story and photography by Kurtis Kristianson
While exiting Highway 2A into Crossfield, you have likely seen the large gray box-shaped structures that seem to rest precariously on two-by-four blocking. These mobile units or “modulars” are actually sophisticated building units used for extending classrooms, offices or any operation that needs temporary portable space.
Local industrial manufacturing company Modus is the builder of these units and has been refining them in Crossfield for 14 years.
Modus opened its doors in Crossfield in August 2004, out of the ashes of another company that had been building modulars in town, according to Joe Dotto, Modus’ chief executive officer. He said John Verhagen, one of the founding partners, felt there was a good opportunity to carry on the type of work they were already involved in and discussed the idea with the other three founding partners – Mark Cole, Mitz Simonelli and Dotto.
It seemed like a smart choice shortly after when one of the previous clients came to Verhagen and asked him to fill an order. The partners had almost everything to create their own business but needed to find a facility, supplies and manpower to carry out their first order.
Within a few weeks, the partners had been given a corner at the old AS4 Steel shop, rolled up their sleeves and went to work producing their first order of 10 units for Bell Canada.
Today, Modus is known as a longtime local employer and well-established business in Crossfield. Dotto attributes Modus’ long-running success to its superior product and versatility, since the company uses wood or structural-insulated panel or a combination of both, unlike many other companies in the industry.
“It comes down to agility,” he said. “To make decisions, change gears, look in another direction, take on something – really it’s why we are here.”
Modular buildings have been utilized for decades and are often seen in oilfield camps or construction sites as trailer or “skid” versions in relatively temporary applications. Since the early 2000s, modular buildings have been used as classrooms, requested by the Alberta government when it was decided a high efficiency, well-built unit out-performed traditional stick-framed construction.
The modulars Modus specializes in are actually built out of a need for more long-term and higher level product for permanent solutions.