Friday, March 5, 2021

Yestermorrow School Offering Tiny House Design/Build Certification Program

Prior to COVID-19, I visited Yestermorrow School in Waitsfield, VT. The rustic setting of the school simply beckons you to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and spend time talking about all the things that can be accomplished using the skills they help you acquire.

Now they are offering a Tiny House Design/Build Certification program that is unique and not found anywhere else. Before deciding to build your own Tiny House, you really need to consider looking into this opportunity.

The Tiny House Design/Build Certificate is for everyone from professionals entering the tiny house market to DIY’ers who want to design and build their own tiny home. The most comprehensive Tiny House course available, the curriculum covers all the must-knows for tiny house design/build and offers students hands-on experience designing and drafting their own tiny house and building a tiny house on wheels for a real client.

Throughout this course, students follow the critical path of the building process. It begins in the studio with examples of elegant, small-space design and hands-on drafting instruction. Students then gain experience in building fundamentals, including framing, electrical, plumbing, window and door installation, and insulation. The final module focuses on exterior finishing.

The 2021 Tiny House Design/Build Certificate will be an online/in-person hybrid. The schedule is as follows:

Architectural Design (Online): Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 pm April 28 - May 26. Additional evening design sessions will be incorporated throughout the in-person component. 

The in-person component will begin on May 31 and end June 18. 

A detailed sample schedule is available in the syllabus. 

Sponsored Article

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

Thursday, March 4, 2021

My Favorite Sign this Week

LaVelley Building Supply posted this sign in one of their stores in response to builders and DIY customers asking them the same questions every single day.

It made my day!

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Disappearing Commodity in the Modular Housing Industry

Everyone in the modular housing industry knows that business hasn’t been this good in years, even decades for some. They also know that it is getting harder to find skilled labor for their production lines, management, and sales teams. Good people to fill these positions are disappearing faster than a cold beer on a hot day.

Something that is unique to the residential modular housing industry is also disappearing; the “new to modular” home builder. The question we should be asking is "why?"

Is it the cost to enter the business or the skill sets needed? Or is it that not many young people are stepping up to enter the business that for years had been crippled by the 2008 housing recession?

Another big reason for the lack of new builders coming into the modular housing business is the older modular builder has never thought of putting a succession plan in place.

Many small modular home builders have their identities wrapped up in their business. That makes sense because building a small business is often the fulfillment of a dream -- a very personal kind of success.

Because a small business owner often built their company from the ground up it can be hard for him or her to discuss succession. In fact, more than 60% of all small business owners have no succession plan.

Many modular home builders never envision retiring and definitely do not enjoy discussing their own potential demise. Their family members, especially sons and daughters, were not brought up swinging a hammer and really don’t understand what is involved in running a successful modular home building company.

Actually, the builder wants more for their kids than enduring the ups and downs home construction is known for. They want their little tykes to go to college and “make something of themselves.”

But when the modular home builder is ready to retire, lessen their involvement in their business or God forbid, dies, there is nobody ready to step in and take over. That happens to almost 70% of the modular home builders in this country.

“I'm not planning on dying any time soon” is the mantra of most modular home builders.
Everyone dies and many people retire to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Succession is not an easy topic for a variety of reasons. It's hard to confront your own mortality and not fun to tell a family member or trusted employee that they won't be taking the reins as your replacement.

The best way to control what happens to your home building business; in many cases, your life's work; is to take the proper steps to execute your plan. Even if what you want may anger your family or employees, it's always better to handle it now when it can be discussed than to leave it for lawyers after you're gone.

Over the past few years, the modular industry has seen more new factories open dedicated to huge projects like hotels, affordable housing and medical centers while leaving the single-family home builders to fend for themselves.

Recently we've seen trade schools getting a lot of attention for their role in teaching the skills needed by modular factories but we have never seen is a program teaching people how to become successful modular home builders.

Many modular factories, especially in the East, are so busy today they don't have much time to think about the next 10 years replenishing their builder base when their current modular home builders retire or pass away.

The challenge I'm throwing down for the residential modular housing industry is "how to we acquire and train new modular home builders?" And the answer has never been having the factories do it.

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

RI Legislature Begins Looking Favorably on ADUs and Tiny Houses

Rapidly rising home costs for resales and new construction in Rhode Island is forcing their legislature to look for ways to help this crisis including making ADUs and Tiny Houses less restrictive alternatives. They are also contemplating appointing a Housing 'czar'.

Auxiliary Dwelling Unit

Rhode Island home prices are through the roof, and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi sees a state "housing czar" and tiny houses as elements in the affordability solution. 

He's proposed hiring a new deputy state secretary of commerce for housing who would oversee policies and initiatives affecting housing in the state and develop a state housing plan. This "housing czar," as he described it, would be appointed by the governor.

A year ago, Gov. Gina Raimondo launched a series of housing affordability initiatives, but COVID-19 put them on ice while supercharging demand for residential real estate.

In January, the median Rhode Island single-family home sold for $334,000, a 13% increase from January 2020, according to the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. 

The market is similar in many places across the country and many states are debating affordability strategies from rent control to allowing more homes to be built. 

tiny house on a foundation

Tiny houses have been dismissed by some as more of a lifestyle statement than a significant housing option, but the new House bill appears to be part of a longer-term effort to allow more extra units next to existing homes. 

The bill would add tiny houses to the state law regulating "accessory dwelling units,"  smaller apartments on the same lot as a primary residence and sometimes known as in-law or granny flats.

Current state law says accessory dwelling units should be for family of a property's owner, and the new House bill would make it clear that the units could be used by strangers, be detached from the primary residence and could include all the features of separate home.

The bill would not pre-empt local zoning if a city or town currently bans accessory dwelling units, but clarifies and expands what can be allowed when they do permit them.

While many of the tiny houses that appear in magazines are mobile, the House bill requires they be "built on a permanent foundation."

To incentivize local officials skeptical of new construction, the bill would let municipalities count tiny houses as toward their 10% affordable housing goal.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Providence Journal article

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

New ADU Factory Opens in Washington

Good things happen when someone builds the right product at the right time for the right buyer. That's what is happening for this IRC ADU and Tiny House manufacturer located in Battle Ground, WA.

Pacific Northwest modular home builder Wolf Industries has announced today that construction of their new facilities has been completed and the staff has resumed production. At over twice the size of their last factory, the new location is nearly 21,000 square feet and will accommodate double the production capacity - as many as 2 homes per week.

Derek Heugel, owner of Wolf Industries

Derek Huegel, owner and president of Wolf Industries, says the change couldn't have come at a better time. "With about a 300% increase in demand, the new shop is everything we need to help meet a massively growing need for affordable housing." Much of the company's success, Derek says, is attributed to offering a 'turn-key' product. "We not only construct the home, but we also handle the site work, permitting, set up and delivery as well."

Through the factory-assembled structures program in Washington state, Wolf Industries is able to produce homes built to IRC standards - the same specifications and requirements found in much larger and more expensive homes built on-site.

Last year Wolf Industries announced they had finalized an agreement with the Vancouver Housing Authority to produce modular structures for transitional housing as part of a larger 'tiny home village' project by non-profit Community Roots. The project - which aims to place a total of 19 homes - was awarded an additional $2,552,488 grant through the State of Washington's Housing Trust Fund program.

Though they've seen major growth in demand for multi-unit projects, Wolf Industries states that they continue to remain attentive to individuals that still need lesser services such as guest homes, accessory dwelling units and even hardships - commonly used for bringing aging parents onto a shared property. Interested parties can schedule in-person or virtual tours of their factory by appointment.

"I really enjoy being able to hear about the ideas that people have for what they want to do with our tiny homes," says Sophia Stewart, the Sales and Marketing Coordinator. "I would love to show people around and get them excited about any projects they have in mind, or even if they're just curious what our houses look like."

For additional information: Derek Huegel (360) 314-8037

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

Monday, March 1, 2021

Horizontal Integration in the Modular Housing Industry

Merging with or being acquired by another modular housing factory to increase market penetration is the core of horizontal integration.

In many industries where separate factories build a similar product with similar processes for another industry or service, horizontal integration is an accepted practice. Modular housing isn’t one of those industries. 

Recently I talked about the things that govern modular factory capacity and noted that two factories built next to each other doing the same type of modular could vary widely in total capacity. 

Even though most modular housing factories only have one location, there is a need to start thinking about horizontal integration today more than ever. It will be the only way our industry can meet demand in a time-sensitive market. Integrating several factories will give them more leverage with suppliers and also with investors when the new company wants to expand.

Integrating two or more modular housing factories will also mean shared services. Engineering, some management positions, service and marketing are just a few areas where integration will not only save the new company money, it will strengthen those areas for all the newly integrated companies.

In theory, this could make a lot of sense for those factories building mostly single-family homes but reality doesn’t usually favor modular factories.

Different as Night and Day

I have been in dozens of modular housing factories over the years and each is unique. Even though they build single-family modular homes, each has chosen a different way to build them.

The real fun could begin when each factory’s management team first sits down to go over what they build, how they build it and who they sell it to. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during those negotiations. 

Since no two modular factories are alike, each company will want their system of building modules to be the one used.

There are three primary ways to build modules:

  • Parallel Production Lines
  • Shotgun Lines
  • Cribbing Production

Four main primay to move modules in the factory:

  • Rail Systems
  • Wheeled or Roller Systems
  • Air Bags 
  • No Production Line - Cribbing

Very few modular housing factories have any type of automation. Some build their own cabinetry and trusses. Some are partially vertically integrated with their own trucking companies and set crews while others have none of these things with everything past the gate the responsibility of others.

Differing Customer Bases

Because this article is about single-family housing production, I will not go into the developer end of the modular business.

There are two types of customers. The first has built a network of approved custom home builders that sell directly to the customer. Those factories view the builder as their primary customer. 

The other type of factory has retail sales centers and sells directly to the new home buyer. This model had been dwindling but may begin to see a resurgence since housing is super hot at the moment. These factories are vertically integrated.

Horizontal Integration’s Pros and Cons


Reduced Competition. The companies reduce their competition in the market space. This is done by merging the companies in their current market space.

Benefit From Synergy. Competitive pricing, marketing, research & development, production, distribution, etc.should benefit from two or more modular factories merging.

Economy of Scale. Companies can achieve economies of scale by increasing its production and lowering its cost. This happens because the cost is distributed in a large number of goods.

Lowered Costs. Shared services and management will allow more profit dropping to the bottom line.

Sharing Capacity. Managing production scheduling centrally between the factory will lower leadtimes.


No Positive Synergy. Horizontal integration doesn’t always yield positive synergies and add values as expected. It can even result in negative synergies and reduce the value of the total business.

Management Clashes. The differences in leadership styles, office culture, and organizational structure of each company can actually bring down the new company.

Stunted Growth. This happens because the company is now a larger organization and management doesn’t know how to work in this new environment.

I almost forgot the most important CON! Clashing Egos.

A few years back, an East Coast investment company actually tried acquiring modular housing factories from Maine to Virginia. It looked good on paper but soon reality set in when each factory was so different that the advantages never came to fruition.

Today, only one of those factories is still operating under new ownership and the investment firm filed for bankruptcy.

It’s really up to who is merging or acquiring whom and how closely their management and production types are to each other. 

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Are You Thinking of a Career as a New Home Builder?

It seems like every modular home builder views themselves not as an entrepreneur or being in the building profession but rather as someone with a career.

Being a new home builder, either as a site builder buying raw materials from the local Lowe’s, as a prefab builder having all the wall panels, trusses and floor panels delivered to the job site or being a modular new home builder, means you have chosen a career in one of the last industries where you totally control your future.

So why do I say a “career” and not a profession? The definition of career is the progress and actions taken by a person throughout a lifetime, especially those related to that person's occupation.

That defines almost every new home builder I’ve ever met. Their business grows through their personal dedication to learning every aspect of constructing a new home. Years of going to work where each day is a different learning experience.

The transition to becoming a new home site builder usually follows the same path for all builders. They work for a site builder after school or college, worked hard to learn all facets of home building as they went from laborer to foreman and probably moved into management. At that point, they might be ready to strike out on their own.

That's a good career path for them to become a site builder.

But what about those whose career path started in management and after a few years realized they were never going to do anything to advance in that company? Or maybe you were a Veteran returning home after 3 tours in the Middle East like my son with no training in real world occupations or a Real Estate agent looking to become a new home builder and not just selling everyone else’s house. There are so many people looking for a career in something who wouldn’t consider new home construction as the next step in building their future.

And that’s one of the best-kept secrets of modular housing. A career in building modular homes doesn’t require quite the same skills as the site builder who must do everything themselves or pay someone to do every single part of building a home.

We’ve all heard that 70% or more of the finished home is completed in the modular factory and the modular home builder is more a management and sales professional than they are a true site builder.

That 70% only refers to is how much of the finished home, from the sill plate up, is completed on the factory’s production line.

The sales part of both the site builder and modular new home builder from the first meeting to ready to create a floorplan is very similar in both time and knowledge. The sales side is both the hardest part and usually the quickest part of the process. What happens after that is where the site builder and modular home builder take slightly different paths to the finish line.

One of the most often overlooked aspects of being a modular home builder is freedom.

Let me explain.

If the actual sales part of the process is the same for both, the next stages take completely different paths for the majority of what's left to accomplish.

Site builders have to become involved in all aspects of the entire house from creating working floor plans to take-offs through ordering materials, coordinating subs for every single part of the home and code inspections for every stage of the home.

Meanwhile, the modular factory takes on a lot of those responsibilities normally assigned to the site builder. Plan drawings, inspections, ordering materials including those nasty special orders every customer seems to want and of course, building up to 70% of the home.
I hear a lot of modular builders complaining about how long it takes for their modular factory to process and produce their homes and honestly it really does seem like a long time but would you, as a builder, rather spend your time doing all those tedious chores your modular factory does or would you like to use that time for scheduling appointments and selling a couple more new homes?
This secret is missed by a lot of people when they decide it’s time to start a home-building career.

A career as a modular new home builder is not without problems but through training and help from the factory or franchiser, you will soon realize the freedom modular construction can bring to your business.

Sponsored article

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Norwegian Tiny House is Modcoach's "Home of the Week"

You simply have to love the minimalistic lifestyle portrayed by Norwegians. All the wood-based interiors and exteriors and the highly functional floorplans make living in one of their tiny houses quite an experience.

This Bolder chalet measure just 236 square feet but manage to squeeze in a pair of bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, dining room and living space into their tiny, vertical footprint, which is faintly reminiscent of a birder’s hide. Beds and tables are surrounded by windows.

Sorry, but I couldn't find who builds these in Norway but it shouldn't be that difficult to find a modular factory to build one similar to it in the US.

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

CLICK HERE to sign up for my twice-weekly newsletter

DeLuxe Modular Becomes iBuilt

A new commercial modular manufacturer in Pennsylvania is ready to offer small to large-scale modular projects to the East Coast market by restarting the factory once owned by one of the biggest names in off-site modular construction.

The company, called iBuilt, with head offices in New York and factories in Pennsylvania, grew out of long-established modular builder Deluxe Modular and claims to be able to deliver multi-story buildings 20% cheaper and 50% faster than conventional construction can.

It says its proprietary BIM platform allows it to produce full designs and drawings in 30 days with a guaranteed price and construction schedule and the promise of no change orders.

On 6 January iBuilt announced that Gonzalo Gonzalez, former senior director of manufacturing engineering at Tesla, had joined as chief manufacturing officer, and on 22 February it said supply-chain automation veteran Kazim Aya had taken up the post of chief engineering and automation officer. 

“iBuilt is disruptive. This company is reimagining the fundamentals of the construction industry by streamlining the design and build processes and making great strides towards efficiency,” said Gonzalez. “Although the construction industry is one of the largest in the world, it’s the least digitized and has lacked innovation for decades. Joining the team presents an opportunity to be a changemaker and to create better and more efficient ways to build.”

The company joins Silicon Valley start-up Katerra in attempting to lure developers to tech-driven modular construction. Katerra, however, has struggled with delays, cost overruns and layoffs. Earlier this year it emerged that its investor SoftBank had to inject another $200m into its coffers to prevent it from having to seek protection from creditors. 

iBuilt says it has more than $150m in signed orders for buildings and $600m of new deals in negotiation.

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

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