Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taking the Modular Home Message Directly to Site Builders

The people at modular home factories have been trying for years to find ways to bring more site builders and developers into modular industry. Yesterday I witnessed something I haven’t seen in quite some time; builders lined up to get more information about modular.

Lynn Kuhns, President of Apex Homes of PA in Middleburg, PA, took the modular message directly into the heart of site builder territory by giving members of the Harrisburg, PA Home Builder’s Association an introduction to the benefits of what our industry can do for them. He has talked to groups of builders that were interested in modular before hearing him talk but this was his first time taking his message directly to an HBA chapter.


He called his presentation “Modular Housing 101” and as I looked around the room at the 17 builders and developers in the HBA’s Education Room, everyone was glued to his talk.


Lynn talked about what modular can do for them and as the minutes went by more and more of the builders asked questions. Site builders talked about the lack of skilled labor in their area being a problem and Lynn explained modular’s advantage in helping with it. Questions about cost, lead time, set crews, subcontractors, building code officials and third party inspections were also answered by Lynn.

Luxury homes, affordable housing, multifamily and commercial projects were discussed and what was to be about an hour talk turned into two hours and after it was over, people were lined up waiting to talk to him. It was the first time some of the builders had ever seen pictures of a modular production line and they were glued to the screen.

Lynn had a great presentation and an open invitation was given for everyone to tour Apex Homes and learn first hand what modular has to offer.

His talking directly to builders and developers may not convert any of them overnight but you could see the wheels turning and their wanting to know more about modular construction.

Great job Lynn.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Skyscraper That Dispenses Modules Like a Vending Machine

A conceptual skyscraper in Tokyo will give you the option of living in an apartment that can be manufactured on the spot and then wedged into the building, ready for occupancy.

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The larger-than-life house dispenser, dubbed the Pod Vending Machine, works with a 3D printer on top that builds the modular homes on-site. Mobile cranes and mechanical arms transport the pods below and plug them into a vast, frame-like megastructure.

Designed by Haseef Rafiei, a Malaysian architect based in Manchester, the project won an honorable mention at the 2017 Skyscraper Competition by eVolo Magazine.

The building is designed to be in a constant state of construction, with the printer rising in height as demand for the pods increases. Building materials are sent skywards via a hydraulic system flanking the building. Nothing is left to waste, with disused pods ultimately recycled by the printer.

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The pods are not designed to be cookie-cutter, however. Orders can be personalised, in that amenity pods, e.g. toilets and kitchens, can be installed and taken out as you please. Conversely, you can buy more pods to expand an existing one. You also have the option to simply rent a pod or use it for commercial purposes.

The skyscraper is designed in the spirit of “wabi-sabi,” the traditional Japanese notion of letting something remain incomplete over time. The designer also recognizes the environmental conundrum posed by abandoned building projects in Japan, hence a project that aims to close the loop in construction wastage.

The Cost of Innovation in the Modular Home Industry

Every modular factory person and modular home builder regards innovation with a lot of skepticism and for good reason. Rising costs associated with freight, new regulations and codes and now a projected 20% increase in lumber prices can have that effect on people.


It takes a lot of time, talent and money to produce innovations that affect the entire modular housing industry and who really wants to be the person or factory that leads the way? “Not me” said one after another.


OK, if innovation for an entire industry is the challenge, then what about innovations for a single factory or a single modular home builder. You still need the same time, talent and money. The trick is how to allocate those limited resources, especially money, to first learn what the future needs are and how to innovate to achieve them.

You do not get innovation for free – you have to allocate time, money and people to the search for new products, services, methods etc. However, innovation can lead to powerful cost savings, profitable new products and competitive advantage.

Right now for the residential housing industry, the main benefit of innovation simply might be survival. If we just continue to cut costs without innovating we will be bypassed by other types of construction that are being innovative.

No matter that we understand that innovation is a priority, it still comes down to one person, either a builder of someone in the factory, deciding that they will pick up the flag in begin leading the charge.

There are many ways to achieve innovation. Let’s divide activities into three categories.

It costs virtually nothing to:
  • Communicate a vision of innovation
  • Set goals and objectives for ideas, prototypes and innovations
  • Ask your people for ideas
  • Ask builders for ideas
  • Ask your customers for ideas
  • Ask suppliers for ideas

2. It costs very little to:
  • Run brainstorm meetings
  • Evaluate and select the best ideas
  • Build models and prototypes
  • Ask customers to evaluate your prototype products or services
  • Implement small incremental innovations in your products, services and methods
  • Empower people to try more initiatives in their areas
  • Investigate new collaborations. Partnerships, ideas and products

3. It costs a lot of money to:
  • Roll out major new products or services
  • Try an entirely new business model

So you should do a lot of items from Category 1. Generate many ideas from all sources – it costs very little.

You should do a few things from Category 2. Definitely move the best ideas to the prototype stage and evaluate them (but kill them if necessary).

You should think long and hard about items from Category 3, but be prepared to allocate some of your scarce resource in this area.

Innovation involves making bets. Often these bets fail. But if the modular housing industry is to stay in the game someone will have to start making small bets until one or more come off.

Innovation is not free, but it can be done on slender means if we adopt this kind of approach.

Canadian Lumber Prices About to Skyrocket

Trump Slaps Duty on Canada Lumber, Intensifying Trade Fight
by Jennifer Epstein  and Joe Light for Bloomberg Politics

Step will raise cost of home-building, mattress box springs
Canada vows to fight back against ‘unfair” import duties
U.S. President Donald Trump intensified a trade dispute with Canada, slapping tariffs of up to 24 percent on imported softwood lumber in a move that drew swift criticism from the Canadian government, which vowed to sue if needed.

Trump announced the new tariff at a White House gathering of conservative journalists, shortly before the Commerce Department said it would impose countervailing duties ranging from 3 percent to 24.1 percent on Canadian lumber producers including West Fraser Timber Co.

“We’re going to be putting a 20% tax on softwood lumber coming in -- tariff on softwood coming into the United States from Canada,” Trump said Monday, according to a tweet by Charlie Spiering, a White House correspondent for Breitbart News. A White House official confirmed the comment.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Bloomberg Politics article


Statement from NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald on Canada Seeking Alternative Source of Lumber Exports to the U.S.

Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Kerrville Texas, today issued the following statement regarding reports that Canada is looking at China to boost lumber exports as an alternative to the U.S.:

“The fact that Canada is seeking alternative sources to the U.S. for its lumber exports should serve as a wake-up call to Washington policymakers. More than one-third of the lumber used in the U.S. last year came from exports because the U.S. does not produce enough lumber to meet the nation’s needs. Home builders need a consistent, reasonably priced supply of lumber to keep housing affordable for hard-working American families.

“Policymakers have a number of options at their disposal to make up for the current domestic shortfall. These include increasing domestic harvests, boosting exports from other nations and limiting U.S. exports. Moreover, it would be in the best interests of the U.S. and Canada to achieve a long-term solution to the ongoing trade dispute that ensures U.S. lumber consumers have access to a stable supply of lumber at competitive prices.”

Last Day to Save on the Spring Ad Sale

I have expanded the “Builder Logo” section of my blog to accommodate 20 more spaces for modular home builders to place their logo with a link to your website.

Special pricing of only $89 a year is available to all modular home builders until April 26th, 2017.  

I will grab* your logo and website link and place it in the “Builder Logo” on either the right left hand column.

The blog gets over 700,000 pageviews annually and your ad will appear on every single one.

Act quickly as there are only 20 spaces available! Less than 25 cents a day!

CLICK HERE to purchase a space to showcase your logo.

A “paid” invoice will be sent to you upon posting your logo.

*if available

Monday, April 24, 2017

Countdown Is On to the MHBA/Modcoach New England Modular Home Summit

MHBA is pleased to announce our first event with Modcoach on May 17th in Springfield, MA.  

This is going to be a crucial meeting if you do business in New York, Massachusetts, and/or Connecticut.

We have invited Joseph Hill, R.A., the Assistant Director for Energy Services for New York State Department of State Division of Building Standards and Codes and his team from NYDOS to participate in a town hall style meeting. (He has to get state approval for out of state travel but indicated they would be there).  How can we improve the approval process in NY? Can we use foam only adhesive assemblies?  These are just two items on the agenda for NYDOS.   

Rob Anderson, Codes Chief in Massachusetts also plans on participating.  This event is the day after the May 16th BBRS Board meeting to finalize the 9th Edition of the Codes. Will we be required to install sprinkler systems in MA?  Will the industry get a new director or have to deal with 15 regional reviewing authorities?  

MHBA also reached out to Commissioner Redekker of the CT DOT and invited him to attend.  While it is uncertain if any representative from CTDOT will attend, our transportation bill sponsor, Senator Paul Formica, is interested in coming.

These discussions will make up the morning sessions from about 9:30-noon.

NEW SPEAKERS for the afternoon session announced:

“Lessons Learned from the Field: Best Practices and Tips from Third Party Engineers.”  Rick Wenner with PFS and Chuck Osterday of NTA, Inc. will lead a discussion of what they have learned in the field and issues they see on the horizon. This open discussion will also include plenty of q & a time.

         Limited space and limited sponsorship opportunities  
(email for sponsorship info).


MHBA & Modcoach
Modular Home Summit
9:00 – 3:00 Wednesday May 17, 2017
LaQuinta Inn & Suites
100 Congress Street, Springfield, MA
$99/person for MHBA members; $149/person for non-members

CLICK HERE to Register

If you have any issues registering, email

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Express Modular Seeking Additional Sales Professionals

Normally when a modular home builder needs a salesperson they look for someone that lives close to the office and knows the area. Then the builder begins to teach the new salesperson the ropes of how he does business.
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That is the same thing Express Modular is doing except the salespeople Ken Semler, the President of Express Modular, is looking for must reside in either the Portland-Seattle I-5 Corridor, Mid Atlantic, Denver, CO, or Florida areas.

Express Modular is the only national modular home builder and to say that business is good would be an understatement.

If you would like a challenging sales position where your income is determined by your motivation, this could be the best move you’ve ever made. His top sales consultants make well into six figure incomes!

I asked Ken to describe his ideal candidate. He said a former builder that can sell and has modular construction experience and that just doesn’t want to deal with having their own business anymore is perfect. They must have a great work ethic and be able to travel within their territory.

He said his best consultants have a passion for helping customers using modular construction and enjoy the flexibility the consultant position offers along with the rewards for their efforts.
Learn his business, work hard, make new friends and enjoy working again.

Send your resume or contact information to

Modular Factory Sales Reps the Key to Fishing for New Builders

The 2008 housing recession has had a huge impact on home building. Fewer independent site and modular home builders are building homes. Modular factories were shuttered or sold across the nation while the modular single family home share of new homes built dropped to 3%.

As often stated, many modular factories that survived the recession added commercial work to keep the production lines working. For some factories the mix of commercial to residential modules grew to a high of 70/30. Recently I’m hearing that ratio has changed to 50/50.

Even though the residential side of modular for these factories is increasing there is only so much the core of dedicated single family builders can do to increase their business.

What needs to happen next? Factory Sales Reps must become better at finding “new to modular” home builders. There are plenty of fish in the pond to catch but few are caught and converted to the modular way of building new homes.

It is common knowledge that educating this new builder about modular has been lackluster at best but this article is about the process of bringing that new builder into the fold in the first place. Finding a single new builder and working out a plan to attract them to modular is tough today. By using the following approach, sales reps will have a much better chance of not only landing the builder but keeping him around and buying modular homes for a long time.


You are already busy handling your current builder’s wants and needs so how can anyone expect you to prospect for new ones? Actually, it’s easy if you concentrate on just one fish in the pond instead of trying to catch several. One fish caught at a time. You decide how many new fish you can bring in. One a year, two or more. It’s your call. But you do have to start fishing.

Here are five important things to remember when “fishing” for a new builder.

Relationships take time. Resist being disingenuous as it can be a severe put-off. Instead, take the time to get to know your client, learn their pain. Remember that your efforts for this builder is paramount in building a relationship. At the end of the day, no amount of personal connection can substitute for great work.

Fishermen don’t wake up in the morning, put on their gear, head out the cabin door, stand on the front porch looking for fish on the grass and not seeing any, go back inside. No, they prepare for a day of fishing by first heading to the stream. And that is exactly what a sales rep must do.

You have to find the area you feel will give you the best chance of finding a ‘new’ builder, learn all you can about what they are currently doing, understand what keeps them up at night, and cater your interaction and offerings accordingly.

Go the extra mile.
When you have a particular company or person in mind to approach about becoming a modular home builder for your factory you must remember that no two are alike. With the knowledge you’ve gained from visiting their website and reviewing it extensively, from Googling them and also learning what the market is in their area, you should have the start of a good plan to begin the process.

Canned presentations and throwing a bunch of literature at them is not the right way to bring in a builder or someone that wants to become a modular builder. By only working on one new prospective builder at a time, you will have more time to devote to them and go the extra mile to bring them on board. You are their only real link to the world of modular home construction so take your time and do everything you can to help them understand the benefits.

Respond promptly.
When a prospective builder emails you, acknowledge the receipt of the email as quickly as possible, even if you do not have the answer they are looking for. You will give them comfort by simply acknowledging the receipt of their request and by communicating that you’re on it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I often see sales reps worry about having the right answer, and as a result, they forget to acknowledge that they are on the case.

Be more than an email address. Despite its prevalence in business today, email communication can often be misconstrued, especially during stressful situations, if senders and recipients do not know each other well. Use other channels to help shed light on who you are.  Consider a phone call or an in-person meeting to put a face (or voice) to a name. Often the phone gets a bad reputation, but if used for good news, a phone call is a great way to build a better relationship with your ‘new’ builder.

Always summarize next steps. No matter how quick or trivial a meeting seems, always recap the conversation with next steps.  Many sales reps skip this basic step. You think you’ll remember all of the details, and maybe you will, but your prospective builder may not. Aligning on the same page with next steps prevents a lot of confusion down the road.

Time to go fishing.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Modcoach Interviewed for Green Building Advisor's ‘Blueprint Robotics’ Article

A Baltimore company is pioneering the use of industrial robots to build single-family homes

Fast, precise and uncomplaining, industrial robots revolutionized the automotive industry with production lines that rarely needed a break and mechanical employees who never filed an insurance claim. Now, a group of Baltimore-based entrepreneurs is betting the same approach can work wonders for the U.S. housing market.


Operating in a 200,000-square-foot factory in Baltimore, Blueprint Robotics has developed a process for building panelized building components — nearly complete wall, roof, and floor sections — with sophisticated machines that cut parts precisely and take the drudgery and errors, out of assembly. The company promises high quality and low prices and a finished product that will beat what conventional building techniques can produce.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article and my comments.

Teardowns the Answer to New Housing on Long Island

Most new homebuyers in the US face the challenge of finding a vacant lot on which to build their new modular home but what happens when there are absolutely no lots available?

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That’s the problem in Suffolk County, NY on Long Island.

For Cedar Knoll Homes customers, that means finding a home for sale, tearing it down and building a modular home.

Here are 3 examples of how Cedar Knolls transformed an existing home into their customer’s new dream home using Westchester Homes as their factory.

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