Monday, November 5, 2018

RAD Urban, Modular’s Hidden Gem on the West Coast

If I were going to build a huge commercial modular home factory in California I couldn’t find a better place to build it than beside the Corporate offices of In-N-Out Burgers. My nose would take me to their test kitchen every day.

That is exactly what RAD Urban’s three founders did. Randy Miller, the CEO, Andy Ball, President and Drew Gissinger, Chairman must really like their burgers.

Wanting to bring quality high rise living units to the Oakland, California market RAD Urban’s factory uses LGS frames as the basis for accomplishing their goals. A huge factory finds workers building sleek modules destined to help curb the West Coast’s need for apartments.

As far as I can determine RAD Urban has no plans to build single family housing or affordable housing complexes. As they grow they may begin looking at hospitality projects like citizenM’s latest hotel in Seattle, WA.

Piece by piece, along a factory line, workers erect walls, string electrical wires, fasten plumbing, hang drywall and paint until a bare 12-foot by 30-foot steel chassis looks almost like a move-in ready apartment.

The Bay Area is one of the most expensive spots in the country to build and RAD Urban’s approach is trying to bring more housing online at a cost that allows developers a chance to sell units faster and at a better cost to customers and of course, make more profit.

RAD Urban is using the principle of finding a hungry market for their modules, building a factory close to that market and transporting modules a short distance to that market saving up to 20 percent over the cost of site building.

Developers see savings through lower labor costs, lower material costs and lower freight costs. There is also little need to them to pay huge trash charges as most of that waste is addressed at the factory.

A few newer U.S. companies are getting in on the trend of producing closer to red hot housing markets. Kasita, a Texas-based startup with a factory in Austin, recently brought a modular house to downtown San Jose as part of a country-wide tour.

The 400-square foot unit — long and narrow, like a traditional modular home — drew hundreds of visitors during its two-day stay.

RAD Urban sees its niche as large apartment and mixed-use complexes with more than 100 units. It set up its factory in 2013, customizing the space with rails to slide frames between stations, and platforms to allow workers access to the underside of the units so they can add insulation and finish ceilings.

The steel frames range in width from 10 to 16 feet, and can be 15 to 40 feet long. A typical unit is 360 square feet. Attaching two or three units together make up a one- or two-bedroom apartment.

Because the need for housing in the Oakland area seems unquenchable for decades to come this “Pop Up” factory could be the model for future commercial modular factories where red hot housing markets exist. Look for more RAD Urban type factories to begin popping close to major cities throughout the US.

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