Friday, November 20, 2015

Is Tedd Benson’s Unity Homes the Next Blu Homes

Tedd Benson, the Brain behind Bensonwood and now Unity Homes in New Hampshire looks to be on the same high road that Blu Homes once traveled….World Domination. At least in the modular housing industry.

Just like the founders of Blu Homes tried and failed to bring folding homes to every neighborhood in the US, Tedd and his minions are telling everyone that will listen that he has the key to doing just that. A chicken in every pot and a Unity Home in every neighborhood.

Just over two years ago I reported that Tedd Benson, the evil cousin Michelle Kaufmann, wrote an article slamming modular housing. He called modular home builders “Twinkies”, for God sake.

Now he's actually using the same methods the rest of us use and describes his homes as cost-effective modular homes. WHAT?!!! He's also is trying to bring in investors and ‘partner builders’ from across the US to try and do what Blu Homes has failed to do.

But just like Blu Homes found that they were inefficient and probably unprofitable selling their homes anywhere but northern California, Tedd may find that staying in the New England area and becoming a ‘Twinkie’ is his best option.

Sorry Tedd but that just my humble opinion.

The excerpt below is from the Nov 12th article in New Hampsphire Business Review. A link to the entire article is at the bottom of the page.

Unlike most homebuilders, Bensonwood builds houses in sections, in a warehouse in Walpole, that are reassembled on site. Most of his career, Benson and his team have been fine-tuning building techniques and efficiency under Bensonwood.

In 2012, he founded Unity Homes to focus on the green, cost-effective modular homes business that Benson is working to expand. Both Unity and Bensonwood homes are built airtight, energy-efficient and with air quality controls.

“As we, over the years, took on more of the building – not just the frame but wall sections and roof sections and floor sections – we really became good at the logistics and the planning and the organization it takes to make really high quality building elements,” he says.

Most Unity Homes have been built in New Hampshire and Vermont, but Benson said one was just assembled in Virginia. (Assembly takes about 30 working days.)

“We’re getting inquiries from Nebraska and California and Washington State, and so the idea is taking off,” says Benson. “But the big concept for Unity is we plan to distribute production throughout the United States. So eventually we want Unity to be a national company, and to make our product nationally available.”

Benson is currently talking to partner builders in Colorado, Kansas City, Texas and in the mid-Atlantic that will be trained on Unity Homes’ techniques and overseen by a member of Unity Homes’ team.

“We’re certain [national expansion] is going to happen, but it will be one piece at a time, as we gather the investors we need,” says Benson.

Closed-panelingBecause building elements are standardized, it makes it efficient to construct the home. But clients can customize a home by choosing a floor plan and interior levels of customization, such as fixtures.

Unity Homes applies its building practicality to shipping as well.

Most homes are constructed with open-panel parts, meaning wiring and insulation are installed on site.

“The closed-paneling which we have – the insulation is there, the windows are in, the air barrier is in place, the moisture barrier is in place, the finishes are on, the wiring is in there, the plumbing is in there,” Benson explains. “Closed-panel production allows us to flat pack when we ship, and that’s important, so we get a lot of home on the truck, and therefore we can ship further cost effectively than for instance modular builders can.”
Modular homes, shipped as whole homes or in halves, can’t travel far.

“We’ll be unique in our closed-panel offering, and we’ll be one of the few that will be a nationally available homebuilder,” he says.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.


Anonymous said...

Ted Benson is a joke. His previous feelings toward modular will haunt him. Great job Coach on the original article as to me this will be the nail in the coffin for him going down the road. What investor will ever feel comfortable teaming up with someone who had such a strong opinion against the industry he is trying to get involved with? Just like Blu Homes it will be a money pit until their eventual demise. Does anyone really think Blu Homes is profitable right now? They moved their entire production to California and will ONLY build in California now. Although they may make some decent money in California it will never offset the tens of millions that was poured into that company from private equity firms. Their only hope is a buyout. Ted will never be able to get the seed money like Blu and that didn't even help Blu. Just go away and stop wasting everyone's time. We all get requests from across the country. It doesn't mean it makes sense to build in those locations. Ask Blu Homes.

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of respect for Tedd and his team at Unity. They build beautiful, real, energy efficient homes. No lipstick on pigs there. At their core they're a bunch of builders looking for a better way. I wish them luck. They're raising the bar.

Jason Webster
Huntington Homes, Inc

Anonymous said...

Good thinking Ted, transporting air is no good business unless the construction demands narrow tolerances, continuous improvments and 95% labour done in factory with written standards. The product is multi family buildings in 2-8 stories with Wood frame. Both you Ted and Coach are known to this since we all met.
Our main market is 850km from factory and is profitabel eventhough we transport the units over size.
So either way you descide to go Ted,panel or unit, stick to the plan and have faith.

Stefan Lindbäck
CEO Lindbäcks Bygg

Coach said...

Time for me to clarify my article. I do not want anyone to think I am against what Tedd is doing at Unity Homes. I truly think he is a visionary. Rather I wanted to point out the hypocrisy.

First he slams modular construction as a waste of time and talent and says that modular factory production workers are low pay, unskilled and have a high turnover. Then a couple of years ago he starts a 'modular' factory and wants to take his modular brand national.

If Tedd can do what Clayton Homes, Blu Homes and others have tried and failed to do, namely establish a national modular brand, more power to him. If modular homes are only 1.5% of the total new home market and if he luckily gets .01% of that, he will only build 12 homes a year. One home a month is not enough to warrant opening a national 'partner-builder' network.

Steve L said...

Just like Baseball at the end of the season no one knows for sure the World Series winner but a lot of publicity and money is spent to get there. The NIMBY attitude of modular homes ie: Coral Gables and other cities have entrenchment of site builders who act similar to the mafia to protect their territory using zoning. Bad press and Realtors cause heart ache as well from the words they use. All should recognize it is a difficult territory to navigate.

Here is a Blu Home e mail I just got this week.

Dear Steven,

Blu is thrilled about the strong interest in our homes in Southern California.

Over the next 18 months, however, we have decided to focus on perfecting customers' buying and building experience in Northern California where we have a large backlog of projects, before expanding to new geographies.

Happily, this means we are offering our prospective clients in SoCal the opportunity to purchase the elegant and eco-friendly Agoura Hills Breezehouse, which has luxury finishes, a stunning view, and is a short drive to the beach!

For those of you still dreaming of designing your own Blu home, we look forward to returning to Southern California in 18 months, when our plan will be to introduce a full-scale commercial design center.

We deeply value your interest in Blu, and would be delighted to find a new owner that was a Blu home lover!

Anonymous said...

Ted is known for his energy efficient high performance designs but
Harris, Jason Webster, and others have built and will build similar products for home owners.

In fact, Palm Harbor just delivered on frame Green Build Living Homes to New Orleans for Brad Pitt's reconstruction projects.

The similarity between Blu and Unity is they both are excellent at self-promotion.

Anonymous said...

I must say - Ted is raising the bar, and with good purpose.

Tom Hardiman said...

This post and more importantly the comments highlight a big issue in this industry. Ted bashes modular, modular companies bash Ted, and we all keep fighting - over 3% of the market. Stick builders sit back and laugh as we tear each other apart - for 3% of the market. So what if Benson does things a little differently. It is in all our best interest for homeowners to say "I want to try something different, there has to be a better way besides stick built".

We should all wish him the best of luck, along with Blu Homes, and ever other "unconventional" builder or entrepreneur out there. 97% is a much bigger slice of the pie! Let's work on carving that up a bit.

Anonymous said...

i recalled my irritation w mr. benson' comments about modular a few years back but i also remember the shortest shrift i gave the man was his rather naive view of the construction labor market.

modular addresses affordably priced scattered lot homebuilding best. and then only during periods of relatively strong economic activity. it is that market's answer to labor problems and a need for a shorter building cycle.

we need stronger economic activity overall and a strong professional presence in front of the consumer and the public sector.