Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mod-Tech Homes Teams with PennKraft for Boston Micro Project

Mod-Tech Homes in Marshfield, MA, a leading modular single family and multi-family builder, has been selected to build an inaugural, prototype “micro apartment” for the City of Boston, which will be the key attraction on a three-month “Compact Living Roadshow” designed to introduce small living units to the City.

PennKraft Building Systems in Knox, PA was chosen by Mod-Tech to produce the apartment in their factory.

Mayor Marty Walsh’s Housing Innovation Lab (HIL) will introduce this custom-designed, 13 ½ by 33 feet, 380 square-foot prototype design to the city in early August, at the beginning of the three-month tour which will see the apartment “on wheels” transported throughout various Boston neighborhoods. It is part of the Mayor’s initiative to build 53,000 new housing units in Boston by the year 2030.

In addition to being among the first “micro apartments” that the city will showcase, what makes it further unique is that it is modular construction. “The Roadshow” is intended as an experiment to determine which Boston neighborhoods are most receptive to micro-units. By offering the opportunity to tour a full-scale, working micro-unit, HIL is going beyond perceptions about square footage and providing neighborhood residents the opportunity to see what these units are really like inside.

Francine Townsend, owner of Mod-Tech Homes, LLC, and Project Manager Paul Townsend worked with Boston designer Addison Godine to find a production facility and ensure the unit could be produced on a very tight schedule and work within a modest budget.  

Godine said that the city first became interested in the concept of “the Roadshow” through the efforts of Tamara Roy of Stantec, president of the Boston Society of Architects and dubbed “the Mother of the Micro” by one of her clients. Roy’s Stantec office and Godine collaborated on the design, and Mod-Tech Homes helped to translate the design into modular production.

Paul Townsend said that when he and Addison Godine first discussed the particulars of the project, modular construction offered a number of advantages over traditional, onsite construction. “It is first and foremost superior construction,” said Townsend, who added, “Additionally, the challenges of a quick turnaround and building the micro apartment to sit on a trailer for transportation from neighborhood to neighborhood lend itself well to modular.” Townsend further noted that the inspection process for approving modular construction is more streamlined than traditional. “The City was looking for a quick turnaround, and this whole process enabled all of us to meet their requirements on time and on budget.”

Townsend negotiated and engaged with PennKraft Building Systems to construct the prototype in their climate-controlled factory. PennKraft, based in Knox, PA, serves the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. “They are a superior outfit to work with,” said Townsend, who added, “They went the extra mile to meet our specifications.”

Tim Reed, Director of Operations and an owner at PennKraft, said, “We are excited about this opportunity. As a manufacturer of single family houses, we see this as a great way to showcase the benefits of modular construction. We are pleased we were able to work with Paul and Francine on this project; as a small business, we have the flexibility enabling us to make decisions quickly and provide an extremely timely turnaround.”

The micro apartment, designed to FHA code, includes a bedroom, kitchen, full shower/bathroom, kitchen, living and sitting area. The smaller size has appeal for millennials, elderly, and all age groups in between.

“One of the advantages of this housing is, once approved, it can be used on smaller sites, sometimes known as in-fill lots, where small businesses were sited but are no longer on the site,” Townsend said.

The micro apartment is designed to include a sitting area, a significant amount of built-in storage, a sliding door, and smart home options that include service data, smart light bulbs, and it is energy efficient.

The City is considering making the prototype design available to individuals to stay overnight as it goes from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Godine said that after the three-month city tour, the home will be part of a Boston Society of Architects exhibition and eventually will be offered for sale.

The prototype design will be introduced at an August 10 event at City Hall in Boston. It was delivered from PennKraft to Mod-Tech Homes LLC at their Marshfield, MA location, where the finishing touches have been added. The unit is now in Boston awaiting its debut at the Mayor’s ceremony.

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