The evolution of the car wash and its construction had extremely humble beginnings: If it was raining, your car wash was being washed. It advanced into a driveway plus bucket and hose — and you were off to the races. At some point, someone realized that washing cars could be more profitable than working for your dad on a Saturday cleaning the family sedan — and commercial car washing and the construction of washes began.

The final product.

Early car washes were simple buildings: an enclosed driveway that allowed teams of people to clean cars. Eventually automatic conveyors, brushes, soap, and dryers were added to the system and the automated car wash was born. However, as the car wash itself evolved, the construction of it remained simple: dimly lit tunnels with hard to clean walls, grungy interiors, and a spaghetti of wires, hoses, and cables running about. Better means and methods needed to evolve to allow the construction of the car wash to catch up with the advancement of the wash itself. From this need, two methods emerged beyond traditional construction: pre-engineered construction and modular construction.


Pre-engineered construction for car washes has become a viable construction method within the industry. Standard building designs have allowed steel manufacturers to pre-engineer and fabricate structures that can be delivered to contractors onsite. This methodology allowsthe super structure to be fabricated and installed quickly due to the reuse of existing design elements.

Wall panels being placed.

Additional exterior components can also be included with this methodology, including exterior cladding and finishes that allow expedited construction. However, in contrast with the ease of the construction of the structural portion of the car wash building, the most complex portion is still left to onsite tradesmen who probably have not built many car washes, thus leaving the owner trying to coordinate between equipment manufacturers and his general contractor.


A second methodology also emerged: modular construction adapted to the car wash environment. Much like pre-engineered construction, with modular construction standard building components can be utilized and reused. However, instead of being delivered to the construction site as a series of parts, entire sections of the building can be fabricated and delivered complete with floors, walls, and roofs along with complete electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems installed.

Where modular construction really sets itself apart from traditional construction and even pre-engineered construction is in the coordination of all car wash systems with the construction method itself. Modular construction is based on the concept of gathering all of the information prior to commencement. This allows completely integrated plans to be prepared for fabrication.

Note the already-installed equipment.

Beyond traditional means, modular not only integrates the mechanical requirements for the equipment, it also integrates the installation methods from experienced car wash installers. With this methodology, the car wash equipment installation with all its complexity can be shifted from site tradesmen to experienced factory tradesmen who specialize in car wash equipment installation. Additionally, the coordination of the car wash equipment installation with all of the system requirements becomes a portion of the overall building fabrication process.


The modular method also allows for multiple units to be fabricated at the same time allowing rapid expansion, as the modular manufacturers are not burdened with weather delays. Additionally, time can be compressed because of the ability to run the construction process in parallel instead of the linear fashion of traditional and pre-engineered methods. The modular car wash can be fabricated and built at the same time the general contractor is grading the site and preparing utilities and foundations. This type of parallel development is simply not possible with other methodologies.

Regardless of the methodology chosen, previous car wash construction experience will lead to the best end product for the owner. Every contractor, pre-engineered fabricator, and modular manufacturer will claim car wash experience; the true leaders will provide references.

In this rapidly expanding car wash industry, the means of construction needed to evolve with the needs of the industry. The evolution of the car wash construction industry is here through the use of pre-engineered structures and modular construction. With the inherent advantages of modular construction from limited weather delays to experienced tradesmen to the ability to rapidly expand, it has become the frontrunner for the most advanced car wash construction method.

Bruce Arnett, Jr. is president and CEO of Genesis Modular Carwash Building Systems. You can visit the company on the web at