Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth north of Guam, on October 23 and 24 of 2018. Raging winds that reached 180 miles per hour devastated the area, including two schools in Saipan, the largest of the islands.
Just a week later, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was already looking into temporary structures so that students at Hopwood Middle School and the As Terlaje campus of Northern Marianas College (NMC) could get back to their schooling and graduate on time.
FEMA ended up ordering 66 Denali Classroom Systems™ from Alaska Structures®, high-quality engineered fabric structures that are manufactured in the U.S. These building systems were custom-designed to meet FEMA’s specific requests for the Saipan temporary schools, including:
- Ability to withstand wind gusts reaching 125 mph
- Rainproofing and weatherproofing
- Lightweight aluminum frame system
- Ability to add power
- Inclusion of cooling systems
- Ability to meet ADA requirements or be modified to meet all requirements
In their bid to do business with Alaska Structures, FEMA noted that “[t]here are no other facilities available to meet this need.” No other structures could meet the immediate need for the Saipan temporary classrooms while also fulfilling the above requirements for durability, electrical, HVAC, and accessibility.
The structures’ low-cube shipping allowed them to be shipped directly to Saipan International Airport. FEMA then partnered with U.S. Army Corp engineers to construct the classroom building systems, 42 of which were designated for Hopwood Middle School and the remaining 24 for Northern Marianas College. The construction process involved:
- Excavating the land
- Laying a concrete foundation
- Assembling the lightweight aluminum frame system
- Covering the frame system with the tensioned fabric covers
- Adding doors, insulation, lighting, HVAC, and so on
Construction of all 66 structures took roughly 2.5 months, so both the middle school and college students were in their new classrooms by February. Of the structures designated for Hopwood Middle School, 36 were used as classrooms and the rest were used as offices, a special education classroom, and a library. All the structures have water and internet access, and the temporary campus has on-site restroom facilities.
“Our students are very fortunate to have the support of our business leadership, the board of education, and the government,” said Dr. Rizalina Liwag, Principal of Hopwood Middle School.
For both Hopwood Middle School and Northern Marianas College, the use of these structures will be temporary. The plan is to build new and more modern campuses to ensure the long-term success of their students.
And when those campuses are finally complete, the temporary classroom systems won’t go to waste: “[W]hen Hopwood is fixed,” explained interim Education Commissioner Glenn Muna, “then we can bring [the temporary structures] down and move those classrooms elsewhere where we need them.”
The durability, longevity, and ability to be quickly set up and relocated with ease make Alaska Structures’ engineered fabric buildings an ideal solution for this kind of immediate need. Although they are strong enough to serve as permanent buildings, they can easily be repurposed as needed for decades of use.
For more information on building solutions from Alaska Structures and whether they might meet your specific needs, please contact us.