in the next post…. Thanks for reading.

redefining modular triumph logo

Learn why owners are choosing pre-fab due to time savings and sustainability points with Triumph’s President, Cliff Cort, at ABX.

Rusty WilliamsArchitects, Industry Insights, Modular Construction, News0 Comments

Cliff Cort, President of Triumph Modular, will be participating on a panel discussion about “The Next Generation of Sustainable Construction” at 8:30 am on November 7th at the Architecture Boston Show. Architecture Boston or “ABX” is the premier event for the design and construction industry in the northeast. Above all, ABX is a place to meet and network with other professionals involved in architecture and constructions.   ABX takes place at the Boston Convention Center on November 6th and 7th.


get a free pass to abx 2019

Cliff will be joined by three other industry experts:


Donna Laquidara-Carr of Dodge Analytics on Sustainable Construction Donna Laquidara-Carr, PhD LEED API
Industry Insights Research Director
Dodge Data & Analytics


Brian McCaffrey of DPR on Sustainable Construction

Bryan McCaffrey
Project Executive/National Prefabrication Leader
DPR Construction


Matthew Steere of Autodesk on Sustainable ConstructionMatthew Steere, Construction Industry Strategist
Construction Industry Strategist
Autodesk Inc.


Topics the panel will address in this workshop include:

  • The connection between Lean practices and sustainability.
  • Opportunities to incorporate prefabrication as a sustainable strategy in projects.
  • The advantages of collaboration in early design as a sustainable strategy .
  • The implications of modular building, not only as part of their sustainable practice now, but as a trend disrupting traditional construction in the future.

In addition, Dodge Data & Analytics will present on sustainable construction through the lens of these practices. DPR will provide information on the specific sustainability benefits gained from implementing these practices, and how they believe they will evolve.

While you’re there, be sure to drop by Triumph’s booth — #448 — to learn more about the modular process, sustainable construction practices and recent projects including Wellesley College Science Center and many others.

Modular Construction Study by McKinsey & Company

Rusty WilliamsIndustry Insights0 Comments

modular construction study

Modular construction study: Modular could scale to an industry that represents more than $100 billion in US and European real estate, delivering $20 billion in annual savings


modular construction

McKinsey & Company has recently published a 34 page modular construction study, Capital Projects and Infrastructure Modular construction: From projects to products. By Nick Bertram, Steffen Fuchs, Jan Mischke, Robert Palter, Gernot Strube, and Jonathan Woetzel.Read More

AIA Details Benefits of Modular and Features Triumph in Guide for Architects

Rusty WilliamsArchitects, Modular Construction, Permanent Modular0 Comments

15,000 square-foot two-story Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab
Modular construction is a booming business. Whether you are looking to save time on a building project, save materials, or create a building to exacting standards, modular is the way to go. That’s why we were thrilled when the American Institute of Architects released their Modular and Off-Site Construction Guide. The AIA resource is free and available to download, and goes over the different benefits and aspects of modular construction. To say the least, it is a great overview of the major steps of the modular method from concept to post-assembly.

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OSHA National Safe + Sound Week | August 12-18, 2019

Rusty Williamscompany news, Industry Insights0 Comments

safe + sound week
August 12-18 is OSHA Safe + Sound Week. It is a nationwide event to recognize and raise awareness of workplace health and safety standards. In honor of this week, Triumph Modular has been holding daily safety briefings. In fact, to facilitate more ideas and dialogue, we have included cross-functional teams in our meetings. This means our admin team and ops team work together to go over safety procedures, and bring up current issues and ideas.

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