Thursday, April 4, 2019

Could a West Coast Modular Factory Help the East’s Future?

As I been reviewing what modular factories build from across the country there is one West Coast factory that modular home factories in the East could learn from.

Connect-Homes in Southern California is growing not only because homeowners that lost their homes in the recent devastating wildfires are looking for a quicker and maybe less expensive way to rebuild but also because construction labor shortage has driven costs to over $600 per sq ft.

Connect-Homes will, of course, benefit from both of those factors and from one more. They build their steel framed modules 8’0 feet wide which allows them to be shipped as freight by common carrier. No Wide Load signs, no escort cars and police escorts. No waiting till dark to ship through thick headed states like Connecticut.

Their homes can be ‘connected’ together to make just about any design and size a customer may want.

So what can their East Coast siblings possibly learn from this young startup in California?

Maybe it is a way to cut shipping costs to the bone and maybe they could get the East Coast and New England new home buyer to begin accepting new home designs that aren’t based on 2 story center hall Colonials, blah ranch homes and cape cod style homes with unfinished 2nd floors.

East Coast new home buyers will always want those type houses but if you’ve been on Pinterest, Facebook or Dwell lately you are starting to see those West Coast cubist houses showing up and new Millennial home buyers don’t want or need that 2,500 sq ft home their parents owned.

This is not to say that an East Coast factory should abandon what they are currently building and switch to steel shipping container looking homes. What they might take from Connect-Homes is that just like most new ideas, the West leads the way.

Building 8’0 wide modules with wood just like they always have and producing a limited number of floor plans and styles all with flat roofs could be just one more tool the East Coast modular housing industry should be examining for future growth.

Hint: they would also make good ADU homes as more eastern US cities begin allowing them on homeowner’s existing home sites. 8’0 wide could mean the difference between building 1,000 ADUs for a city like Washington, DC or none because the narrowest a factory wants to build still requires a wide load, a larger crane and no room to go down an alley to place the ADU at the back of the existing home.


Anonymous said...

It's basically no different than a stripped out shipping container. If you like building homes from containers then we're all set.

Studio Kiss / ASAPHouse said...

Thank you for this very informative article. I have been working on getting factories in Penn to work with me on simple modern units, and it has not been easy. While I have built, a few everyone of them is as difficult as if we had never done one. You can see some of my work on the following pages:

So while I am all for innovation and modern homes, it is much harder to achieve here in the east than it should be.

Terry Thon said...

8 ft wide units may answer not using old shipping containers but, you are still shipping alot of units. I ship 16- 18 ft wide so the containers would be twice the number.

Say you have an 32 x 60 ft home -
I am working on building
1) Frame 6 floor decks say 10 ft x 32 and stacking on truck
2) Frame a bolt together framework like your example here in steel or LVL's
3) Walls- With new codes build walls framed in 12 ft wide x 9- 12 ft high x 9 to 12 inches thick to achieve R-28 - R 40 walls - Finished exterior .
Interior studs exposed for wiring or plumbing - but all insulated and exterior siding on

4) Ceilings / Same concept only R- 60 - finished 2 sides
5) Trusses Ship Trusses flat on top of a stack on truck

Problem with concept is you have to finish and trim the interiors on site. I find that the framing isn't the big cost items as much as the work needed to finish the home after drywall.

Terry Thon

Tyler Anderson said...

The concept on paper is cool, but anyone who has physically worked in the field knows that marriage lines are a ton of work. Modular is more efficient when you can actually reduce marriage lines. We aren't just building a structure, don't forget Cabinets, electrical, plumbing, roof lines ect.....

Again concept is cool, but I don't think the bugs are worked out.