Why are More Engineers Requesting Central Utility Plants and Modular Penthouses/Mechanical Rooms?

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Construction is more challenging than ever. Tight budgets, labor shortages, and demanding standards make it difficult to complete projects on budget and on time. When construction becomes complex, requiring a range of trades and specialties, the challenges are amplified.

That’s why offsite construction has become such an attractive option for engineers on all kinds of builds. Modular CUPs and Penthouses (or mechanical rooms), built offsite, have become especially popular.

Design and construction of Modular CUPs and Penthouses begins similar to most traditional projects, but this process uses efficiencies in the process whole design, fabrication, and installation sequence to create a unique manufactured product.  All Central utility plants (CUPs) and Penthouses are pre-engineered to exact specifications, and modular off-site is no different other than this product is designed for your project, not the more traditional the project is designed around the equipment. Then, additional systems are assembled in a controlled factory environment by highly trained specialists that increase the value proposition. Finally, the entire CUP is tested and inspected before being dissembled and transported to the job site for final installation to deliver that complete package from design to installation.

Choosing to utilize modular construction for CUPs can save time and money compared to traditional on-site methods. With pre-engineered systems, there is less need for on-site welding, cutting, and drilling, which can speed up the process while also reducing the risk of errors.

Additionally, modular methods can help reduce waste and minimize environmental impact, as materials are used more efficiently, and there is less on-site waste. Offsite construction methods for CUPs can offer significant advantages in terms of time, cost, and quality, making it an attractive option for many projects.

Custom Fabrication

“One of the big drivers of offsite CUP construction,” says Greg Munter, Sales Engineer at Coward Environmental Systems, Inc. (CESI), “is the ability to fabricate using manufacturing processes. With custom fabrication, mechanical rooms, and CUPs can be retrofitted into existing buildings in areas such as the core of buildings, in basements, or on the roof. We’ve even done extensions on buildings where the bump out is a stacked CUP that rises several floors high.”


In the past, it wasn’t practical to transport large mechanical rooms or CUPs over the road. Today, components can be packed on the skids or fully contained. “That opens up options for architects and engineers,” says Munter. “We see a lot of options that have the same customization ability as stick-built construction.”

Eases Labor Shortages

Offsite construction can be a highly efficient workaround for owners struggling with labor shortages. “Offsite construction of the mechanical room or CUP allows owners to rededicate the labor available at their site to other construction activities,” says Munter. “That relieves stress on your existing labor force.”

Often, the experienced contractors that are best qualified to complete CUP or mechanical room work on-site are also the busiest because of their expertise. “A manufacturer that does offsite CUPs offers that same level of expertise along with the efficiencies,” says Munter. “A really good local contractor may work on two or three CUPs a year. But offsite manufacturers build 20 or 30 a year. They also bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the process.”

manufacturers offer efficiencies in staging, material handling, and fabrication

Fast and Safe

Because manufacturing processes create efficiencies, it takes fewer hours of labor to build CUPs off-site. “These manufacturers offer efficiencies in staging, material handling, and fabrication,” Munter emphasizes. “And because the process is so controlled, it provides a safer environment for construction. There are no rainy days, slippery surfaces, bad lighting, or long falls. So manufacturing processes can be done in a safe and economically friendly way.”

Installing a CUP early in the construction process can also provide benefits. “When you’re adding mechanical or electrical infrastructure, installing a modular CUP or penthouse can be a way to provide temporary power and utilities to the site,” Munter notes.” Early in the construction process, you’ve now  got utilities installed and weatherproofed very quickly, which can make the rest of the project move much faster and more efficiently.”

What's Next in CUPs?

Greg Munter has already seen increased requests for modular mechanical rooms and offsite CUPs. “CESI has grown from selling 1,000 square feet of modular offsite construction a year,” he reports, “to over 25,000 square feet in a year. That’s like selling entire warehouses of integrated mechanical systems. This is a big category, and it’s getting bigger.”

Munter notes that the way mechanical rooms and CUPs are worked into buildings is also changing. “Modular mechanical rooms and CUPS are going inside of existing buildings to condition modular cleanrooms,” he explains. “But there’s not always space for big mechanical rooms, so we’re building up,” he says. “Some CUPS and mechanical rooms are two stories tall to optimize the floor footprint and still allow more room for manufacturing clean rooms. We even do bump-outs that look like elevator shafts, but they’re actually multi-story CUPs.”

Want to Find Out if CUPs are Right for Your Next Project?

CESI’s experienced sales engineers understand CUPs and mechanical rooms. Our commitment to quality and customer service ensures we’ll recommend the best products to help you meet your cost, performance, and timing goals. Contact us today to discover how we can be a part of your next project.