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.
In 2015, along with his business partner Steven Williams, he launched the first “Offsite Construction Expo” in North America. The Expo has since been delivered in person and virtually over a dozen times to more than a thousand attendees. His company, Hardiman-Williams, LLC was featured in August 2018 “Associations Now” publication by the American Society of Association Executives for their work on saving a trade association from the brink of closure.
Hardiman was previously the Executive Director with Associated Builders and Contractors of West Virginia where he lobbied for pro-business and pro-growth legislation. Prior to association management, Hardiman assisted small businesses and entrepreneurs by crafting over one hundred and fifty business plans and loan packages as Director of a Small Business Development Center. He has also worked in the economic development, banking, and insurance fields.
Hardiman earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Administration at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, and the designation of Certified Association Executive from the American Society of Association Executives. Additionally, he has successfully completed several leadership courses at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Tom has spoken in-person and virtually at numerous conferences around the world including modular construction events in England, Ireland, Spain, and Hong Kong. He has also delivered presentations and training sessions on topics such as governance, strategic planning, and leadership to other non-profit professionals. As a tireless advocate and spokesperson for the modular industry specifically and non-profits in general, he brings his entrepreneurial background and passion to his presentations on topics such as:
Market Trends in Modular Construction – 2020 Shadow Summit
Overview of Permanent Modular Construction in North America – BIM 2018 European Summit, Barcelona, Spain.
Construction Industry Forecast: A National Crisis Looming – multiple locations.
Effective Non Profit Board Leadership – multiple locations.
Business Basics for Non Profits – multiple locations.
Improving Performance of Non Profits – multiple locations.
Tom has given presentations for the International Code Council Annual Conference in Las Vegas; Modular and Offsite Construction Summit in Alberta, CN; Construct Canada in Toronto, ON; and Virginia Governor’s Conference on Housing in Richmond, VA to name a few. He has been interviewed and regularly cited in publications such as ENR Magazine, USA Today, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.
Tom has served on the Board of Directors for both the West Virginia and Virginia Society of Association Executives. For the past decade, he has served various roles with his local Boys and Girls Club, including Board Chair, Treasurer, and interim director. Hardiman resides in central Virginia with his wife, Lesley and daughter, Grace and their two dogs. When not working, he likes to read and spend time “social distancing” at his log cabin in Greenbrier County, WV.
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