Friday, September 26, 2014

MHBA Conference Had Something for Every Modular Factory and Builder

For modular home builders and factory people, if you weren’t at the MHBA in Dulles yesterday you missed a good conference. Tom Hardiman, Dave Sikora, Sharon and their staff put on a great meeting.

Three speakers were featured. Professor Joe Wheeler, AIA from Virginia Tech University led off the conference by introducing everyone to a concept that he and his students in the School of Architecture + Design’s Center for Design Research have been busy working on for modular construction called ‘Cartridges.’ These are prebuilt integrated kitchen units, closet units, baths and entertainment units built offsite from the modular factory, shipped in and then put into place right on the production as complete units.
The kitchen Cartridge by VT
Though more adapted to multi-family modular construction, I predict that these or some hybrid of these cartridges will find their way onto the production line within the next decade.

Ted Leopsky, the Technical Lead for Energy Star’s Residential Branch talked about how the Energy Star label gives buyers a feeling of comfort when they purchase items. He said that the use of them by the modular housing is very low even though most modular homes do meet or exceed the Energy Star requirements. He feels that builders and even the factories are reluctant to mention Energy Star labeling to their customers because of the added cost and perceived low returns by the home owner.

There might be some validity in that statement but when a modular home builder doesn’t even bring up Energy Star labeling with the home buyer because the builder is afraid that they will lose the sale, then something is wrong and we as an industry need to figure out how to show the cost to benefit ratio in a positive light.

The final speaker was Andy Gianino, President of The HomeStore and author of the best selling book for the new modular home buyer, TheModular Home.

Andy pulled no punches when it came to pointing fingers at both the modular factory and the modular home builder when it comes to building better homes that will help dispel the negative image of modular housing.

He knows that we can build fantastic homes compared to site built but a combination of less than effective production methods, factory – builder animosity, poorly fitting house sets and service after the sale continue to perpetuate the notion that modular is not as good as a site built home.

Striving to present the homeowner with a perfect house from conception to completion should be our industry’s goal and our continuing to refuse to work together toward that goal is the major reason we are stuck at 3% of the total new single family homes built in the US.

He strongly urged all factories and every modular home builder in the US to join the MHBA as it is becoming the leading advocate for our industry. Sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing results in absolutely no improvement in modular housing’s image.

The MHBA Home of the Year was awarded to Anthony Zarrilli of Zarrilli homes.

2014 MHBA Home of the Year
A fantastic breakfast sponsored by yours truly and a networking lunch completed the day.


Harris said...

My hats of to the speakers who gave us solid forward thinking; particularly Andy who hit everyone between the eyes with issues we know about and must confront. He is dead-on correct about the inability of mod factories to implement software to vastly improve productivity.

Joe is like a Michelle Kaufman type, but he's solidly in our (traditional modular) corner researching, developing and advocating for NextGen modular technology (so we don't have to).

Ted told us all what I already know: Energy Star is the easiest way for our industry to partner with and ride the coattails of the most recognized brand in high performance homes. One these YEARS others will realize why the publicly traded builders make Energy Star standard... because in the end it makes them more money.

The most disappointing aspect of this event had nothing to with the Summit itself. What bothered me was that after numerous invitations my factory - ICON LEGACY - ignored my requests and failed to show.

In fact, the failure of so many regional factories to attend is disheartening because they have so much to offer. Like Andy said, and other of us builders, most factories are extremely shortsighted. If I hear one more time "we've doing it this way for [fill in the blank] decades" we should mail them a photo of a Mercury, Oldsmobile, Pontiac or even a Saturn automobile and ask the factory owner, "which decades-old brand do you offer?"

But, Coach, I will not badmouth them. I will call them out. I will lead them to water but I cannot make them drink.

Thanks for breakfast, Coach, and mostly to the Exec Committee of MHBA for pulling together a fantastic representation of what true modular home building looks like!

Anthony said...

Sorry I couldn't personally attend the meeting due to my recent surgery. My brother and VP Construction, Richard Zarrilli, filled in my absence. He came back with a report that he enjoyed himself thoroughly and was very impressed with the conference. He met a lot of people throughout the industry and was happy he attended. I want to thank everyone who made my brother feel welcomed and to all that participated in this conference. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!