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.


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.


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


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Connecticut DOT Commissioner Ignores Industry Request to Speak at Modular Summit

About a dozen modular home manufacturers and thirty or so home builders were on hand at the May 17th Modular Summit in Springfield, MA to hear from agency officials in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.  Two out of three ain’t bad.
Despite repeated invitations and requests to speak to the industry (or at least explain why he vehemently opposes treating our industry in the exact same manner as he treats others), Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker refused to face the music.  (No, he’s not hiding behind that podium).
After meeting with the DOT in early 2016 to express our frustration as to Connecticut’s completely ridiculous transportation requirements and gaining zero sympathy from the DOT, we sought legislative relief.  Senator Paul Formica and Representative Lesley Zupkas sponsored our industry bill to help bring the state somewhat back in line with neighboring state regulations.  The DOT testified against the industry bill and it died in committee.  In 2017, Formica and Zupkas sponsored a similar bill – this time simply requiring the DOT to treat the modular home industry in the EXACT SAME MANNER as other industries are regulated.  Again, the DOT testified against the bill, and again our bill died in committee.
The Commissioner claims that the DOT didn’t want to change the requirements for fear that they would be out of sync with the recommended guidelines from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Commissioner Redeker serves on the board of AASHTO and ironically their recommendations are exactly in line with what our industry bill would have accomplished.  For the Commissioner to use AASHTO as his excuse for inaction is, well, inexcusable.  He KNOWS Connecticut is an outlier with neighboring states. He KNOWS the state is out of sync with AASHTO recommendations. He KNOWS his regulations double the cost of transportation of modular homes to and through his state adding more burden to homeowners.  His response? “Make smaller boxes” proclaims the Commissioner. Does he make similar condescending remarks to the boating industry? The pool industry? The construction equipment industry – all of whom can ship oversize loads during the day? You can bet he does not!
About twenty years ago the industry was forced to sue the state for restraint of trade because of the state’s outright refusal to allow oversize shipments of modular homes.  As a result of that successful lawsuit, the state (addressing the issue at the bare minimum level) conceded and allowed modular home shipments, but only from midnight to dawn Sunday through Wednesday. Oversize yachts, pools, and equipment continue to travel during the day.  Meanwhile, modular shipments in New York must end at 3:00 daily Monday through Thursday and earlier on Fridays, meaning shipments must sit at the NY/CT border til midnight or later before crossing into CT.  The state also requires not one but two state police escorts (because, what else to troopers have to do).  And the troopers bill in a minimum of four hour blocks even if the trip is thirty minutes.
This complete shakedown by the State of Connecticut is a slap in the face of an industry trying to grow, but forced to spend resources on apathetic government bureaucrats who could care less about commerce.  Maybe publicly shaming the Commissioner will at least elicit a response. Commissioner?

Article by Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the MHBA

Modular Summit Rated a Success by Participants

The most recent Modular Home Summit in Springfield, Massachusetts was rated as “excellent” by over 70% of the participants. Co-hosted by the Modular Home Builders Association and Modcoach, the event attracted fifty-seven total participants who heard about code and regulation updates from New York Department of State (NYDOS) and the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS).


Rob Anderson, Chief of Inspections for MA BBRS, started the day with a series of updates from the recently approved 9th Edition of the building codes. Rob stated that the new codes go into effect on July 1, of this year, but builders still had the option of using the 8th Edition until January 2, 2018.

Joe Hill, Don Thomas, and Daryl Andreades presented on behalf of NYDOS and answered pre-submitted questions from the industry. NYDOS still accepts third party reviewed and approved plans for residential projects. For commercial projects however, the decision to accept third party approvals is “at their discretion.” Regarding the use of foam only assemblies, the state will continue to allow this practice while working with the manufacturers of the products form more details.

Mr. Hill also advised the industry to review and comment on the upcoming 2017 supplement to the code, which includes a provision that may trigger mandatory sprinkler systems in single family homes. If you build a two-story home and add a habitable attic space, that will trigger the requirement for sprinkler systems to be installed in the whole house.

Mr. Hill also clarified that all modular homes going into New York, including New York City, need to go through the DOS program. Regarding systems package approvals once the 2017 supplemental code is adopted, factories will not have to resubmit entire packages referencing the supplement, just an updated cover page.

Alex Pollard from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) gave a brief presentation about a $1 million grant program to build new modular homes to replace older manufactured homes in Massachusetts. DOER is looking for developers/partners to submit a turnkey plan on how they will use the funds to meet the program objectives. The solicitation information can be found at www.commbuys.com under the Zero Energy Modular Affordable Housing Initiative.

Mary Gaiski of the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Institute and Tom Hardiman of MHBA gave a history and update of transportation issues in the Northeast. It is clear that this issue will need to be addressed state-by-state, starting with the most extreme situations in Connecticut.

Rick Wenner of PFS and Chuck Osterday of NTA closed out the summit with several recommendations and best practices as to how to speed up the approval process.

The event was sponsored by Muncy Homes, Champion, Universal Forest Products, and Harvey Building Products.

Article by Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the MHBA

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Marriott’s Journey Into Modular Hotels Gathering Steam

It has been quite a while since something this big has hit the modular construction industry and now that it has many in the modular industry were not prepared for it.


Marriott, the world’s largest name in the lodging business spent several years trying to find a better, quicker way to build hotels and now that they have embraced modular as one of the best ways to do it, the sheer numbers are almost overwhelming.


They are currently in the process of signing contracts for 50 modular hotels this year and if what they presented to their franchisees at their annual meeting where they gave a green light for more of them to go modular, that number could climb to 300 hotels over the next 24 months.

“Construction is the next frontier for innovation, and modular is leading the way,” said Eric Jacobs, Marriott International’s Chief Development Officer of Select Brands, North America.

Modular construction shortens building time and reduces the need for skilled labor at the construction site. The prefabricated rooms are built in a factory, painted and furnished before they are put on a truck and shipped to the construction site.

There is an even bigger opportunity coming to the modular industry. The biggest franchisees for Marriott are also the biggest for other hotel chains including Hilton, Holiday Inn and Choice.

Once they really start to see the advantages modular can bring to their industry and to their bottom lines we could be looking at upwards of 600 hotels going modular.

“We believe the modular process will be a game changer for our valued development partners, especially during a time when labor shortages can be a challenge to timely openings,” said Karim Khalifa, Marriott International’s Senior Vice President of Global Design Strategies. “As modular construction gains popularity and acceptance in the hotel industry, costs can also decrease over time.”

Watch for new modular factories using robotic technology to begin springing up that can feed this need for modular hotels.

The future is looking very bright for the modular construction industry.

MHBA/Modcoach Summit a Total Success

Tom Hardiman, the Executive Director of the MHBA and yours truly, the Modcoach, held our first coordinated Summit in Springfield, MA yesterday and I have to tell you, it exceeded our expectations in both the number of people that attended and the positive interaction between the speakers and the factory people and builders.

I will have a more complete wrap up of what happened at the Summit a little later but I thought you might enjoy these photos from the event.

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The large room on the 12th floor before the Summit  8:00 AM

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Builders, Factory People and Associates 'Meet N Greet'   8:30 AM

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A packed house ready for the first speaker of the day   9:00 AM