Saturday, October 24, 2020

Modcoach's Modular "Home of the Week" October 24, 2020

Every once in a while I go back to the archives to find my Modular "Home of the Week". This is the gem I found for you this week.

Professional Building Systems (PBS) completed this one-of-a-kind, custom, single-family home in Armonk, NY.  The home features 4 bedrooms, 7 baths, and more than 6,600 square feet of living space.

The custom home was built for a multi-family real-estate developer as his personal residence.

“When it was time to build a house for my wife and 2 children to enjoy, there was no doubt that we would be turning to the team at Professional Building Systems. The PBS team provided complete flexibility in both design and finish, which enabled us to maximize the efficiencies of the systems built construction process.”

This magnificent home features three-stories of finished living space and is comprised of 10-modular units plus a two-story, completely open panelized family room. The 18’ x 36’ family room features a custom coffered ceiling, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace with marble hearth and mantle, and exquisite light provided by the window package that was custom designed for the space.

The entry to the home offers a breathtaking staircase, custom trim, beautiful hardwood flooring and provides easy access to the kitchen, dining and family room.  The kitchen, offers custom cabinetry, Ceasarstone quartz countertops and chef-inspired appliances including a custom built-in pizza oven.

The attention to detail continues on the upper level. The 3-room master suite features an elegant ceiling treatment and custom trim package; a full walk-in, custom designed, his / her closet; and a spectacular master bath that features a free standing tub, walk-in shower, custom cabinetry and exceptional tile flooring.

The lower level completes this home and offers an additional family room, a play area for the children, gym complete with sauna and a full bar for entertaining. The lower level offers easy access to the outdoor paradise that includes a spectacular stone patio and in-ground Infinity Edge pool.

“This was a great project for us,” stated Ken Reinard, General Manager at Professional Building Systems. “It truly showcases our ability to build a custom product. I am extremely proud of our entire team and the attention to detail that went into this and all of the homes we build at PBS.

My Interview With the Modular Industry’s Modcoach

I’ve done interviews with lots of people in the modular housing industry over the years but this one is completely different as I will be interviewing myself!

Nobody is more thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met, conferences and shows I’ve attended, meetings I’ve hosted or modular factories I’ve visited than me.

Since 2010, modular has been the bright star on construction’s horizon. The media has talked non-stop about it and with all the new factories popping up across not only the US but around the world, that star is getting even brighter.

With that in mind I sat down with Gary Fleisher (that’s me) yesterday and asked the Modcoach (me again!) some questions about what he sees coming up for our industry.

Gary Fleisher: How long have you been involved in the construction industry?

Modcoach: I started as a Realtor selling and listing residential and commercial property and moved on to manage several large lumber and building material yards. That led to my becoming the sales manager for a very large home builder for 5 years. I left them to become a GC using panels and trusses. I built 13 houses my first year. That lasted until I fell off a second floor deck and decided it was time to hang up my hammer.

That caught the attention of the GM and Sales Manager for a manufactured housing factory owned by Champion. I was hired to sell mobile homes but quickly became the sales rep for their new IRC modular product, Genesis Homes. Great place to work and cut your teeth on modular. 

I moved on to several other modular home factories until 2008 when just about every factory dumped their sales reps. Since I had already been writing a blog about modular housing, I decided to retire and began writing full time.

Gary: I’m sure there were others writing about modular back then, so how did you grow your blog?

Modcoach: I started out by writing about all the ways I thought modular factories and their builders could improve the way they built and sold modular housing. My stints at different factories and all the builders I met gave me the material I needed to write a couple articles a week.

Jerry Rouleau

I had met Jerry Rouleau a few years earlier and I reached out to him for his help in what the modular industry could accomplish and he soon became my mentor. None of what I’m doing today would have been possible without his influence and friendship.

Gary: What changes within the modular industry has caught your attention the most?

Modcoach: I guess I should be impressed with some of the new innovations in modular construction along with BIM, 3D printing and a lot of other stuff but that’s not what has surprised me the most. 

Tiny Houses, ADUs, commercial/affordable modular and manufactured housing have been the things I have following more than ever. 10 years ago nobody would have thought any of these things would be at the forefront of modular construction but we’ve all been surprised.

Gary: Can you elaborate on each of them?

Modcoach: Taking them in order starting with the tiny house movement, you only have to see that what was once a fragmented industry with tiny homes being nothing more than than modern Conestoga wagons built in people’s backyards to today’s tiny house factories turning out tiny houses on an assembly line.

Auxiliary Dwelling Units, ADUs, have become a way for many west coast cities to overcome the affordable housing crisis. Built in factories, again on an assembly line, these homes are placed on property with an existing residence and mostly used as a rental. Even AIRBNB is having them built and placed on private land.

The commercial modular and affordable housing market is exploding with many new factories being opened, some by the very developers that in the past would site build housing projects.

And finally, the manufactured home manufacturers are gaining inroads into residential areas outside community settings thanks to the work being done to present a more high end product and even two story homes using the HUD label instead of building them to IRC guidelines.

Gary: What does your crystal ball say about the future of the modular construction industry?

Modcoach: Let’s just say it’s a little cloudy at the moment. Almost every factory is working at near capacity to supply everything from tiny houses to affordable housing. Not only the factories that sell products to others but also the factories that have popped up to serve only their own needs.

Look for Pop-Up factories to begin showing up. Innovation will be the buzzword for the next few years as ‘automation’ will not find a home in the modular factory in the foreseeable future. 

I see new players, some from the Pacific Rim and Europe entering the North American market. Canada will become an even bigger player as standardization will become the most economical way to succeed.

New custom home modular factories will begin opening to fill the need for people not wanting to be in a cookie cutter home and those already building mostly custom homes will start to expand to meet the demand.

Modcoach, thanks to taking the time to talk with me about modular construction. I’m sure there are many more things you could add to this interview but our (my) tummy is getting hungry and we (I) should sit down and enjoy Peg’s dinner before it gets cold. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tiny Home Company Plans for Three New North American Factories

Situated in New York, Kodasema LLC is a joint venture between Kodasema and Nomad Modular LLC. The new office will oversee three North American production facilities in Brooklyn, New York; Calgary, Canada; and Portland, Oregon, where the micro homes will be prefabricated with minimal waste.

Kodasema will first launch the KODA Loft and KODA Loft Extended models in the U.S., with the smaller KODA Compact to follow soon after. The full Kodasema product line, which is currently only available in Europe, also includes the flagship KODA Concrete and the KODA Float, which is engineered for waterfront living.

The U.S. models can be engineered using panelized technologies with metal frames and/or SIP panels.

CLICK HERE to read the entire DWELL article.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Modcoach’s Modular “Home of the Week” October 20, 2020

Before I present my home of the week, just let me say that I used to work for this modular factory and this is a great example of what they build every week. 

This custom modular home from Signature Building Systems in Moosic, PA is located in Ocean County, New Jersey.

It is a 3,576 SQ FT two-story home with 5 bedrooms and 5 baths It was built in 6 modules with a 544 SQ FT panelized garage.

Upon entering the foyer, visitors are greeted by a wall of bayfront windows in the comfortable family room. The dining room, an exterior access point, features a set of bay windows which project natural light throughout the open kitchen.

Signature Building Systems can transform your dream into your dream house.

Safety Issues Force Evacuation of Entire British Modular Community

A housing association will evacuate 858 residents from a modular west London development, after intrusive inspections identified fire safety issues so serious that the safety of residents can no longer be guaranteed.

Notting Hill Genesis’ (NHG) 1,059-home Paragon Estate consists of six towers in Hounslow, the tallest 17 storeys high, and contains a mix of student housing, shared ownership and intermediate rent homes, plus two commercial blocks not owned by NHG.

The development is made of ‘modules’ that were constructed offsite in a factory before being assembled at the development. At the time of its construction by Berkeley Group in 2006, the 17-storey block was the largest modular tower in the country.

It is understood that various inspections and reviews by different consultants have each uncovered further issues, adding up to a “multitude” of problems that have led to the advice to evacuate the blocks.

Once the building is evacuated, further intrusive inspections will be carried out involving the removal of walls and bathrooms, with demolition of the estate not ruled out.

Two of the blocks have rendered polystyrene cladding systems and the other four have non-combustible ceramic and terracotta systems – but the safety issues are understood to extend well beyond the cladding.

CLICK HERE to read the entire INSIDE HOUSING article

Monday, October 19, 2020

Minnesota’s Rise Modular Aims to 'Industrialize Construction’

Rise Modular founder and CEO Christian Lawrence has set his sights on “industrializing construction” using proprietary modular technology to build apartment buildings and hotels faster and at lower cost in a climate-controlled factory.

Lawrence launched the startup in 2018 when he couldn’t find a supplier to build a modular apartment project he envisioned. Real estate has been a passion of his along with a desire to help address the affordable-housing deficit.

“It just makes sense, industrializing construction and building in a climate-controlled assembly line in a factory environment like we do with so many other products in our lives,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, who has worked in investment banking and private equity, spent six months validating his idea and six more recruiting a “best-in-class” team and designing a production facility.

Several more months and “several million dollars” went into buying and retrofitting a 141,000-square-foot-factory in Owatonna, Minn., Lawrence said. Lean manufacturing assembly-line techniques reduce waste, improve efficiency and boost productivity, he said. Financing came from family and a family office.

Rise Modular delivered its first project in September in Mod42, a 30-unit apartment in south Minneapolis that also was the city’s first modular apartment complex.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Star Tribune article

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Northern Michigan New Home Builders Seeing Remarkable Year

Northern Michigan site and modular home builders have begun prioritizing the construction of higher value homes to gain more profit due to the market driven pandemic.

But the area lacks housing for moderate-income buyers, such as the very workers who will build those high-end homes. 

Some home builders in resort areas of Michigan are booked out for two years ahead and they are not even talking with new clients. 

The average price for homes statewide is about $210,000 but the average price is quite different in Northern Michigan where the average has climbed as high as $425,000 in some resort towns.

The coronavirus pandemic and statewide lockdown created a reverse trend of moving people from urban areas to rural areas as they adapted to work remotely with many of them looking for homes in the $400,000 to $900,000 range!  

There is a definite need for more new home builders in Northern Michigan but with a lack of affordable housing for skilled labor, the outlook for the area continues to look like it will continue to be a builder’s market!

Friday, October 16, 2020

British Juice Maker's Factory Repurposed For Modular Housing

Up to 60 new jobs are on offer at the former Britvic factory – which is now home to a modular homes construction company.

Beattie Passive, which makes modular, transportable homes available to areas at the sharp end of the housing crisis, has moved into the former site in the heart of Norwich.

Due to high levels of demand for the homes the current team of around 40 at the site will be growing to near 100 come Christmas.

The jobs will range in experience level with some roles available to those who have never worked in construction before.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Eastern Daily Press article

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Modcoach’s Interview with Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the MHBA

In the first of many new interviews I have scheduled for the modular industry, I talked with Tom Hardiman, the Executive Director of the Modular Home Builders Association.

My interview with Tom Hardiman:

Modcoach: “The recent MHBA Annual Meeting was a live event. Did the industry people attending seem ready to start meeting in person again?”

Tom Hardiman: “Absolutely!  I know everyone is ready to start meeting in person again, but there are still some regulations and concerns to work around.  We had several members choose not to participate due to family situations.  Additionally we were limited on the number of people we could host in any given space.  First and foremost, our priority was to make sure we could host a SAFE in person meeting for attendees.  But I also think there was a lot of good content and best practices shared as well.  I was pleased with the event and really enjoyed catching up with everyone.”

Modcoach: “Modular has seen a lot of attention given to it over the past couple of years. Has anything you’ve seen surprised you?" 

Tom: "What surprises me the most is why MORE people are not using this process.  As the spokesperson for the industry, I’m admittedly a little biased. But if someone can demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt, a better way to build - saving time, improving labor efficiency, reducing the environmental impact, improving working conditions for employees, and building a more resilient home or building – why in the world would you NOT do this!”

Modcoach: “It was mentioned at the meeting that up to 25% of the cost of new modular construction is government and industry regulations. Do you see that ever being reduced and has it caused some projects and homes to go back to site construction?" 

Tom: "As a nation, we MUST figure out how to deliver on the infrastructure needs we currently have – and they are massive!  Couple that need with a declining number of skilled workers and we are facing a huge national crisis. I’m not sure why there is such a disconnect between what we know as facts, and how that ultimately translates down to MORE regulations at the state and local level for builders.  

But it has to be seriously addressed for ALL construction processes.  Specific to modular, I think it is incumbent upon code officials to take the time to understand modular, panelized, and other forms of offsite construction, rather than pleading ignorance or putting up roadblocks.  It seems that often times the local code officials “didn’t get the memo” that we have statewide administrative programs in thirty five states.  

I think a big part of the regulatory overhead costs could be reduced by eliminating the duplicative inspections and requirements due purely to a lack of understanding of this process.  This “CYA” mentality ultimately adds costs to the bottom line for consumers.  We are working every single day at MBI and MHBA to make this better.  

We are also working with the ICC to develop an ANSI standard for inspection and approval protocols. It is our intention that eventually, all states will adopt this standard and make life so much better for manufacturers that build for multiple states.”

Modcoach: “There are still hundreds of modular home builders and dozens of modular factories that could benefit from belonging to the MHBA. How are you reaching out to them to join? 

Tom: ”We realize that MHBA is unique in that we are a national trade association without any state or local chapters, and the home building business is very much a regional one.  But MHBA is the ONLY national trade association that is dedicated exclusively to this space.  It creates a HUGE opportunity for a smaller builder to have an equal platform with much larger builders.  Our annual dues for modular home builders are $500.  If they just considered that a small part of their marketing effort, they could reach a lot more potential homebuyers and brand their company at a fraction of what a marketing firm might charge. And with the $500, they are “all-in” with MHBA and get access to government affairs updates, discounts on events and services, and have a professional, experienced staff at their fingertips.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart.  I KNOW MHBA can demonstrate a solid return on that investment! Any company engaged in the modular home industry at any level, anywhere in the U.S. should consider joining.  We give companies an opportunity to help shape the regulations that govern their business.  Savvy business owners will understand and realize that value.”

Modcoach: “Are there any areas of modular you expect to see major growth in over the next few years? 

Tom: “If you asked me this question last year, I would have said the hospitality sector with all the hotel brands moving to modular.  Obviously COVID has cooled that market a bit.  But I see big opportunities in single and multifamily modular, healthcare, and continued growth in the education sector. We had a great conversation with our board of directors at the recent MHBA meeting.  We talked about the future of the single family modular home market and came to the conclusion that the future does indeed look bright.  Now, we may need to find some niches and opportunities previously unexplored, such as ADUs, or second story add-ons due to shifting demographics and lifestyles. But we are a very nimble industry that can quickly adapt to meet changing needs.”

Who is Tom Hardiman?

Tom Hardiman, MBA, CAE has been involved in leadership roles in modular construction since 2004 when he was named the Executive Director for the Modular Building Institute (MBI), the international non-profit trade association for the commercial modular industry.  In 2012, he took on the additional role as Executive Director for the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA), the national non-profit trade association serving  the modular home industry, bringing the entire modular construction industry under one management team.

In these roles, Tom has extensive experience as an industry advocate on various legislative, regulatory, and building code issues at the state and federal levels.  He was one of the leading forces behind the creation of the Offsite Construction Council within the National Institute of Building Science’s (NIBS) and has served on the Council’s board since its inception.

As Director of MBI, Tom facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Code Council (ICC) in 2016.  That relationship has led the ICC to develop several resources for the offsite construction sector, including two new ANSI standards currently under development. Tom serves as the Vice Chair of the working group developing these standards.

KBS Modular in Maine Ready to Build Phase 3 of Army Housing Contract

KBS Builders, Inc., a modular factory in South Paris, Maine, has signed Phase 3 of its previously announced project with Tocci Building Corporation, a Massachusetts-based general contractor and construction management company.

Phase 3 of this project, valued at $1.5 million, increases the total project size by an additional 26 building modules and 6 living units. All three phases of this project have a combined value of $6.7 million and are for the manufacture of 124 building modules to be used in the production of 28 single-family and townhouse units for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA. Phase 1 of the project has been completed. The townhouse and duplex style homes under Phase 2 of this project have commenced and building set and erection is scheduled to start later this month. All 124 modular units are being manufactured at KBS’s plant in South Paris, ME, which has a production capacity of 500 to 600 building modules per year.

Jeff Eberwein, Digirad’s Chairman, noted, “The award of Phase 3 of this project is an indication of the confidence our client has in our ability to manufacture high-quality building modules for this project. As we previously announced, KBS has increased its workforce by over 20% versus pre-COVID levels to meet the higher manufacturing requirements for recently won commercial projects. KBS’s backlog and sales pipeline, along with its market initiatives to build more workforce housing, position KBS for strong growth going forward.”