Working around an Obstruction with Modular Wall Panels

Modular building with existing building column in the way

Looking to expand your modular office, but that I-beam is in the way of the wall panels?

One of the greatest advantages of using modular wall panels for your in-plant offices is their ability to easily change and grow as your needs change.  Back in 2010, we provided a customer with a 20’x12’ modular in-plant office with an internal wall, splitting the space into two separate offices.  A few years later they decided to rearrange the wall panels, taking out the dividing wall and creating one large office space.  Earlier this year, the customer contacted us again looking to further expand upon the room, adding an additional 16’ to the system.  This is an easy modification to make.  Typically you would just disassemble the end 12’ wall, add four new 4’ modular wall panels to each of the 20’ long walls, and then close it back off with the existing 12’ end.   But this extension offered a little twist that I thought we could talk about today.  There was an I-beam right where the wall panels would go through.

Using angle and an internal steel stud to tie a modular wall panel to  an I-beam

Conceptual sketch showing how the wall panels would be secured to the I-beam

If the wall panels fall between the flanges, the most cost effective method would be to terminate the wall on both sides of the webbing and secure it to the I-beam using some 1”x6” angle and an internal stud.  This is not the cleanest method though, as the I-beam appears to cut through the wall and typically leaves a gap in the grid ceiling inside the I-beam.

conceptual model of using modular wall panels to box around an obstruction

Conceptual sketch showing how the wall panels can could be used to box out the I-beam

In this particular case the flange of the I-beam lined up with the outer sheet of gyp-board, creating an obstruction.   Because of this we simply boxed around the I-beam with wall panels, closing it off.  While this method requires a bit more in the way of materials, it allows for a very clean and uniform appearance.

modular wall panels boxing out an obstruction

The view from inside the finished modular office extension.

Two Wall and Three Wall In-Plant Offices

two wall modular building system

Two wall in-plant office system utilizing the customer’s existing block walls

Many of the in-plant offices we provide customers are located around the perimeter of their building, and we are often asked about the possibility of utilizing the existing wall.  Depending on the site conditions, a two or three wall system could offer a significant cost savings versus a typical four wall in-plant office.  Today, I’d like to talk a little about how an in-plant office can utilize your existing building walls and some of the factors to consider if a two or three wall modular building system is a good fit for your space.

Panelized building system connecting to existing block wall

By utilizing the customer’s existing block wall, they were able to design a row of offices along the back wall of their facility without needing to reroute their existing lines

One thing to consider when thinking about designing a two or three wall in-plant office is what kind of walls are in place.  If we are going to utilize your existing walls, we are going to need to tie into them in a couple different places.  We will need to attach a piece of channel called a wall start from the floor to the top of the panel, wherever the panel would connect to the building wall.  As we typically use a corrugated roof deck to form the membrane that holds the building together, we will also need to attach an angle along the enclosed length of the wall at the panel height.  Because of this, the walls need to be substantial enough to be tied into.  Block, stud and gypsum, or concrete walls are great.  Steel skinned buildings are not.  The wall should also be even across the locations where the building would tie in.  If there’s a significant gap, such as in some brick walls, you’ll need to add some flashing to seal off the gaps into the building.  In some buildings there has been a wall built in front of the steel skin wall.  Remember to make sure the height of the front wall is taller than the height of the building panels.

Modular wall system above and below a mezzanine

A four wall in-plant office above the mezzanine with a two wall modular building system below the deck

Recently, we have done a number of mezzanine supported in-plant offices along the perimeters of the customers’ buildings, and are often asked if we could utilize the existing building walls.  The issue here, though, is that even though you might not realize it, there is some movement on the platform different from the existing building wall.  These forces would weaken the structural integrity of the building system.  At the ground level below the mezzanine, we can potentially utilize the existing building walls, but we would need to go with a four wall system on top of the platform.

two wall building system below a mezzanine

This two wall modular building system allowed our customer to separate production from the employee entrance.

A two wall modular building system offers a number of advantages, such as the ability to utilize existing windows/wiring, as well as a cost savings from using fewer materials and labor.  If you are looking at putting in some in-plant offices, it might be worth your while to consider going with a two or three wall building system.

Finishes of modular building wall panels

When starting out on a project, it’s important to pick the right material. Painted mild steel rusts when used outdoors. Wood products swell when soaked. Stainless steel is expensive. You need to compare the properties of the material against the environment in which it will be utilized.

Modular wall systems are a versatile piece of equipment used in a number of different environments and applications. Because of this, we offer a number of different types of finishes on the panels so that we can meet the different requirements of the project.

 Modular building panels with a vinyl finish

6 mil. vinyl, Class A fire rated,  stipple textured vinyl.   Bone and white are standard.

Bone vinyl over gypsum A-wall building panel

The vast majority of the modular buildings we provide feature a vinyl finish to the panels. It serves as our best, and most cost effective, general all-purpose finish, offering you a clean finish to the panel so that you don’t need to paint the walls in the field. Being covered in vinyl also allows you to clean them with a damp sponge if the walls get dirty. One common application where we would use vinyl clad panels would be in an office space.

Modular building panels with a painted steel finish

Embossed, 24 gauge,  galvanized, painted steel.   Almond and white are standard. Smooth also available.

Almond painted steel over gypsum A-wall modular building panel

Another common option that we offer is to finish the panels with painted steel sheets, which can be applied to the inside of the panel, the outside of the panel, or both. Most commonly this is used in equipment enclosures where we are concerned that something might pierce the walls. The steel sheet acts as a layer of armor helping to prevent shrapnel from puncturing the system. The steel sheets also offer an additional benefit important in many equipment enclosures. Our typical wall panels consisting of two sheets of ½” gypsum board separated by polystyrene studs generally offer an STC of 32. The additional mass of the steel helps minimize the ability of sound to be transmitted through the walls. For each side of the wall that is clad in steel the STC rating increases roughly by one.

Fiberglass reinforced plastic modular building panel finish

Pebble textured, Class  C fire rated, Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic. Khaki and white are standard.   Smooth and Class A also available.

Khaki FRP clad gypsum modular wall panel

The third most common finish that we offer is fiberglass reinforced plastic (or FRP). FRP is our most durable modular wall panel finish. It holds up exceptionally well to various scrapes and abrasions, and the FRP is a more water resistant finish as well. One of the most common applications where we’ll use an FRP wall panel finish would be for bathroom walls.

Acoustic Wall Panels Control Machine Shop Noise

By Victor @ A-Mezz

wall system

Solid relocatable acoustic wall panels to control compressor noise

In this photo an Ohio bearing repair shop needed a separation between a machining operation and an assembly area. The customer wanted a portable rigid wall system that could provide flexibility and be relocated as the shop layout was most likely going to change to accommodate a new piece and an expansion to their services and equipment. The shop area was conditioned and space was already tight, so they needed to keep everything as open as possible. Windows were added for visual safety.  You may wonder “Why use a rigid panel and not an industrial curtain?” We offered both options and, as it turned out, the minimal cost savings of a vinyl curtain system did not negate the additional benefits of solid acoustic wall panels. Five months later the area was rearranged and these panels are being used in the new location of the customer’s shop.

acoustical partition system

Wall panels to separate machine shop and control noise

The back wall in the photo to the right shows a view of this acoustical partition system that surrounds two rather noisy compressors. This area enclosing the air compressors does include a ceiling system with sound control insulation. All the windows are laminated tempered safety glass. Laminated glass provides superior acoustic benefits over standard tempered safety glass.

When the partition curtain wall was later relocated, the panels comprising the compressor room remained in their original location.

This is only one example of several modular wall systems this customer has in this facility. Three other modular enclosures serve as clean rooms and process control rooms, and two others are being used as production control and shop supervisors’ offices.