At the site of the new Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science building at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, students, faculty and visitors are asking questions about green construction. However, they are not inquiring about the 45,000-sq-ft academic building that will be seeking LEED Silver; they are asking about the colorful reMOD trailer next to it. Manufactured by Williams Scotsman Inc. and being used by project manager Skanska USA Building, the construction trailer features many design choices intended to reduce its environmental footprint.

Construction trailers are not an obvious candidate for sustainable design. As the trailers are temporary by nature, it may seem counterintuitive to pay extra for mostly long-term benefits. But Williams Scotsman is betting sustainable construction practices will spread beyond the project itself and into the broader philosophy of construction. “We are offering reMOD as our ‘starter green,’ ” says Michele Cunningham, vice president for marketing and business transformation with Williams Scotsman. “We had designed a really green concept trailer in 2005, but it was too expensive and the high-end features were not worth the investment. … We decided to focus on something that could be adopted broadly.”

The reMOD line came out of a collaboration that began in 2007 between Williams Scotsman and Skanska USA Building. “[Skanska] showed us where the opportunities were for green expansion,” says Cunningham. The reMOD trailer in use at Virginia Tech has motion-sensing lights and water-efficient fixtures in the rest room and kitchen, as well as an HVAC system with a wall-mount, energy-recovery ventilator. Other energy-efficient features include upgraded insulation and weather stripping as well as low-VOC paints, sealants and floor coverings.

Currently, the reMOD trailers are all retrofitted Williams Scotsman trailers. They are available in three “shades” of green: light, medium and dark. “We use different modular solutions for different people,” says Courtney Lorenz, environmental manager for Skanska USA Building. “Medium green has emerged as the best solution, with enough energy efficiency at the right costs.”

Despite its gradual steps toward sustainability, the reMOD trailer is having a positive impact on the jobsite, says John Calvin, Skanska’s senior project manager on the Virginia Tech project. “The trailer looks good, it’s got a better feel, and it’s been a great educational platform. Students, faculty and anyone interested can come take a look.” Even the workers are taking notice. “The trailer is more comfortable. It allows us to gather and talk through things. Also it focuses us on keeping it tidy,” Calvin says.

Skanska already has ordered more than 30 reMOD trailers for use in projects across the country. A new model, to be introduced in 2011, will be built from the ground up. Until then, Cunningham says Williams Scotsman is keeping a close eye on the performance of these reMOD retrofits for new improvements. “At first, the reflectors on the safety vests were setting off the water-faucet sensors across the room—glad we caught that one.”