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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Container Housing Headed for Washington, DC

Modular housing took another unique turn when construction began this week on Washington, D.C.’s first residential complex made out of shipping containers. The project, designed by local architect Travis Price III, FAIA,  will convert a single-family house into an apartment building intended for 24 occupants in the Brookland neighborhood.


The four-unit residence will accommodate recent graduates of the Catholic University of America (CUA), where Price teaches as an adjunct professor in the architecture and planning department and serves as director of the graduate concentration Cultures and Sacred Spaces.

The city issued a building permit to the Brookland Equity Group on July 11, called SeaUA—a play on the university’s initials, CUA.

The building consists of four levels, with each floor serving as an apartment with six bedrooms, six full bathrooms, and a shared common area including a kitchen, dining area, living room, and laundry room.

The project also addresses the region’s growing affordable housing concerns by “advancing emerging housing for growing Millenials” without government incentives, the release says. The firm reports that nearly all of the units are leased for expected occupancy in the fall of this year.

Among the questions raised by the effort: Can hundreds of thousands of discarded sea containers, long talked up by designers, really help create more affordable housing, or is it mostly a gimmick? And just how do you bring humanity to the confines of an 8-by-40-foot box?


If the economics work and people actually enjoy living in lovingly repurposed steel husks, the architects on the project have bigger dreams, including floating hundreds of sea container apartments on a barge in the Potomac and creating a homeless village on the river to serve Georgetown.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Look to the Roof for Energy Savings

Some design elements are problematic in and of themselves, and some components can be problematic unless they’re installed perfectly. Aesthetics are one thing, but practicality is another. For practical reasons, it is imperative to get roofing details right.

CAD systems make designing a complex roof fairly easy, but even if a roof performs fine in the modeling software, it still has to be built, insulated, and air-sealed to specs. A simple gable or hip roof, or as close a design as you can come up with, will reap rewards for the designer, builder, homeowner, and remodeler.

“Chopped-up roofs with a variety of intersecting planes are hard to frame, hard to keep watertight, and hard to vent,” said former builder Martin Halladay, who writes for Green Building Advisor. “Every nook and cranny creates somewhere for pine needles and ice to accumulate. You don’t want any nooks and crannies on your roof.”


Roof design doesn’t have to be complex to look good, and simple designs are more functional, cheaper, and easier to re-roof. Plus, simple roof designs offer more space for installation of PV panels.

Another key to ensuring good practice is to ditch the idea of skylights, or “roof windows,” as they’re sometimes called. Since they are really windows, they’ll perform as such, with an R-value of about two to four. This means you can have a well-insulated, high-performance roof that’s built to last, combined with a few holes that waste a lot of energy.

“A skylight in the roof of a house will typically lose 35 percent to 45 percent more heat during cold weather than the exact same window installed on the side of the house,” say the writers atEnergy Realist. “That’s because heated air rises.”

Skylights can let massive amounts of heat into a home, as well.Energy Realist states that “a 2-foot by 4-foot skylight made with a single pane of clear glass will allow enough heat into a home to make a typical air conditioner use an additional 240 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Based on an average kWh rate of about 8 cents, that means that one clear skylight could boost your electric bills about $19 per year for extra cooling.”

They are also prone to leaking. Although manufacturers have certainly made great strides in preventing skylight leaks, a lot depends on the quality of installation, so the potential for leaks will always be present.

“In one place we could poke a pencil through gaps in the flashing, on all four corners, to the outside air,” said one Energy Realistwriters, who works as a home energy auditor, of a particular installation.

Another roof hole that’s easy to avoid is downlights or recessed can lights in insulated ceilings. They’re notoriously hard to seal, and therefore allow air to flow back and forth into and out of the conditioned space. They also permit moisture to flow, which can lead to moisture issues in attic insulation. And finally, a lot of heat can move into the cooler space, whether that’s the attic or interior space, through leaky fixtures.

This test of light bulbs demonstrates how much heat even LED bulbs generate:

  • An LED lamp at 28°C room temperature showed a heat sink temperature of 60°C to 100°C depending on the make and model of the LED bulb, room temperature and airflow.
  • A CFL lamp in the same test was running a glass temperature of 120°C and electronics temperature of 85°C.
  • Incandescent and halogen bulbs were as hot as 181°C, and sections of the glass on a CFL bulb were as hot as 131°C

While there are plenty of ways to ensure good design, a look at oft-ignored roof issues shows how simple common sense can save money, hassle and headaches down the line.

An article by Steve Hansen on Sourceable.net


Friday, July 25, 2014

This is a Great Way to Announce Adding a New Modular Home Builder

This is something you rarely see in the modular home industry. It should happen more. A builder's loyalty to their modular home factory begins on the first day of the relationship if they are treated with respect. - Modcoach 

Stratford Homes Limited Partnership, a "Systems-Built" modular home manufacturer located in Stratford, Wisconsin, announced the selection of Ferkey Builders Inc. of Wisconsin Rapids as their newest authorized builder.

Roy and Colleen Ferkey, owners of Ferkey Builders, recently became members of the authorized Stratford Homes' Builder network. Stratford Homes Limited Partnership announced its selection for the Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding areas of central Wisconsin. Ferkey Builders joins a network of nearly 60 authorized Stratford Homes' Builders in a seven-state area plus two provinces of Canada.

Since Stratford Homes' inception in 1973, it has completed more than 11,500 modular buildings that were delivered throughout the Midwest and parts of Canada. The business believes its success, now and in the future, depends on selecting experienced general contractors capable of handling a construction project from start to finish.


"There are so many details involved with building a new home that we select and work with only experienced general contractors," said Russ Marti, vice president of Operations at Stratford Homes. "Not only is every customer unique, but so is every job site. The average home buyer needs a reputable general contractor to organize all the different aspects required to construct and finish the home. We feel Ferkey Builders' team will provide that expertise and guide the home buyer through an enjoyable building experience."

Prospective customers are encouraged to visit the Model Home Village on Highway 97 in Stratford, where four models are available for viewing. Roy and Colleen also can make arrangements for interested buyers to tour the Stratford Homes' indoor production facility to view homes in all stages of modular construction.


British Government Turning to Modular to Solve Housing Crisis

The British government has announced a new affordable homes program that is set to change the way properties are built in the country with many being largely constructed off-site, a technique used widely in continental Europe and India.

Typical British Modular Construction
The first phase of the $39 billion (US$) program has been confirmed with an overall target to deliver 165,000 new affordable homes over three years from 2015. Brandon Lewis, Housing Minister said the focus on new technology would provide high quality homes and help the sector achieve the fastest rate of affordable house building for 20 years. Predictions are that 20% of these new homes will be prefab or modular. That’s at least 11,000 new modular or prefab homes a year.

At the rate the US uses modular, that number would only be 1,650. Disgusting.

191 providers have been earmarked for funding and the new homes will be delivered across England with almost a third in London. “House building is an essential part of this government’s long term economic plan. That’s why we have designed an ambitious new scheme to build affordable homes at the fastest rate for 20 years, which will support 165,000 jobs in construction and sustain thousands of small businesses,” he said.

In order to achieve this rate of construction, modular or prefab, widely used in Europe and India is being adopted which involves off-site factory construction of the major parts of each home which are then assembled on site.


Not Closing Sales? It Just Might Be You

Modular Home Builders have always had to "make the sale".  I don't know of any builder that has had a prospect walk in their door and say they want to build a new home and then don't care about  price, quality or materials.  Just doesn't happen.  Oh, I'm sure some of you have had some really easy sales, but it is still a sale.


Here are the Top 7 reasons builders fail to close the sale:
  1. Rushing into the sales presentation without being properly prepared.  Do you have all the literature, brochures, handouts, floorplans and building materials at your fingertips?
  2. Not having a goal for the meeting.  Very few builders close on the first meeting.  Your goal for the first meeting is to prepare for the second one.  Without a second meeting, there is no third, fourth, etc, which means no sale.
  3. Not giving the prospect a good first impression.  If your office is messy and dirty, what kind of impression are you making on your prospect.  Will your jobsite and your record keeping for their project be any better?
  4. Talking too much.  Telling isn't selling.  In order to close the sale you have to ask questions and find out how you can help solve the prospect's problems.  Now that's selling.  Do not assume you know what your buyer wants....very dangerous!
  5. Not understanding how much money the buyer has to spend.  Qualify, qualify, qualify.  I've seen builders that go right to the "No one undersells me" or to "I don't think you can afford my house".  How do you know what they can afford if you don't qualify them.  
  6. Not watching for your prospect's buying signals.  Keep your eyes and ears open. Look out for verbal and non- verbal signs of interest. Look and listen - the customer will tell you when they want to buy!
  7. Failing to ask for the sale.  Your buyer expects you to ask, so do it at every opportunity after you've built rapport with the prospect and have shown them the solutions to their problems.  It usually takes several attempts to close the sale. Make sure you close frequently and sooner rather than later.
Look over these 7 reasons for not making the sale with a critical eye and you will find that eliminating even just one will go a long way to closing the sale.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

USA Today Dismisses the Entire Modular Home Industry

USA Today's online version just printed an article that every modular factory and builder, whether you our homes prefab or modular, should be up in arms about.

These dumbasses did so little research into what is being built today that they should change their name to "USA 20 years ago". Not one mention of all the factories across the US pumping out great modular or prefab homes for decades. Not one picture of a traditional 2 story modular home. Instead they use Blu Homes as the best example they could find and even then USA Today kind of trashed Blu Homes.

"Who do I talk to about this article?"
Here is the first part of USA Today's article followed by a link to entire web page. My comments are in RED.
You can't buy a house on Amazon.com for self-assembly. Not yet, anyway. 
But prefab (or prefabricated) houses, long a modernist fantasy, are having a kind of moment. Over in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, cranes are stacking factory-built modules on top of one another like Legos. When the stacking is done, it'll be a 32-story apartment complex, and the tallest prefab in the world, according to the developer, Forest City Ratner. Prestige architects like David Rockwell (better known for luxury hotels and restaurants) are throwing their hats in the prefab ring, too. And a brash startup called Blu Homes, established in 2008, is spurring envy REALLY? and some resentment: It has about $150 million in investment, as well as technology that folds glass walls and high ceilings on flatbed trucks — and says it's already doing more volume than anyone in the prefab business. REALLY??????
It's way too early to say whether any of these efforts will modernize the homebuilding industry, which relies on old methods and remains fragmented and inefficient. These methods are the same site builders use.
Historically, the prefab dream has ebbed and flowed; at times, cost overruns and impossible promises have turned it into a total nightmare. What the hell are they talking about?
Even now, the upswing is relative: Blu Homes may be leading the industry Again, REALLY?, but it's built fewer than 300 houses in total. (Compare that to the 569,000 homes constructed last year.)
CLICK HERE to read the entire stupid article.

Modular Home Factory Sales Manager Worried About Growth

A couple of days ago I talked with a modular home factory sales manager about the owner coming into his office a week earlier wanting to expand the territory they served adding about another 100 miles to the north and west.

The sales manager called me because the owner assumes that entering these markets would be a big boost to sales and the bottom line and wants to see $2.5 M in sales by July 1, 2015. He is worried that not only will it not happen but that he might just be fired if it doesn't. He asked for my help.


What a loaded situation!  After talking for almost two hours I would like to share the results of this first of what will probably be many more.

I started out by asking if he has any modular or site builders in the new areas that want to buy their homes. NO.

Have you hired any sales reps for either territory? NO.

Have you done any research into the number of new home currently being built and how many are modular? YES to the number of new homes, NO to the % of modular homes. I told him to multiply the total new homes by 3%, multiply that number by the average FOB price of their homes and assuming that they get every one of those homes, does it equal $2.5M or greater? NO.

Now he has the first piece of information to take back to the owner. More pieces followed.

Then I asked if he had any candidates for the two new territories? NO. He hadn't even placed an ad for new sales reps. He was hoping to steal a couple of reps from other factories.

I asked if he did that, does he know how much the owner willing to pay? NO. The other sales reps have all been with him for a couple of years or more and work mostly on a small salary plus a commission.

We all know that that there are two types of sales reps; one that can bring his builders with him to the new factory and one that has no builders. Assuming that he will not be able to steal a sales rep, does he have the time to train and meet with the new sales reps on at least a weekly basis for the first six months? NO. He has no formal training program and riding with each new rep for one day a week for six months will hinder his relationship with his other reps.

This is more information that he needs to taken back to the owner.

Great sales managers think of sales as a simple game of managing their reps' numbers. For example, I asked if he knew that in the modular home industry that 100 builder leads typically yields 20 meetings, which will convert to 8 visiting the factory, which will result in 4 sales and that this will take at least 6 months? NO

Instead of hounding their reps for a sale, the best sales managers focus on the status of the sales funnel, making sure their sales reps have the right number of leads and meetings, which they know—if they just work the system—will result in the right number of sales. With that in mind, are there enough independent site and modular builders to keep a sales funnel full through the next 12 months? NO, Maybe, "I don’t know!"

That last piece of information is critical when talking with the owner.

Now he has some ammunition when he sits down with the owner and discusses these new territories.


I just got a call and was asked if I could meet with him and the owner. YES