Monday, October 15, 2012

Blazer Modular Builds Affordable Housing for Native Americans

"This is affordable housing," said Rey España, a director at the Native American Youth and Family Center, emphasizing the first word as he walked into a unit in the organization's Southeast Portland, OR unfinished apartment building. 

Two days earlier, the site had nothing to show but dirt and three foundations. By the end of the third day, there were nine apartment units, built in and stacked like Lego bricks into three buildings.

Affordable housing in the Northwest has become too expensive on a per-unit basis. And as demand for affordable housing has grown, funding has grown scarcer and new construction isn't keeping up.

Modular construction aims to lower the per-unit cost by making the projects replicable -- reducing design expenses -- while lowering the cost of production and shortening the construction timeline.

A conventional project would take as long as 18 months to complete, from design to occupancy. The new building -- called Kah San Chako Haws, or "East House" in Chinook -- took 13 months, including four months of design and five months of construction. 

Most of the construction took place in a Blazer Industries Inc. warehouse in Aumsville, southeast of Salem. The modules were taken by truck, with finishes and appliances already inside, to the corner of Southeast 97th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard to be lifted into place, piece by piece, by crane. 

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