Thursday, September 22, 2016

Offsite Construction Expo Featured Lots of Commercial Opportunities

The Offsite Construction Expo second year was quite interesting. For one, I finally realized just how many companies from around the world build offsite.

The Chinese exhibitors were there in abundance showing modules, complete modular structures including residential as well as commercial. There were even Chinese companies with their latest fastening systems for modular factories.

Simplex booth in the center

Pat Fricchionne, the owner of Simplex Industries was there showcasing what their commercial division can do for developers. Good stuff.

I apologize for not taking more pictures but I was caught up in the moment and walked around the booths in total amazement. It was a total surprise when a few of the people I talked to said "are you the Modcoach?" A superstar is born.

Many of them asked when I would start a blog about commercial modular like this one for residential. All I can say is let's wait and see.

Champion Home Builders Opens Plant in Kentucky

Champion Home Builders Inc. held a ribbon cutting for its $6.3 million production facility in Benton, KY that will employ 150. The 100,000-square-foot former Fleetwood Homes manufacturing facility on Venture Lane will be used to produce manufactured, modular and mobile homes for distribution to retailers in Kentucky and other states.

“Champion Home Builders has provided quality homes for more than 60 years and has become a highly trusted brand in the process,” said Gov. Matt Bevin. “Kentucky is a great fit for this project and we are honored by Champion’s investment. We welcome Champion Home Builders to the Bluegrass State and look forward to partnering with them in their continued success.”

To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in April preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $2.25 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.

In addition, Champion can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies are eligible to receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. Last year, the Kentucky Skills Network trained more than 84,000 employees from more than 5,600 Kentucky companies.

Champion continues to move forward in both residential and commercial modular construction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Midwest Boot Camp - Part Four - Afterthoughts

I’ve been thinking of the things I learned at last week’s Midwest Boot Camp and here are some of my thoughts:

Midwest vs East Coast Modular home builders
I was told before I even scheduled the Boot Camp that I might not get the same type of builder I usually see in an East Coast (EC) event. That was true to some extent.  

First thing I noticed was the Midwest (MW) builders were younger and there were more women involved in the sales and operations of the business. The MW builder also seemed more focused on the type of home they would build compared to their EC counterparts who will attempt to build just about anything the customer can draw on a napkin.

Plan book homes vs custom
The EC builder gets plan books from their factory and immediately puts them on the floor in the corner as every EC builder knows that “no one ever builds from them.” The MW modular builder gets plan books, uses them in their sales approach and tries not to make too many changes.

I talked with one EC builder who would love to do that but is not sure he would have much business if he did. When I asked a MW builder what is a typical home they build, the answer was a 28’ x 60’ ranch.

I questioned if they would like to build more 2 story and custom homes and their answer stopped me cold in my tracks. “If I could make as much profit on the second floor as I do the first, I would build them but I can’t.” End of the discussion. Very smart woman and doing very well in her market.

Model Homes vs Showroom
Another way that the MW builder is different from their EC custom modular builder sibling is they tend to sell mostly from model home sales centers that feature both manufactured and modular homes (28’ x 60’) while the EC builders work from showrooms and home offices.

I do not see either the EC or the MW ever wanting to do business like the other however.

Common frustrations:
It was very interesting to hear the exact same things that bother the EC builder coming from the MW builders. Few or no visits from their factory reps. No information about changes in the industry from their factory.

Little or no training; little factory/builder interactions; lack of marketing knowledge; lack of leads, etc….

Bottom line:
Three of the speakers at the Boot Camp were EC builders and they all agreed that every modular builder in the US needs to learn from each other to better our industry. Some of the ideas and ways the MW does business will be taken back to their offices and discussed.

As I mentioned several times during the Boot Camp, this is the time for builders to start building bridges with other builders to have someone to share insight, resolve common problems and work on marketing. Networking!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Midwest Boot Camp - Part Three - Afternoon Session

After a very interesting break for lunch, it was back to the afternoon session of the Midwest Boot Camp.

Getting us started was Ken Semler, Express Modular, asking what builders really know about the people that visit their websites.

When he asked how many builders had a website, every builder raised their hand. When asked how many builders have ever checked their statistics on Google Analytics, only a few hands were raised and when he asked if anyone had checked within the last month, only one hand shot up.

He then spoke of the importance of this free tool from Google that can tell a builder so much about the visitors to their site including age, gender, how they found your site, how long they visited it and tons of other information.

Valerie Jurik, Valerie Jurick.COM and AIP Specialist, talked about what is facing modular home builders when it comes to the aging of their home buyers.

Not only are the Baby Boomers reaching the point where decisions have to be made if they should move into smaller homes and/or assisted living situations. They are finding both the Gen X and Millennials wanting to either move in and help care for them or move in because the younger folks can’t afford to live on their own.

The number of multi-generational homes are growing and modular builders and their factories must begin designing homes where everyone can live together in homes that work for aging parents as well as the youngest members of the family...hence, Aging in Place.

The afternoon session ended as it should, with Scott Stroud, Cash Flow Engineering and formerly of Builder Radio, talking about your bottom line and a better way to sell.

He explained the need to measure your efforts in real ways and then focus on continual improvement. It’s not only about selling more; it’s about becoming more aware of your lead generation and turning them into sales.

He has been a cornerstone of my Boot Camps and when he talks, builders listen.

Scott, along with all the speakers at the Midwest Boot Camp want to hear from builders. They want to share their knowledge.

As I said many times during the Boot Camp, there is no East Coast builder and Midwest builder. We are all modular home builders and we need to build bridges between us to encourage, teach and simply to share our problems and frustrations.

It was a great Boot Camp and it convinced me that this will not be the last one in the Midwest. In fact I will begin reaching out to builders to build even more bridges, to join modular home associations like the MHBA and BSC and encourage them to submit pictures of their completed homes and special projects that reflect the great modular home builders of the Midwest.

Related Articles:
Midwest Boot Camp - Part One - the Evening Before
Midwest Boot Camp - Part Two - the Morning Session

Modular Construction Eases the Management of Multiple Job Sites

Becoming more efficient is at the forefront of everyone’s plan to improve work flow. It makes life a lot easier when we can reduce the stresses of complex projects with many moving parts to a single source of responsibility. Take a real estate development project, for instance. It can be difficult dealing with multiple subcontractors throughout the entire process and keeping everyone accountable for completing their part in a timely fashion and on budget. Modular construction eliminates this problem and it is changing the way the retail industry views expansion strategies.

Providing a single source of project responsibility is what drives the appeal of the modular process, particularly with one manufacturer possessing the ability to access multiple states at a time. Everything under one roof with one point of contact allows project managers to concentrate their efforts on a new level of efficiency. Modular manufactures deliver a fully finished three-dimensional product including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, built in a climate-controlled factory without delays from any inclement weather to a site in half the time it would take a stick builder. Modular is shaping up to become part of the hospitality industry’s growth model and OneTen REI is leading the charge!

An article by Nico Fricchione, OneTen REI

Midwest Boot Camp - Part Two - The Morning Session

All the speakers were ready for a full day, the continental breakfast was set up, the screen and all the A/V was up and running and it was time to begin another exciting day devoted to all things modular.This was my 4th Boot Camp and finally...I’m getting organized!

This was my 4th Boot Camp and finally...I’m getting organized!

When I put out invitations for people to speak at my Indianapolis Boot Camp, speakers from NJ, MD, KY, NC, VA and WV answered the call. Before I go any further, I want to thank all of them for bringing their usual “A Game” and helping make this Boot Camp a great success.

I was also delighted that attendees from PA, OH, IN, IL, MI, ,NJ, KS, and TN took a day from a busy selling and building season to join with others to learn what the modular industry is doing.

If your modular home business is located in the Midwest and you didn’t have a chance to sign up, there is always next year.

Anthony Zarrilli, Zarrilli Homes, was the first speaker and explained to everyone what happens after a natural disaster. Rules for financing, building codes and processes can change every day and builders were always trying to catch up. Rules and regulations were changed on the fly.


Modular housing was the savior for many that lost their homes but instead of making it easy for modular builders to help them, local, state and Federal codes and regs were rewritten that inhibited modular home construction in favor of site builders.

Applications for building permits became a process that extended from a month before Hurricane Sandy to up to 5 months after. Attendees were shocked by the complexities he faced and I saw many jaws drop.

The MHBA’s Dave Sikora was up next promoting the association’s many benefits to the attendees and explaining what it has accomplished including fighting for modular housing when it comes to prohibitive new laws and regs in all the states.


He also highlighted their new Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) and the “Home of the Month” that is featured on their website. If you haven’t joined the MHBA yet, you really should.

Creative Brand Content's Reed Dillon was next on the agenda and demonstrated that marketing need not be something to fear. Instead, it should be embraced and he gave everyone ideas as to how to accomplish it.


It’s not just enough to want to do a better job of getting your name out there, it is absolutely imperative in today’s marketplace where even Macy’s, Sears and the Sports Authority have faltered because they didn’t keep up with Internet marketing techniques. Reed offered to help attendees get started on the right path.


The final morning speaker was Harris Woodward, FinishWerks. As one of the leading High Performance modular home builders in the US, his talk centered around the upcoming stricter energy codes that will eventually be in every state. Maryland, where he builds, and California are on the bleeding edge of energy, Net Zero regulations with CA ready to impose Net Zero in every new home in 2020!

He explained the different types of certifications available for modular home builders and how even though these tough regs haven’t been hitting the Midwest yet, they will and everyone should begin today to get their new modular homes ready for it.

This means sitting down with your factory and talking about New Zero and begin a program that integrates it into every new home before it sneaks up and bites every modular factory and builder in the butt.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Midwest Boot Camp - Part One - The Evening Before

With just a couple of weeks to go until the Midwest Modular Boot Camp, I talked with a couple of builders and factory owners about what to expect and I was told that the Midwest is not like its’ East Coast sibling.

A lot of the Midwest builders sell manufactured homes as well as modular. This rarely happens in the East where I have been working for almost 20 years. I was curious what Midwest builders would think of my Boot Camp.

bootcamp invitation.jpg

Any thoughts I had about both the Midwest builders and the my East Coast lineup of speakers not relating to each other was put to rest when Rochester Homes’ Alex Berlin and Tyler Anderson invited every attendee to a Tuesday evening “Get Together” at the Bru Burger in Carmel, IN.

Speakers, builders and factory people sat down over huge plates of burgers, chicken wings, pretzels and drinks and quickly discovered that even though their markets may be different, they had more in common than they thought.


Harris Woodward, Anthony Zarrilli and Ken Semler are all East Coast builders that quickly found themselves in intense conversations with their Midwest contemporaries talking about everything modular. There were some differences in how each did business but in the end, bridges were built and friendships made.


By the time we left, we all had a better understanding of the differences and the similarities of our markets.

On the way back to the hotel (did I mention the Rochester Homes provided limo service) we all shared what we learned at the Get-Together.

What was a good evening was just the start of what turned out to be a great Boot Camp.

Tiny Apartments for Homeless Hit Snags Over Labor, Land

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco’s homelessness director
wants them. A local developer is hot to
build them, academics love them, and unions are open to the idea.

All that stands in the way of the construction of hundreds of tiny, modular apartments for hard-core homeless people in San Francisco — something that could sharply reduce the number of indigents on the city’s streets — is getting everyone involved to agree to some compromises. But that’s proving to be a tough task.

For the past year, developer Patrick Kennedy has been pitching City Hall on his plan to use metal shipping container-style boxes in quickie-construction projects that can be turned into supportive housing for the homeless complexes that offer services for people in addition to a roof. Such housing, Kennedy says, can be built far faster than conventional structures, for half the cost.

Kennedy has proposed building as many as 200 units above a city-owned parking lot at Highway 101 and Cesar Chavez Street, and he says he can quickly construct thousands more around the city.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Maine Factory Begins Production of Passive House Buildings

The first components for prefabricated Passive House homes are now rolling out the door of a small factory in Searsmont, Maine, where house building is sailing into the digital age.

Architect Richard Pedranti (left) and Christian Corson (right)

RPA-Ecocor, the joint venture between Ecocor’s Christian Corson and architect Richard Pedranti, launched in June 2016 with 11 model home designs. It’s now producing wall sections for a Passive House that will be erected in the Albany, New York, area later this year.

It’s the beginning of what both Corson and Pedranti hope will be a turning point for high-performance building in the U.S. Houses will be produced in the controlled environment of a factory, much like modular and panelized buildings already are — but in this case they’ll be able to meet the energy-efficiency and airtightness requirements of Passive House construction.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Green Building News article

Swedish Company Almost Ready to Open Europe's Largest Modular Factory

Stefan Lindback, Owner of Lindbäcks Bygg
Lindbäcks Bygg, one of the largest modular home factories in Europe. has commissioned Rejlers, together with FeRex, to deliver parts of the production facility to be constructed at Lindbäcks' new “Super Factory”. Rejlers’ order is worth US $3.5 million.

The project includes planning and installing an assembly line where Lindbäcks will build complete housing units from preassembled floor joists through to the ready-made unit going out for storage at Lindbäcks’ new factory in Haraholmen outside Piteå.

The assembly line will be around 1,000 feet long and will start by receiving preassembled floor joists and finish with completed apartment block elements for transport to the building site.

The new factory will triple Lindbäcks’ current capacity and is regarded as the most modern of its type in Europe, maybe the world.

Rejlers will provide expertise in the areas of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering as well as PLC and HMI programming. FeRex, which is a partner in the deal, will build the steel structure and, together with Rejlers, install the equipment on site in the factory.

Related articles: