Sunday, February 19, 2017

Styrofoam Modular Homes About to Hit the Tiny House Market

If the Japanese company Japan Dome House Co. Ltd has a say about the next big thing in the Tiny House market it could prove quite revolutionary.

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These homes are true modular homes. Instead they are interlocking styrofoam panels that can be used for housing, shopping and recreation.

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The most outstanding feature is the low cost which starts at under $30,000. However, the dome house has a long list of other benefits. It is very light – weighing only 80 kg. The 7 inch thick walls provides thermal insulation. The walls are coated with fire retardant making the houses fireproof. Being what it is, the dome house will not rust, rot and is definitely not termite food. It is also earthquake and gale resistant – the latter due to the dome’s low wind resistance profile.

Both the exterior and the interior can be customized. The company also offers “long domes” and dome styles which can be linked together. These domes are very versatile. They can be made into guest houses, meeting rooms, hotel rooms, steam rooms, bars, restaurants, freezer rooms and even karaoke bars!

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Can you imagine what an entire village of these homes could do for affordable housing!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Single Family Housing Shows Solid Start for 2017

The housing starts report released this morning showed starts were down in January compared to December 2016, however starts in December (and November) were revised up sharply.  Starts in January were actually somewhat above consensus at 1,246 million annually adjusted and above the preliminary release for December.

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Note that multi-family is frequently volatile month-to-month, and has seen especially wild swings over the last five months.  Single family starts were solid in January.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MHBA Burgers & Beer in Massachusetts

Join MHBA Executive Director Tom Hardiman at 2:00 on Monday March 6th at the Tip Tap Restaurant in Boston. Tom will discuss the recent changes to the Massachusetts Manufactured Building Program including the new approval process for modular homes.


Also on the agenda will be a conversation about the proposed code changes for the 9th Edition of the Massachusetts Building Code scheduled for public hearing the following day.

There is no fee to attend (other than your burger and beer!) but please RSVP so we can let the restaurant know how many are attending. RSVP to Tom@modularhousing.com

4 Ways to Increase Profits and Reduce Stress

Things are finally getting back to almost normal in your home building business. Sales contracts are being signed and houses built. It hasn’t been easy.

Since things have settled down since the housing recession to business as usual, it’s time to take a look at how to increase your bottom line.

Here are 4 ways to make it even more fun to build homes.


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1. Put up prices by 3% or more.

This creates more profit (per sale). Now if you sell exactly the same number of houses as before, both your turnover and your profits have increased. For example, if your average house contract is $200.000 with a Net Profit of 5% after taxes and all expenses, you only made $10.000. Selling 8 homes a year is $80,000 net income.

Now add 3% to the selling price without increasing your costs and another $6,000 drops to the bottom line. $16,000 per times 10 homes a year is $160,000 net profit. Double what you normally have after all the flying monkeys take their share of your gross profit.

2. Decrease direct costs by 3% or more.

Go to all your suppliers and factories and ask them for a better price… ask “Is that the best you can do?” and say nothing till they come up with a better price. There is a technique used by the asking party in this situation called the pregnant pause.

“The first to speak...loses” It could be the longest 3-5 seconds you’ve ever experienced but I guarantee that the person being asked for a better price will think it is more unnerving than you. Don’t ask for a specific amount or percentage discount as the longer YOU remain silent, the higher the discount or better the terms you will get.

Even if you only get a $2,000 discount combined from everyone ask, that drops another $20,000 in your pocket. Now your are up to $180,000.

3. Sack underperforming suppliers, prospective customers and staff as appropriate.

This gets rid of the suppliers, customers and employees who make the working day more stressful. This will create a better working environment for your team and remove any potential new home buyers who are losing you money.

You really don’t need anyone to consult with you on this one. Every day when you walk into your offices or showroom you know instinctively who pulling the wagon and who is sitting in the back just along for the ride.

Walking onto the job site brings you face to face with workers and subcontractors that aren’t working on your behalf. Shoddy work, poor attitudes, back stabbing and theft on the job site doesn’t have to be par for the course. You wouldn’t allow yourself to do these things so why tolerate it in others, especially since you are paying them and they are robbing from your bottom line profit.

How many builders have sat across from potential buyers and only after a few minutes thought to yourself “I hope they go to another builder”? Your experienced builder gut is screaming “GET OUT!” You’ve had these types before in your career. They push back at every opportunity, argue over something they read on Google, posted crap about you on social media, had selected hearing and tried to hold back the final payment. Do you really need the added stress of another bad customer?

Fire them all! You can do better. And your bottom line will thank you too.

4. Rethink the way you present your homes, your business and yourself.

Start talking to your customers about what they get as a result of buying from you – what’s left after the purchase. Focus on the benefits that they gain from buying a home from you. This will improve your sales performance.

What makes you different from the rest? Why should people buy from you rather than the competition? Be able to articulate the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of your business in a way that is truly effective.

You should be able to do it in ten words or less.

Yes, I said ten words or less. It may take you a lot of trial and error to come up with it. Write down a few and go over them with your business partner and/or your spouse. You should have something nailed down in a couple of hours.

Then practice saying it everyone that asks what you do for a living. Soon all that practice will pay off handsomely.

Four easy ways to increase your bottom line and relieve some of your stress. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it!

3 Hours Could Mean More Profit and Home Sales

Would you like to learn how to put some extra green in your pocket and possibly sell an extra house or two a year. No builder has ever said “I don’t need no education.”


On March 3rd, I will be hosting a Builder Breakfast in Middletown, NY featuring one of the top HERS Raters in the East explaining in detail the tough new energy regulations already in place and those regs coming soon.

This is a training class you must attend if you want to learn how to lower your HERS Index and promote your energy expertise to your prospective new home buyers.

As you know, the HERS Index is the most effective way of identifying an energy efficient home.

But what about your home buyers who aren’t in the know and have absolutely no idea what the HERS Index is, or how it benefits them as homeowners? Well, help is on the way.

First things first: what is the HERS Index?

The Home Energy Rating System Index, better known as the HERS Index, is a scoring system used to measure the energy efficiency of a home.

At the Builder Breakfast you will learn:

  • How does the HERS Index work exactly?
  • Where’s the value in the HERS Index?
  • What do I have to do to get a better HERS Index?
  • How does this get mean more business and profit for me?

Details Please!

On MARCH 8, 2017 in the Middletown, NY Courtyard by Marriott, a Builder Breakfast featuring Rick Terry, well known construction industry HERS Rater, will be holding a training session on how to prepare your new homes to meet the tough new energy codes and regulations.

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Rick Terry, HERS Rater
Here is your chance to get ahead of the changes in energy regulations. Here is your opportunity to sit in on a real training session led by one of the top HERS Raters on the East Coast explaining in detail what you have to do while the house is being set and after in order to reach the new HERS ratings that will be required.

Rick is no stranger to the construction industry having been responsible for training many builders in the fundamentals of construction at Penn College in Williamsport, PA.

He is also doing HERS testing throughout the Northeast for many builders and sees first hand what will be needed to comply with the upcoming energy regulations.

This is not a “Why should you get ready” but rather a real hands on/question answering session to prepare you for the future.

This Builder Breakfast will begin at 8:00 AM with a Meet N Greet Continental Breakfast followed by Rick Terry’s training session at 8:30 to 11:00 AM.

Cost is $59.00 per person.  CLICK HERE to register.

Seating is limited to 3 people per company.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Modular Home Industry Remains Stagnant

Let’s say that a magic fairy princess came along and granted our wishes of fewer regulations, lower freight costs and removed the misconception home buyers have of equating modular with manufactured homes, what impact would it have on our market share?


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The answer is none!

I’ve been sitting in my office this week having this conversation with myself about how one goes about growing modular housing’s market share of new home building. I quickly went past the obvious ones like hire more sales reps, promote the advantages of modular in the media and lowering prices. All those are good things but there is a more fundamental problem here.

We have a finite number of builders and no programs to attract new ones. Many of our factories are older and need upgrades to produce more units. Other factories have closed their doors and been converted into production facilities for other industries.

One way to tell if an industry, any industry, is stagnant is watching big players swallowing up smaller or financially troubled players with no new factories on the drawing boards. That is happening in the residential modular industry right now.

So how do we gain market share without adding builders, more capacity and additional labor? How do we compete with the tract builders that are once again buying huge tracts of land or Clayton that is on a buying spree picking up large regional site builders with land to build tons of modular homes?

How do we attract new site builders to modular? How do we educate local code officials? How do factories educate builders on the latest regulations and procedures?

Feel free to jump in here anytime. There are a lot more things that need attention.

What I believe should happen first is a consensus that there are problems for our industry beyond over-regulation and high transportation costs.

The two organizations that support our industry, the MHBA and NAHB’s BSC, are the logical places to start. The emphasis of both should be to grow stronger by recruiting modular builders, modular factories and those vendors serving our industry. I keep looking at both of their membership lists and quite frankly I am appalled.

Even with all their efforts to recruit new members, most builders and a lot of factories just don’t seem to understand that a few active members can’t carry the ball for all the ones that have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the fairy princess to show up.


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Both of these organizations are ready, willing and very eager to jump into the fray with programs to attract new modular home builders, help factories find the resources to expand and build new factories, produce education programs for builders and factory people and fight for all things modular. The MHBA and the BSC are not two opponents squaring off to see who can be stronger. Instead they are approaching the same goal of a better modular industry with similar platforms and by joining both or even one of them, they will collectively grow stronger.

But none of that can even begin to happen without people joining together and maybe, just maybe, we can say we no longer need you Fairy Princess.

New Fabrication Factory to Build 12,000 Homes in Urban Chicago

When it comes to ambitious, it appears nobody can top what is about to happen in prefab housing when Barcelona Housing Systems, with offices throughout the world, begins building residential and commercial units in Chicago, IL.


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As many as 12,000 “modular” homes — along with a plant to build them — may rise on the 430-acre site of the old U.S. Steel South Works plant on the long-vacant lakefront site roughly between 83rd and 92nd streets and Lake Shore Drive and the lake.


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The plan calls for building as many as 12,000 homes, 17.5 million square feet of commercial space and a marina with slips for 1,500 boats.

Now a joint venture between Barcelona Housing Systems and WELink has emerged as the winning bidder for the massive site.


A project of 12,000 homes located in a new residential area in Chicago along the banks of Lake Michigan has been designed which covers over 30 blocks and is divided into 4 phases of implementation, with around 3,000 homes in each phase.

This approach, allowing the land use to be optimized for infrastructure and improving the quality of life; it will allow residents to enjoy this new 21st Century urban planning concept, with extensive green spaces, sustainable internal mobility, high use of renewable energies, common social areas, digital urban and community processes, urban vegetable gardens, etc.


Though not technically a modular factory, this appears to be the way foreign companies are choosing to enter the US homebuilding market. Blueprint Robotics, located in Baltimore, MD, is following a similar plan.


They will find a city that needs a lot of standardized housing, work with that city’s officials to find blighted or undeveloped areas, build a factory close by and start producing a limited number of designs in an automated fabrication plant. Each panel would be finished, shipped and completed on the site.


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1 Foundations
2 Stairs and balconies
3 Frame (floor / roof base / horizontal)
4 Load (wall) (vertical) (center and perimeter)
5 Services (electrical installations and plumbing for kitchen and bathrooms)
6 Facade (exterior finish) (includes windows, doors, etc.)
7 Roof

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

GrowthPoint Structures Helps CA Homeless Vets

About 300 people turned out Wednesday for the dedication of Potter’s Lane, an Orange County, CA apartment building constructed with recycled shipping containers that will house homeless veterans.

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The 480-square-foot units were assembled from three containers each. The containers were prefabricated in a factory in Elysian Valley and delivered to the site by GrowthPoint Structures, a company that recycles containers primarily for school buildings.

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The $6.3-million project, due to open by mid-February, will be the state’s first multifamily housing made from shipping containers, said Donna Gallup, president and chief executive of American Family Housing, an Orange County homeless services and housing organization.

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Once building officials sign off on the last details, the complex will be home to 15 formerly homeless veterans. The 16th unit will be occupied by a case manager to coordinate services for the tenants.

Eight of the tenants will receive rental subsidies and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The remainder will receive services from the Illumination Foundation, an Orange County nonprofit.

World of Modular the Place to Be in March

The Modular Building Institute, the international non-profit trade association that serves the commercial modular construction industry, has released its initial slate of speakers for the World of Modular trade show and convention, March 17-20, 2017, at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Report and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. For 34 years, the event has provided industry professionals with a place to network, exchange ideas, learn from experts, discuss issues, display new products, and receive recognition.

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The 2017 slate of speakers include industry leaders, highly-respected economists, and academics, who will discuss the latest trends and technology, growth opportunities in the industry, and more.

"This year's slate of speakers cover the latest trends in modular construction and really showcase where we see the industry going in 2017. There is a lot of potential growth and World of Modular is the perfect place to learn about them all," said Tom Hardiman, Executive Director for the Modular Building Institute.

Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., will give an economic forecast for the construction marketplace. Anirban, one of the Mid-Atlantic's most recognizable economists, consults for numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms.

Chris Helder, author of Useful Belief: Because It's Better than Positive Thinking, will be the keynote speaker that motivates attendees to frame their challenges in ways that make them winnable and formulate an action plan for getting to where they want to be. Chris' presentations offer a high-energy and funny look at understanding and influencing human behavior.

Ethan Cowles, senior consultant with FMI Corporation, a leading provider of construction management, investment banking, and research, will provide insight into "Evaluating and Improving Prefabrication Operations." Cowles will help you learn how to look at your prefabrication efforts holistically as well as see what evaluating prefabrication operations should really entail.

Gabrielle Bosché, founder and CEO of The Millennial Solution, will host a two-part workshop on "Managing Your Business: Retaining and Attracting Millennial Employees and Winning Strategies for Marketing to Millennials." Gabrielle will offer solutions to the challenge of a multi-generational workplace.

Ryan Smith, an authoritative voice on modular design and construction, and director of the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center at the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning in Salt Lake City, will discuss "Offsite Architecture: Constructing a Post-Industrial Future." Smith is the author of Offsite Architecture, a groundbreaking text that establishes the current and future state of thinking in this field.

Lad Dawson, CEO of Guerdon Enterprises, LLC, will inspire attendees to "Experience the Future of Hotel Construction." Lad will highlight selected modular hotel projects that have come to fruition since Marriott International began their Modular Initiative in 2015.

Other presentation topics include passive house, multi-family modular housing, repurposed shipping containers, blast resistant modules, and much more.

The attendee list grows everyday and currently includes professionals from all aspects of construction and those interested in using modular construction on future projects. Market representatives include large online retailers, hospitality developers, international fast food chains, government agencies, and more.

World of Modular is an open forum for anyone interested in the modular construction industry. To learn more, or to exhibit or attend, please visit http://www.worldofmodular.org.

Westchester Modular Brings New Housing to Framingham, MA

Loaded onto tractor-trailers, the modules for the new apartment building on Frederick Street in Framingham, MA arrived in the early morning hours and were hoisted by a crane and stacked one on top of the other, taking shape within a mere two days.

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When developer Vaios Theodorakos was ready to build a new apartment building consisting of nine two-bedroom apartments he turned to Westchester Homes.


The new housing is geared toward young couples who prefer living in smaller units with easy access to amenities such as shops and restaurants. Theodorakos said it will contribute to the town's efforts to revitalize the area with transit-oriented development. He plans a total of 33 units in 5 parcels. All modular.

The three-story structure was designed by Westchester Modular Homes of Wingdale, New York. The components for the building were delivered from upstate New York by a fleet of tractor-trailer trucks. Each unit in the building measures about 850 square feet, and houses two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen and dining room area.

Theodorakos said all that remains of the project is to patch sheetrock and seams, put down carpets and flooring and tie the building into the town's utilities. He said the new apartments will rent for about $1,400 per month and are expected to be available within a month.