Friday, December 19, 2014

Be a Hero When Designing a Modular Home for Boomers

Most members of the Baby Boom Generation that are looking to build a new home want special options in their new home and you are happy to grant their requests. What most of the Boomers don’t want to think about is what happens 5, 10 or more years after the house is completed.

I’m a Boomer and let me tell you from first hand experience that things don’t work as well today as they did just 5 years ago. Who knows what the future will bring but one for sure is that something unexpected will happen to change their lives.

As a modular home builder your customer may not want to hear your suggestions about options they should consider but you will be a Hero when the time comes when it is needed.

Here are six things that Boomers will appreciate as they age in place in their new home:

Open Floorplans
Take another look at the floor plan and have them consider removing walls between the living and dining rooms, kitchen, family room, and/or entry halls which will make their house feel bigger and more comfortable—and makes the space easier to negotiate in old age.

Curb-Free Showers
Visit any high-end resort or flip through a glossy design magazine and you’ll notice that every shower has glass doors that go all the way to the floor, with no lip to step over. Aside from being a sleek and sophisticated look, this eliminates a major tripping hazard.

Multiple Height Counters
When you help them plan their new kitchen, include some counters at standard height (36 inches), some at breakfast bar height (42 inches), and some at table height (30 inches) with knee space for sitting. Having a range of counters will give them more options for prepping or cooking while standing or seated, all without requiring that they bend over.

Wide Doorways
Here is another thing to check on their floor plan. Make sure the doorways are wide. A lot of Boomers are obese and some of the new wheelchairs will not easily fit through even a 36” opening. Also, don’t forget to look for doorways that are hard to get to and open, door swings and hinging and consider 8’ wide sliding Patio doors instead of 6’.  This makes also makes their home feel more spacious, and will allow for wheelchair access should you ever need it later.

Lever-Style Doorknobs
Just as lever-style faucets have become the norm for kitchens and showers because they’re attractive and easy to operate, lever doorknobs are more ergonomic than standard round versions. They’re easier to grab and manipulate if they’re carrying a load of groceries or laundry—or if they’re aging in place.

High Outlets
When modular factories are left to their own devices, most of their electricians will install new outlets at 12 to 18 inches off the floor. But that requires bending over every time the Boomer needs to plug in the vacuum. Ask for outlets 24 inches high instead, and you’ll make their house easier to use now and when they get older.

December's Builder Breakfast Passes PFS Inspection

Every month I ask myself if this month's Builder Breakfast will be one of my best yet and this month I knew after just 10 minutes that asking Rick Wenner, VP of PFS the national third party inspector for the modular industry, to speak was one of my best decisions yet.

Rick Wenner, VP of PFS (third from the left)
Rick began by showing us what PFS does that most of us have never known they do. Not only do they do Third Party inspections in modular home factories ensuring that the homes being delivered to modular home builders are compliant with all National and State building codes but they also do specific testing, evaluation and certifications for:

  • Engineered Wood
  • Industrialized Construction
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)
  • Fire Testing
  • Adhesives and Sealants
  • Wood and Composite Panels
  • Treated Wood
  • Wood Foundations

Their employees include Architects, Engineers, fire specialists, wood scientists and lots of laboratory technicians. PFS also does consulting, forensic investigations, holds seminars and sends out a newsletter.

Rick fielded a lot of tough questions from everyone and in the end we all walked away with a better understanding of how PFS is one of the biggest allies we as builders and manufacturers could possibly have. He also cleared up a lot of misconceptions many of have had about the third party inspection process.

I have one big suggestion for PFS. Make sure that every factory sales person knows exactly what you do and more importantly, don't do, when it comes to third party inspections. The sales reps must include this important information when talking to prospective new home builders that are thinking of switching to modular. It could be the deciding factor for the builder to switch to modular construction.

Rick, Thank You for sharing what PFS does for all of us and I really want you to came back again in 2015 and address even more of the modular housing people about what your company does.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Simplex Modular Homes and the Revitalization of Ithaca, NY

Over in Ithaca, NY’s Belle Sherman neighborhood, work continues on its namesake housing development, the 29-unit Belle Sherman Cottages.

For comparison’s sake, in December 2013, there were five complete houses and two more underway, and the model house was built all the way back in May 2012.

Now the total number of homes built or being built is 14. The project had a great sales year and it shows. Speaking of sales, all houses except lot 9, a new design yet to be published, have been sold. All 5 units that comprise the first set of townhouses have sold as well. Marketing has not begun for the 5 units in the second set of townhouses, lots 20-24.

One of the unique features of this project is that unlike traditional on-site frame construction, these houses are assembled from modular units.

The modular homes are built by Simplex Homes in Scranton, PA and trucked up to Ithaca for installation. Once the concrete block foundation has been assembled, the four modular pieces for each home are craned into place, and once the pieces are leveled with the rest of the structure, the adjoining walls and ceiling are secured with steel plates.

Interior work goes on while siding, porches and other features are built onto the assembled house. This allows for a faster construction process and cuts down on finishing costs.

Join Us in January for the Most Special Builder Breakfast Ever

Over the past two years I have had some of the most interesting people in the modular housing industry join us and speak at one of my monthly Builder Breakfasts. The builders and factory people that attend always learn something new about our wonderful industry.

This month I am proud to have Kylie Kuhns join us along with Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the MHBA.

Kylie is the reason that the January Builder Breakfast is the most special one I've ever planned. Her father, Lynn Kuhns, is the owner and President of Apex Homes in Middleburg, PA. When Kylie's sister Kelsey passed away after a battle with Leukemia, she founded Kelsey's Dream, a foundation to help other children fighting cancer.

Before I tell you about Kylie's work with her foundation, I would like as many modular housing people that can to join us for the January Builder Breakfast on the 14th in Fredrick, MD.

As an incentive to join us, I am paying for everyone's Breakfast in exchange for you making a pledge to Kylie's foundation. I would like to challenge every person involved in our industry to help show Kylie what a great industry her father is part of and what we do to help others.

Reservations for the Breakfast are limited to the first 25 people to contact me at modcoach@gmail.com. Free Breakfast, help a world class young lady with her cause and learn what Tom Hardiman says is going to happen in the modular housing industry in 2015. It will be a special Breakfast.

If you can't make it to the Breakfast, go to the Kelsey's Dream website and make a donation to this great cause by one of modular housing's family members.

Here is Kylie's story:

Kylie Kuhns founded an organization called Kelsey’s Dream to support children and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Her sister, Kelsey Kuhns was diagnosed with Leukemia at four years old. Kelsey’s family has always been incredibly involved in her fight. They showed tremendous support and love during an incredibly difficult time. 

Kelsey Kuhns
As a stem cell donor for her sister Kelsey, Kylie has always done everything she could to help her fight. Kelsey’s Dream was founded in 2007. After seeing what an impact this diagnosis had on their own family, the Kuhns’ founded an organization to support other families struggling with the same thing. Kelsey always encouraged everyone to keep fighting because failure was not an option. Kelsey passed away on November 1, 2005.

Kylie Kuhns with Hopper
Kylie followed her sister’s dream by creating an organization that would encourage others to continue fighting. In the name of her sister Kelsey, Kylie has been able to give other children the dream of her sister. Don’t give up, stay positive, and always keep fighting.

One of the most incredible projects of Kelsey’s Dream has been the development and distribution of Hopper the Cancer Crusher. This plush therapy toy was designed by teenage founder, Kylie Kuhns. Hopper wears hospital pajamas and a bandanna on his head. Hopper comes with a mediport similar to what these children receive during chemotherapy. He is a tool that allows the medical staff to explain the procedures and medical equipment that could otherwise be frightening and unfamiliar to the children. As a frog, Hopper allows an element of fun and comfort to join them in their journey. Hopper the Cancer Crusher has been delivered to over 8,000 children free of charge. Hospitals in 32 states are participating in this program. It only takes $500 to “Adopt a Hospital” and add them to this rapidly growing list. With every Hopper we are able to place, children, families, and medical staff members are encouraged to keep fighting. It is our dream to see Hopper placed in the arms of every child diagnosed with cancer.

Kylie has embodied the word hero to children across the nation. She has tirelessly pursued this dream with her family, community, and individually. She has accomplished incredible things personally including earning varsity letters in three sports; soccer, basketball and softball. She is Vice President of the National Honor Society and has been on honor roll freshman through senior years. Kylie has recently been named Young American. She has appeared on the Rachael Ray show and in USA Today and Fortune Magazine. Kylie will always keep fighting to encourage children in any way she can. Kelsey’s Dream is composed entirely of volunteers. Eighty percent of the 500 volunteers are youth. Through Kylie, Kelsey’s Dream can only grow bigger and spread more hope. To learn more about Kelsey’s Dream, visit www.KelseysDream.org or follow them on facebook or twitter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

InnovativeBuilding Systems Finalizes Acquisition of Handcrafted Homes

Premier Custom Modular Manufacturer in the U.S. Broadens its Market Reach

Innovative Building Systems LLC (“IBS”), the leading custom modular home producer in the United States, and CoveView Capital Partners, LLC (“CoveView’), a private investment firm focused on middle market companies, have announced today that they have completed the previously announced transaction wherein IBS has acquired HandCrafted Holdings and its subsidiaries (“HandCrafted Homes”), and in exchange CoveView has received a minority ownership interest in IBS.

With the addition of Handcrafted Homes to its family of companies, IBS has further advanced its position as the premier manufacturer of quality custom modular homes throughout the United States. The acquisition will broaden the manufacturing support and service level to the customers of both IBS and Handcrafted Homes. IBS plans to maintain the Handcrafted Homes brand name and upgrade the Handcrafted Homes facilities.

"This transaction is very positive news for our customers, employees and business partners,” said Steve Scheinkman, President and CEO of IBS. “Handcrafted Homes has built a great reputation for quality custom building which will allow IBS to better serve its growing business in the Mid- Atlantic and Southern Regions. We are also delighted with our new relationship with CoveView that has grown during the process of completing this transaction and look forward to working with them as we continue to grow our business.

Dan Tredwell, Managing Partner of CoveView commented, “We are very pleased for this opportunity to convert our investment in Handcrafted Homes to a partnership with IBS. The first class IBS management team is building one of the best modular homebuilders in the industry, and we know the great people and customers of Handcrafted Homes will fit in perfectly to continue the IBS success story.”

About Innovative Building Systems
Innovative Building Systems (IBS) is the leading custom modular home producer in the U.S., operating factories in Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Indiana, and Iowa. It markets its single family homes under the brand names Excel Homes, All American Homes, Modukraf Homes, Future Homes Technology and Keiser Homes. It’s multi-family and commercial buildings are constructed at all seven facilities under the brand Innovative Design and Building Services (IDBS).

About HandCrafted Homes
HandCrafted Homes is a recognized leader in custom built modular homes, apartments and commercial buildings in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. The Company distributes its products through independent builders and developers along with Company owned sales centers across North Carolina. The Company also produces custom designed disaster replacement housing for the East Coast, as well as modular buildings for government applications.

About CoveView

CoveView Capital Partners, LLC is a private investment firm focused on acquiring positions in middle market companies. The team has significant experience investing across diverse industrial, manufacturing and asset intensive industries. CoveView focuses on creating value through partnering with management and supplementing investments with enhanced operational, strategic, and financial resources.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Are Glass Modular Homes On the Horizon?

More people should live in glass houses, according to one London startup. The Photon Project, a company led by the founder of an architectural glass manufacturer, is aiming to test the biological impact of natural light on the human body by building a series of all-glass modular homes and testing how a little extra sunshine can improve occupants' health.

The project is based on the research of Oxford University neuroscientist Russell Foster, who studies the way light regulates our circadian rhythms and what the regulation does to our health and productivity. Over the course of four years on an island in Denmark, the Photon Project will study 300 participants' physical reaction to living in an almost all-transparent house for short periods of up to three weeks. The Photon Pods have special architectural glazing designed to keep their glass pods from becoming hothouses, and the company claims that the glass houses are comfortable in most climates without heating or cooling. Research suggests that exposure to natural light has several health benefits. People sleep better, have a decreased risk of prostate cancer, and more.

By the end of the experiment, the Photon Project claims it will reveal how designing for daylight "can have a positive effect on health, well-being, mood and behavior, as well as creating the blueprint for design and architecture to take account of human needs." Commercial versions of the Photon Space will also be available, in case you want to experiment with your own living space.

Of course, not everyone wants to live in a glass box, no matter how wonderfully they sleep when they do. A study of New York buildings found that residents and office workers with those fancy floor-to-ceiling glass windows typically keep their shades drawn, rather than soaking up the sun.

Australia's QuickSmart Homes a Leader in Modular Container Construction

As I was looking for information about Granny Flats I came across a really unique factory. It seems that Quicksmart Homes has been reusing shipping containers for years and what they produce is nothing less than awesome.

Not only do they supply refitted shipping containers for use in the housing industry, they design and build them for hospitals, nursing homes, dormitories and apartment buildings. Because they interlock, they can be built up to 17 stories high with a tight fit.

They also make a line of single module homes called Quick Shacks that come complete and just need to have the utilities hooked up. It may sound like a manufactured home built to HUD specs but this little Quick Shack could probably withstand just about anything you could throw at it.

It makes a great Granny Flat. Because they are shipping containers, you could have one built in Australia and shipped to a port in the US ready for move-in. I looked to see if anyone is doing that right now and couldn't find an importer.

Dormitory Module

They do look like shipping containers from the outside but you would be hard pressed to tell once you go in.

Great company producing a nice product.