‘Exciting and fast-paced’: Craning day on a modular build

August 18, 2020
A crane places a modular apartment.

Updated April 4, 2023.

Seeing a modular build come together is an amazing sight: A building seems to almost magically appear in a day! If only it were as easy as waving a wand — in reality, it takes a community of well-coordinated workers to make it happen.

For the National Affordable Housing Corporation Willowview Heights project in Saskatoon, the modules needed to make their way to Saskatoon from the Grandeur Housing factory in Winkler, Man., taking our long-time haulers Spiegle Transport four trips in total to ship all the modules to Saskatoon.

The first three trips had two trucks carrying four modules, and the last trip — the day before craning — had three trucks with six modules. Those three trucks then stuck around to be used on craning day to bring the modules from the staging area to the site.

Before the craning can begin that day, the modules need to be stripped of the protective wrapping used during transportation.

Big Block’s Craning Foreman Colin Gibson calls the workers prepping the modules the “pit crew.”

“They have to be fast, like NASCAR,” he said. “As soon as the truck gets on-site, the pit crew jumps on and starts removing the extra pieces of plywood and straps underneath.”

Trucks roll in with modules throughout the day, and everyone on-site needs to keep up with the deliveries.

“It’s exciting and extremely fast-paced,” Colin said. “We don’t stop until the last module is done.”

Colin describes it as a “well-organized circus,” with all the different trades on site in a multitude of roles to make it all come together. 

A site may seem to have a fair amount of room but once you add the crane, the modules, and the trucks coming in, suddenly the site becomes pretty small, and keeping everything organized is of utmost importance.

It usually takes 10-20 minutes to crane a module, so a 12-plex building usually takes about seven hours to complete.

Once the modules are in place, the joints are sealed and weatherproofed, and the framers jump in to start on the roof and porches. Next, the landscape crew starts their work.

Only so much work can be done on site before the modules arrive, so once they’re in place, the site gets busier. Thanks to the hard work of the crew at Grandeur, the interiors of the modules are almost completely finished by the time they arrive on-site. Within a matter of weeks, buildings are ready for people to start moving in.

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While Big Block is busy building like Bigfoot...
(Read also: blurry in photographs and causing double-takes when our beast of burden, the crane, makes a flash appearance in the outside world.)

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