Even as mainstream builders and architects investigate the potentials of modular housing, the U.S. Department of Defense seems convinced of modular's advantages.

West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Royal Concrete Concepts announced last month that the U.S. Navy is phasing out its 30-year-old wooden housing trailers on Andros Island in the Bahamas and replacing them with the company’s modular concrete housing units instead, according to company vice president John W. Albert III.

The modular concrete houses are not new to the Navy, which had previously used a few of the company’s concrete units on Andros, where the Navy/Coast Guard conducts underwater warfare training. But with wooden housing’s vulnerability to hurricanes and with the constant maintenance and repairs required due to the harsh coastal conditions, the Navy decided that all the old units would be phased out.

Albert says Royal soon will be shipping 28-foot-by-48-foot officers' quarters, including two-bedroom 990-square-foot units and three-bedroom units measuring 1,200 square feet. Several more units will follow this year.

Royal ships the homes prefabricated with concrete walls, roof, and flooring and in 14-foot sections. “They are usually about 95% completed,” Albert explains, adding that the kitchens, cabinets, and drywall are done in the factory. “The flooring is installed on-site, and even the sidewalks are precast.”

The obvious benefit to the Navy, Royal says, is that a concrete home is the “best defense against coastal weather conditions” and provides “greater hurricane resistance.” Walls come with a compressive strength of 4,000 pounds per square inch and are reinforced with Grade 60 rebar and 6-inch-by-6-inch welded wire mesh. The products also provide mold resistance and fire resistance with a two-hour fire rating between each unit. “The homes have a 100-year life cycle,” Albert boasts.

But the Navy also will see additional gains. For one thing, from the time the housing units are set in place, the maintenance required will be essentially nothing, the company declares, which will save money formerly spent on the wooden structures' upkeep. Moreover, the energy-efficient walls will save the military even more money. Because Royal’s wall sections are prefabricated with expanded polystyrene that is integrated into the pre-engineered concrete panels, the construction process creates walls with an R-value of 22 in most applications, the company says.

Residential work accounts for only about 15% of Royal’s total output in this country, but the company is seeing increased demand for its products in other regions. “Offshore seems to be doing very well,” says Albert.

Indeed. In addition to shipping homes to Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Royal announced Aug. 11 that it had inked an agreement to export 15,000 of its concrete modular homes to Angola in south central Africa.

Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.