March 9, 2012


At a time when safety on construction sites is top of mind, a local commercial real estate and construction firm is rolling out a stackable staircase system that can improve safety and speed up the building process.

Miller-Valentine Group has patented modular concrete stair, elevator and mechanical shafts that improve safety, productivity and sustainability. Called Mod-u-Con, these stackable, pre-fabricated staircases are put together on site like giant Lego blocks.

Up to now, only Miller-Valentine has used the pre-cast, ready-to-use systems for its construction projects. But this month, Turner Construction Co. will use the Mod-u-Conon on its Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center construction project in Green Township, said David Settles, senior project manager with Miller-Valentine.

Based in Dayton with local operations in Mason, Miller-Valentine developed the product in an effort to speed up construction and reduce accidents on construction sites. The idea was born in 2003 when Miller-Valentine’s Vince Combs wanted to come up with a more efficient way to construct buildings. He figured one way to do that was to get rid of temporary stairs, ladders and scaffolding.

The firm started working on prototypes, finding out which types of concrete work best, how thick the walls should be and trying different designs. It took about a year to get the design finalized.

In 2008, Miller-Valentine got a utility patent for Mod-u-Con and trademarked the name. It was used for the first time by Miller-Valentine on its 100,000-square-foot, four-story West Chester Medical Center office building that year. Use of Mod-u-Con on that project increased productivity by 30 percent, Settles said.

Instead of using the product only for its construction jobs, Miller-Valentine views Mod-u-Con as a way to improve the entire industry.

The Mod-u-Con pieces for the Cincinnati Children’s project are made by Miller-Valentine’s pre-cast partner, Prestress Services Industries LLC in Mount Vernon.

The 60,000-square-foot outpatient facility will have two Mod-u-Con stairwells. It will take four days to erect both towers, two for each stairwell.

On a site where as many as 50 employees will be working at any given time, it helps to have sturdy, covered staircases for everyone to use, said Ted Boeckerman, manager of preconstruction at Turner in Cincinnati.

From a safety perspective, if there was an accident on the third floor of a traditional job site, first responders would have to climb up temporary ladders, and usually their bags would be lifted with a crane. On a project using Mod-u-Con, Settles said, responders can run up a completely finished staircase with their bags in hand, saving precious minutes.

The Mod-u-Con product helps Turner meet its “no ladder” policy, Boeckerman said.

So far, the Turner project is the only one using the Mod-u-Con units. But Settles said once builders, architects and engineers get to see Turner using the product, it should help demonstrate the usefulness of the product.

Turner has studied the product for use on numerous projects, said Brian Mooney, general manager for Turner in Cincinnati.

In addition to improving safety and cutting down the schedule, Mod-u-Con towers are used as additional support. Mod-u-Con can even help add LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points, since the units are locally manufactured out of 100 percent recyclable material.

Because the units can be made on site, Miller-Valentine is looking to have Mod-u-Con used on building projects across the nation.

Premium content from Business Courier by Tom Demeropolis, Staff Reporter