Transmitter Buildings: Build or Pre-built?

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Knowing that the delivery might very well be difficult (especially to a mountain top) it's wise to study the necessary route and to keep these items in mind:
■ Inspect the delivery route for obstructions. Look for 15' of height (minimum) under all obstructions along the way. Of special concern are bridges, power lines, and tree branches.
■ Check for steep grades along the way. A gradient in excess of 5 percent (1 foot in height gained along 20 feet horizontally) could add costs to the delivery.
■ The pathway should be at least 20' wide all the way along the route.

Part of the process of deciding between modular and stick-built is knowing that delivery and craning of a modular building is even going to be possible (and not excessively expensive) at chosen site.

Aside from those activities, you need to consider your own as well: While taking care of all the day-to-day things that the typical broadcast engineer takes care of, the last thing you want is to add visits to an architect and/or MEP engineer's office. Perhaps more importantly, you will probably want to avoid extra trips to the remote site to make sure your general contractor is on-track. The modular type of building provides an advantage to you here -- not as much of your time will be required to get the results you expect.

If you simply consider all the telecom sites that are relatively new (especially cell telephone sites) it's clear that the large telecom providers see the benefits of modular construction. Choosing between stick-built and modular would seem to be fairly straight forward, but clearly there are going to be instances where it just won't work. You must do your research carefully, as the results, good or bad, will last for years to come.

Pre-fab suppliers

Probably one of the most well known providers of modular type buildings is Thermo Bond. Thermo Bond equipment shelters are constructed to customer's specifications and shipped fully assembled, including lights, outlets, air conditioners, heaters, generators, transfer panels, ventilation systems, cable ladder, and grounding systems. Shelters are available in sizes ranging from 4' width x 6' length to 24' width by 42' length.

Fibrebond provides pre-fabricated structures with 5,000 PSI concrete walls. Its standard design provides 100 PSF roof live-load capacity, 150 PSF floor load (with perimeter foundation) and 500 PSF floor capacity with a slab foundation, in addition to 150 mph wind load (for exposure D, which applies to flat, unobstructed areas and water surfaces outside hurricane-prone regions).

Enviro Buildings interestingly says its shelters can be shipped pre-assembled or in a knock-down, panelized configuration. The modular shelters can be transported by all-terrain vehicle, helicopter or up freight elevators. It also claims that "assembly is so easy a two-man team can easily install an Enviro Building shelter."

Mobile Modular says one of the additional benefits to its concrete construction is that its buildings have a bullet resistance; a 30:06 won't go through the wall at point-blank range. Concrete construction resists all boring insects, such as termites; and lastly, concrete construction resists mold and mildew, which would certainly extend the lifetime of the structure at a mountaintop or a flood plain.

Irwin is RF engineer/project manager for Clear Channel Los Angeles. Contact him at

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