Friday, May 26, 2017

Let Us Never Forget Their Sacrifices


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Connecticut Punishes Modular Industry Over Ridiculous Theory

Rumor has it the reason Connecticut is so hard on the modular industry is that they believe that our carriers/ transporters are not sufficient to carry the wider loads and are prone to breakdowns .

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OK to ship during Daylight hours

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OK to ship during daylight hours

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OK to ship during daylight hours

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Must be shipped at night because it may fall of carrier

The state does not want these breakdowns to take place during peak traffic hours and hence the restriction is as it is.

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It would have been nice if Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker could have traveled about an hour and explained that theory to the huge group of modular and manufactured housing factory management and New England builders that met at the Modular Summit on May 17th in Springfield, MA.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PFS-Teco Posts Job Listing for Technical Director

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR - MANUFACTURED STRUCTURES DIVISION

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Description:

PFS Corporation was chartered in 1959 as Plywood Fabricator Service, a nonprofit plywood quality control agency. It expanded its scope in 1972 as a complete third party independent quality control service to include plan review and inspection services for the housing industry, and we changed our name to Product Fabrication Service and moved our company from Tacoma, Washington to Madison, Wisconsin. In 1978, PFS Corporation was formed, and we expanded our scope of services to include testing, inspection, and certification of heating and cooling appliances (gas, oil, and solid fuel). In November of 2000, we became an employee-owned corporation (ESOP), and PFS Corporation relocated its headquarters and laboratory to Cottage Grove, Wisconsin in March of 2007.  

In 2015, PFS Corporation and Timberco, Inc. dba TECO merged to form PFS Corporation dba PFS TECO. The merged, employee-owned company increased the depth and expertise of our staff and improved our ability to serve our broad customer base. Our Certification Marks have not changed, and they continue to be “Marks You Can Build On.” We currently have over 65 employees specializing in code compliance review, testing, inspection, and certification.

PFS TECO is positioned for continued growth and success. Therefore, we seek an experienced and motivated Senior Level Professional Engineer with a minimum of four (4) or more years of technical experience in professional engineering work performing plan reviews, technical support and other assigned duties to join our Manufactured Structures Division as the Technical Director of the Division.

Job Responsibilities:

As a team member, you will be responsible for providing quality assurance services verifying compliance with City, State and Federal Code requirements, and ensuring that project deadlines are met in a timely manner. Coordinate with our plans examiners to ensure all aspects of the projects are checked for accuracy and are in compliance with applicable codes and standards. Also, the following duties are required:

  • Review plans for compliance with all codes and standards for the Manufactured Structures Division.
  • Determine if the plans submitted are adequate for review and are in conformance with building codes and standards.
  • Conduct Florida Product Approval Validation (FL PE required) for “Florida Product Approval Systems.”
  • Conduct Alternate Material Approval, “Acceptance of Alternate Materials, Designs and Methods of Construction.”
  • Review of quality control manuals, technical reports, and engineering calculations.
  • Review and oversee plan review reports and approvals for PFS plan reviewers.
  • Provide information and technical assistance to PFS plan review staff and clients.
  • Develop procedures for Energy-Star requirements for clients.
  • Develop procedures for National Green Building Certification program.
  • Stay current on relevant code changes and technical developments related to the Division.
  • Schedule and conduct Energy-Star inspections for clients when requested.
  • Train PFS staff on Energy-Star requirements.
  • Prepare and coordinate engineering functions with Administration and Laboratory.
  • Consult with Engineers/Architects and industry representatives.
  • Attend manufactured structures-related technical meetings.
  • Assist DAPIA Administrator in written responses to HUD and prepare AC memoranda when required.
  • Assist in updating engineering procedures.
  • Assist in developing topics of interest for PFS seminars.
  • Use Professional Engineer Registration seal as an approved signatory for engineering documents and test reports.

Required Competencies:

The required candidate shall have a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from an accredited college or university and registration as a Professional Engineer in the states we provide plan review services. The ideal candidate should have International Code Certifications (ICC) or other recognized certifications as a residential and commercial plans examiner or the ability to obtain certification within one year of hire. Also, the other required competencies are as follows:

  • Maintain flexibility with assigned tasks due to changing deadlines and priorities and be highly motivated and proactive
  • Manage projects by approving and processing specifications and construction documents by applying engineering standards of principles and practices
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills with plans examiners and clients to resolve complex and varying design issues and develop alternative strategies to solve them.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite products and general computer skills.

Benefits:

  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Basic Life Insurance
  • Voluntary Life Insurance
  • Short Term Disability Insurance
  • Long Term Disability Insurance
  • 401 (k) Plan with a company match
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
  • Paid vacation and sick time

Salary:

Commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Please submit your resume including salary history to the address below:

PFS Corporation
Director of the Manufactured Structures Division
1507 Matt Pass
Cottage Grove, WI 53527

MIT Professor Looks at Revolutionary Housing Innovations

3 Questions: How urbanization and revolutionary innovation are shaping global real estate

Around the world, more and more people are moving to cities. The increase in urbanization is paralleled by revolutionary advances in digital technology, innovation in the built environment, and new modes for how real estate is transacted and conducted. This combination has created significant opportunities — as well as challenges — for the global real estate industry. The MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) will host its annual World Real Estate Forum on May 18-19, bringing together MIT faculty and researchers and industry thought leaders from more than 20 countries. This year’s agenda will delve deeply into issues related to the intersection of innovation and urbanization and their implications for cities and real estate markets worldwide.

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Albert Saiz is the director of CRE and the Daniel Rose Associate Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate. He also leads the MIT Urban Economics Lab, which studies real estate economics, urban economics, housing markets, local public finance, zoning regulations, global real estate, and demographic trends affecting urban and real estate development. The School of Architecture and Planning recently asked Saiz to share his insights into developing trends around the world in the built environment, housing, and commercial real estate, and where global capital is likely to be deployed in the near future.

Q: With the trend toward urbanization, what kinds of innovative approaches to housing are being developed to meet the increasing demand in cities?

A: Quite frankly, I think a lot of what is going on is business as usual. If you look at China or some of the other developing economies that are growing — Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia — you see the same models of development, ones that are based on very large multifamily buildings that are built in isolation and separated by parks or roads, instead of adjacent buildings in high- density areas such as you find in Europe or Boston. The lack of contiguity is not good because it generates sprawl and is based on car usage, which is increasing in those developing economies.

On the positive side, we can talk about 3-D printing construction and stackable units, but what is actually more exciting is the very low hanging fruit — innovations that are sort of mundane but can really reduce construction costs, such as building more concrete factories in sub-Saharan Africa. I very much like the ideas of Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena and his firm Elemental. He constructs “incremental housing,” where half of a house and just the shell for the other half is constructed using government funds. As the families who move into these houses save money, they can progressively build out the other, incomplete half of the house using sweat equity.

Because we have to house so many new people worldwide, especially at the low end, a lot of the advancements are going to be geared toward producing housing typologies that are cheap, versatile, and customizable. I like the Skanska-IKEA model, called BoKlok, which uses Skanska’s construction expertise with a typical IKEA interior design to produce pre-designed homes. It’s a very streamlined industrial process aimed at minimizing construction costs.

We are also watching innovation in microunits, modular housing, new construction materials, and a lot of advancements in architectural modeling and Building Information Modeling, or BIM. Many of these things are going to crystallize globally for use in the lower to middle end of the market.

Q: What are some of the trends that are happening globally in terms of commercial real estate development?

A: In terms of industrial real estate, the innovation is going to be in new logistics facilities. We’re seeing a revolution in the way that people do logistics — more automatization, more multifunctional spaces that can adapt to different users, and a much greater need for flexibility. I also think you’re going to see more fabrication space, with small, local factories focused on design or products that can be pre-printed — because 3-D printers are going to be so much better in 20 years. We’re going to have a lot of production by small artisans, with increasing customization, and it’s going to bring more production back to the cities. This trend will be amplified by growing consumer demand for things that are organic, environmentally sensible, and produced locally, not shipped 10,000 kilometers using fossil fuels.

The other trend that is emerging is the repurposing of existing buildings for other uses.

For instance, industrial space around the world is now being transformed into technology space in places like London, Barcelona, Turin, Glasgow, and the U.S. We’re going to see more flexible use of space, where a retail space might become an internet app lab after a few years, and then 10 years later, may take a different use.

Many cities now have central amenity districts, areas that are devoted to the live, work, and play concept. You see it not only in Europe but in places like Oklahoma City, where a real vibrancy is provided by this type of infill redevelopment. These developments are often very expensive, with a lot of public use, so we’re going to see an increase in public-private partnerships.

Q: The past few years have seen a significant influx of capital entering the U.S. commercial real estate market. Looking ahead, where else is capital likely to be deployed?

A: Some of the trends depend on what’s going to happen with China and other countries with current account surplus or with economic and political instability. Although China’s economy is still growing quite fast, it is decelerating. If it slows any more, or stops, there could be a slight correction in the pricing of commercial real estate assets. I certainly think the U.S. is still very attractive for real estate investment, and we’re seeing the appreciation of the dollar.

I think foreign investors are not being as cautious about the current U.S. administration as we may have expected. Despite the current administration’s “America first” rhetoric, Donald Trump’s businesses have partially been based on investing abroad and on using foreign capital. Trump’s policies are therefore unlikely to hurt the interests of major global real estate investors. In parallel, a healthy appetite for core assets from global investors is driving down yields in major cities around the world, and not only in the U.S. We’re still the safe, stable refuge for capital, despite the relatively low yields, and there is growing appetite for U.S. secondary markets.


There is also an interesting phenomenon occurring recently in China. China has been tightening the outflows of capital because they want to keep their currency relatively stable. I think that’s one of the uncertainties in the market right now. A lot of Chinese investment capital, however, was already offshore or in Hong Kong. The ability of the Chinese government to stop those investors and keep the dollars in China remains an unknown.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Luxury Condo Building Goes Modular

Professional Building Systems (PBS) in Middleburg, PA manufactures modules for some of the most interesting commercial projects in the Eastern US. This is just another example why developers choose them.

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This 5 story luxury condo building in Port Chester, New York consists of 48 modules resting on a site built 1st floor of steel and concrete.

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There are 50 luxury Condo living units within its 62,245 total square feet.

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Great photos of a nice project.

Offsite Construction Expo Headed to Vancouver

The Offsite Construction Expo (OSCE) will be held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on September 29, 2017.



Register Today for Westchester Builder Day - June 2nd




Tour the Tiny Home Community in Detroit

One story that’s received quite a bit of attention in Detroit is the community of tiny homes being built for low-income residents. Cass Community Social Services has led this project, located near the Lodge and Woodrow Wilson Street. On Thursday, May 25 through Saturday, May 27, the public is welcome to tour the homes themselves.
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The tours are scheduled every 10 minutes from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day. Tickets cost $75.00 per person or $100 for two people. Reservations are required and can be made online.
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Each house is different, and they run from 250-400 square feet. Each house includes an oven, stove, microwave, refrigerator and a washer-dryer. Each house is furnished with a bed, dining table with chairs, and couch that the new resident can keep or replace with their own. Residents are expected to start moving in this June.

The Ford Motor Company Fundhas invested $400,000 in the project and the Junior League of Detroithas sponsored a Tiny Home and donated kitchen supply kits for all residents.

“Every home is different – there are cottages, a Colonial, a Victorian, a Tutor and an environmental house – each has a distinctive feature so the residents will have a sense of pride in their home,” states Cass Executive Director Faith Fowler.

Those participating on the tour will receive Reverend Fowler’s soon-to-be-published “Tiny Homes in a Big City,” which, “looks at the “American Dream,” the historical use of small houses in the U.S. and the use of tiny homes for poor and homeless people.”

An article on Detroit Curbed

Monday, May 22, 2017

Modular’s Future Not All That Promising

Every single day in media articles the exciting promise of modular being the future of commercial and housing construction comes blasting at us. Europe is working to build entire towns and rebuild others using modular and prefab methods.

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The Pacific and Asian markets are going crazy with some factories working 24/7, 365 days a year just to meet the demand.


Then we have the United States where modular should be the next best thing in construction. Every publication and online media outlet sings the praises of all things modular but is the modular industry ready to for the spotlight?

Let’s look closer at some of that positive modular news and the reality it brings with it.

Marriott Hotels and other brand names announce they are embracing modular hotels and pushing for their franchises to use it. Predictions of 300 new modular hotels to be built over the next 2 years makes great headlines but in reality there is not enough capacity in existence to build them.

Last week I sat in Modular Summit and listened to State Code officials and third party inspectors telling both the builders and the factories that every plan sent for review is being put under the microscope more than ever before. Many states are requiring that systems plans now have to be project specific for modular construction while our site built siblings can still submit generic systems plans and get approvals faster than modular. Every time an article is published touting our advantages, it seems the noose of regulations gets tighter.

Skilled labor should be an easy hire for modular factories. The production lines are inside, away for the changing seasons, the employment is steady and there is plenty of work. The reality is that modular factories are also feeling the pinch of labor shortages. I’ve talked with several factory owners recently and learned that turnover rates on the production line can run as high as 160% a year.

Drug tests, DIY convictions, competing jobs that don’t require any skills for almost as much pay and workers simply not showing up are major reasons for the high turnover rate.

In addition to a labor shortage, there is a dwindling builder base. 2008’s housing recession forced many builders to retire and/or shutter their businesses. There has been no resurgence of new builders coming into our industry since then. More and more factories are talking of being forced to open their business to retail sales in order to compensate for the loss of new builders. They don’t really want to do it but it may be the only alternative.

As mentioned at the Summit last week, transportation in the Northeast and New England are also hampering the growth of modular housing. Can you imagine how many more modular homes could be sold in New England if CT would just make it easier and less expensive to ship modules through their state?

We also face the age old stigma of people equating modular construction with manufactured housing (mobile homes) which until recently was left up to the builders to overcome. Now the MHBA’s Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) is starting to reverse that stigma and soon all new home buyers will be aware of our benefits.

Although some states have yet to endorse tougher energy codes and sprinkler regulations, the states that have are seeing a drop not only in modular but also in site building. Maryland has seen a 90% drop in modular home construction since energy and sprinkler updates were enacted. It takes too much time and money to meet all the things that are expected of modular that aren’t required from site builders.

In order to be what all the pundits are saying about modular being the future of home and commercial building in the US, we need to expand our capacity which means new factories, a good supply of skilled labor and regulations that don’t single out modular construction. We also need better transportation legislation in several states served by the East Coast modular factories.


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IF the US is to be the model for the future of modular we need huge investments in people, factories, training and marketing. IF we don’t do it and do it quickly, there are players just waiting in the wings to invade our market.

Toyota, one of the largest modular home builders in the Asian market has been eyeing the US for years. Their factories are super efficient and new. Swedish modular factories are also eyeing the US market. IKEA has been rumored for years to be heading our way. Poland is already delivering huge commercial modular projects to our shores and China is drooling to open new factories here and bring with them all the financing.

We are the land of opportunity and that’s very evident when it comes to modular construction but who will reap the rewards of that opportunity, US manufacturers or foreign factories?

Yes, the future looks bright for modular not only in the US but also in the world, however we have to find a way to bring modular’s advantages to the attention of investors and entrepreneurs and do it quickly.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Return of Networking in the Modular Housing Industry

I started writing this blog in 2008 just when the housing industry tanked taking many modular home factories and builders down with it.


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This was a dark time of our industry. Competition for the dwindling new home market brought about many changes including the almost total collapse of the Modular Building Systems Association(MBSA).

Builders were leaving the new home market and factory owners withdrew back inside their factories to plan how to go after the other factory’s builders and sales.

Things have sure changed over the past few years with the re-emergence of the Modular Home Builders Association (the former MBSA) and the NAHB’s Building Systems Council (BSC) once again becoming a strong voice. Both of them are expanding and bringing in new builders and factories as well as winning back some of the ones that left during the downturn.

When I started putting on the Builder Breakfasts there was very little networking left that survived the downturn. Their success allowed me to begin host bigger and bigger breakfasts which lead to all-day regional Boot Camps and Round Tables.

The International Builder’s Show in Orlando this year found the BSC with its own room where speaker after speaker talked about all types of systems building techniques and general information. That was quickly followed by the launch of the BSC’s successful monthly “Lunch N Learn” webinar series.

The MHBA launched the new Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) to promote modular housing to new home buyers and is doing great work in the area of regulations and codes both at the state and Federal level.

While both of them have been growing stronger I found it harder and harder to go it alone in my efforts to bring the latest news and ideas in this blog as well as planning bigger and bigger events for the modular industry.

That’s when it became apparent that teaming up with the MHBA to plan and promote my regional events was the best way to serve the modular industry and if the Modular Summit on May 17th in Springfield, MA is any indication, it was the best move I could have made.

Tom Hardiman, the Executive Director of the MHBA and I jointly hosted this event which previous articles proved was a roaring success.

But something else happened at that event which I haven’t seen in quite some time in our industry…...Networking!

Rebuilding a successful modular housing industry takes a lot of time and drive, so it was good to see a network of factory people, builders, vendors and even code and regulatory people draw energy from each other at the Summit. By networking with industry people who share a similar drive and ambition, we will move forward as a industry.

For those that attended the Summit, you saw and experienced first hand the resurgence of times past when we actually worked together and I have to say, it was great to witness.

Here are 5 reasons we need to keep our networking growing.


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1. Shared Knowledge
Networking is great for sharing ideas and knowledge. Whether it’s asking for feedback or discussing a point of view, it will help expand our knowledge and allow us to see things from another perspective.

It is also likely that within a group there will be those who have already been where you are today. This provides you with an opportunity to learn and avoid some of the common pitfalls they experienced.

2. Opportunities
It’s natural that networking will result in opportunities. The thing you will not know is when or how they will materialise. Whether it’s a referral, offer partnership or request for your service or product, it is important to be ready to seize opportunities when they come along.

3. Connections
Remember you are not just gaining exposure to other people in our industry, you are building connections with their networks too. If someone they know has a need that matches your business, if you have made an impression, you will likely get a referral.

And remember it’s not just a one-way street. If someone in your network matches a business you encounter at an event, don’t hesitate to share their details. It will only strengthen your relationship.

4. Increased confidence
By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, it will help increase your confidence. This is an important attribute as a business owner, because your business growth is dependent on talking to people and making connections.

5. Raising your profile
Being visible and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking. By regularly attending modular industry events, people will begin to recognise you. This can help you to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it.


As networking makes a comeback in our industry it will begin to make modular housing stronger and better.

On a personal note: I want to thank Tom Hardiman and the MHBA Board of Directors for agreeing to team up with me for this Summit and future events and if this was any indication, the future looks bright indeed.