Friday, April 3, 2020

10 Things Every Modular Home Builder Should Do During the COVID-19 Crisis

Economists across the country are making some wild predictions about what the US economy will look like following the COVID-19 lock down. Their forecasts for construction, medical, infrastructure and heavy industries look robust.


But the same can’t be said for small businesses like restaurants, specialty shops and even small new home builders.

However there are some things modular new home builders can do right now to make sure you not only survive during this crisis but come out on the other end with a healthy business.

Here is my list of 10 things you should be doing right now:

Don’t listen to the doomsayers. Life will go on with or without you. Most modular home factories will weather this storm and new home buyers will re-emerge from their “shelter in place” holes like prairie dogs doing the ‘wave’.

Readjust your Business Plan. Even if you don’t have one written down it has to be on your mind. Take a few minutes and write out what your thinking is important right now, in the next 6 weeks and then for the next 52 weeks. If you already have a Business Plan, take it out of your desk drawer, blow the dust off it and readjust it for this pandemic.

Stay in touch with your modular home factory several times a week. Contact a couple different people there and don’t ask them “are you open?”. If they were, you would’ve heard from them already. Be upbeat and smile when you talk to them. Ask them things they can actually answer like questions about their supply chain, what they anticipate their turnaround time for quotes and drawings will be after the crisis, etc. DO NOT be a pain in their ass. They are having their own unique set of problems.

Stay in touch with your vendors, subcontractors and employees. All of them share your pain but reaching out and letting them know you are still ready to use them is always reassuring to hear.

Pay your bills. If you have cash reserves, use it to stay current with the people and businesses. If you don’t have enough to pay them and keep the doors open, call them and go over your situation. Be honest with them. Don’t put off looking into an SBA loan which could be the difference between you surviving this crisis and watching the recovery from the sidelines.

Talk to your customers. This is so fundamental I shouldn’t even have to mention it. There are four types of customers. The buyers that moved into their new home within the past year, those with a house ready to be set, the ones with deposits at the factory just waiting for their home to be built and lastly, the buyer that gave you a deposit for their new home but have not been given a production slot yet. They are your most important source of marketing right now. Keep them informed, answer their questions and listen to their rants without getting angry and they will shout your praises when this is over.

Keep in touch with your prospects. Let them know they are important to you by sending them email updates about the positive things you are seeing concerning new home building. Good interest rates, the speed of building a modular home with you and anything else that lets them know you are on top of things.

Use social media. Put on your smiley face and do a series of small one minute videos about what you are doing during this crisis. If you are one of the builders that doesn’t currently have a house to build, show off your desk with plans and a couple of building material samples and simply say that even though you must shelter in place doesn’t stop the work. If you’re lucky enough to be at a jobsite, take a quick one minute tour of what is happening.


Catch up on your reading. Don’t sit at your desk playing video games, taking the dog for a walk 10 times a day or learn how to make your own bread or watch YouTube. No, simply read what the NAHB, MBI, BSC, MHBA and others in new home construction are putting out there about our industry’s response to the COVID-19. Right now I’m reading “Jim Clayton, First a Dream.” Powerful book.

Don’t neglect your family. Everyone in your household can tell when you have a problem, even the dog. No matter how hard it gets for your business, you must maintain an open relationship with both those living in the house and family across the US and even the world. We’re all in this crisis together and you thinking that everything is going to crap is not healthy mentally for you or your family.

Please stay safe and follow the guidelines set forth by the Federal and State Governments and we will all come through this crisis, some better than others but we will emerge from this stronger and united.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker/consultant.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Successful East Coast Modular Factory Available for Immediate Sale

Attention: Modular developers, medical,
commercial and residential builders

Bill Murray here! I am assisting the current (and founding) owners in liquidating their business. My assistance in this effort is a result of my complete and unwavering conviction that the business is a sound one (not a distress sale) based on a pride of ownership that transcends over five decades.


The current nationwide health epidemic further enhances the viability of this modular manufacturing facility. Modular manufacturing in general is poised to make a viable meaningful contribution to the ongoing efforts in combating the extreme need for supplemental care units throughout the U.S. This manufacturing facility can be a contributor to this effort with (in my opinion as an industry veteran) relatively minimal effort on the part of new ownership. This new production, coupled with the efforts of those producers in the Modular Mobilization Coalition would represent a multitude of win-win scenarios.

The plant is currently producing single family custom homes in a 45,000 square foot facility. Albeit at a reduced production rate currently (by design) the facility has in the past produced over 300 homes per year. The building, all equipment and the business in general has been very well maintained---reflecting the pride the family owners have steadfastly exhibited over the past 50+ years. Additional real estate is available which would permit expansion for increased production.


Unlike many manufacturing facilities that I have witnessed over the years, this company has excellent systems in place for costing, inventory relief and control as well as engineering and design. In essence it is ready for expansion with current ownership and management willing to remain in place for a period of time to facilitate an effective transition.

Located in close proximity to major east coast markets and some of the largest hospitals and growth areas in Eastern US further enhances the viability of the offering.

Again as a 40+ year industry veteran I am convinced this represents an almost immediate opportunity for an existing manufacturer to expand quickly while offering the potential to meet the needs of the current crisis for health care units. Additionally, it provides a well structured opportunity for individuals entering the modular manufacturing arena while minimizing risk. Debt service costs will never be lower!

Contact Bill Murray at 252-432-5896 or wamurray3rd@gmail.com for more information about this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Quick Question About Your Company’s Status During this COVID-19 Crisis

Many people in the modular construction industry have asked me what other companies are experiencing since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.


Please take a few minutes to answer a couple of questions about your business.

Modular Home Factories

ARE YOU OPEN?

Yes, with little or no interruption to business Yes, with moderate interruption to business Yes, with staff services only (engineering, accounting, sales) No, Closed until allowed to return to work

TRANSPORTATION?

Yes, deliveries as normal Yes, deliveries limited to states that allow deliveries No, no deliveries until factory reopens

SET CREWS

Yes, available to help anywhere needed Yes, available to travel within normal market Yes, limited travel only with no overnights No, closed until crisis is over

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Express Modular Announces Rebrand to Impresa Modular

The new brand reinforces the company's investment in innovation and serves as an opportunity to remain unique in the marketplace.


Express Modular, a disruptive, technology-driven, custom modular home provider, is changing its name to better reflect its identity driven by rapid expansion. The company, established in 2008, is changing its name to Impresa Modular to better elevate the company's long-term vision of providing a range of high-quality, on-demand, reliable services to home buyers, builders and developers, as well as opportunities for franchising.

Modern modular construction is emerging as the preferred solution for custom home buyers. In this age of automation, modular construction offers healthy, safe, and energy-efficient homes at a great value. Flexible design options and the ability to construct a home 30-50% faster in virtually any style are hallmarks of today's modular home.


The new name follows strategic and explosive growth. Already well-established as a market leader and gaining momentum after the recent launch of Impresa Modular Franchising, the company is now focused on expanding its infrastructure to provide tighter relationships with factory sales and design systems. The new name better positions the company and provides greater flexibility for future expansion, evolution and adoption of added service lines.

"Our new name is a reflection of our leadership in the modular construction industry and our ability to reimagine how homes are built," said Ken Semler, Founder and President of Impresa Modular. "We are more than Express Modular - it's not just about building custom homes quickly. We build homes that impress. We have changed the perception of what modular homes can be across the country."

The company will continue to leverage its unique internal systems and ubiquitous internet presence to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Under the new name, the business will invest in expanded internet features and gain additional service partners to deliver a unique Internet-based home buying and delivery experience.
"We want to continue harnessing the constant cycle of innovation, which requires us to explore and investigate new technology, and this applies to just about everything we do," said Semler. "We have witnessed the competitive advantage of embracing and implementing new technology first-hand. This next step opens even more doors and creates new opportunities for our customers."

About Impresa Modular
Impresa Modular is the only nationwide modular home builder in the country. Using its extensive network of more than 20 factory partners, Impresa Modular designs and builds custom modular homes for homebuyers, builders, and developers across the country. It franchises its brand through Impresa Modular Franchising, http://www.impresamodularfranchising.com. Impresa Modular will expand its growing presence in the industry. For additional information contact Jim Griffin at 800-275-7532, 236875@email4pr.com or visit our website: http://www.ImpresaModular.com

Best GEN Gearing Up to Manufacture 5,000 Medical Modules

Branden Bestgen’s personal perspective on the coronavirus pandemic did a complete about face in a matter of days.


And so did the direction of his Rapid City-based construction firm, Best GEN Modular.

Virtually overnight, Best GEN is shifting from building hotel rooms, college dorms and other modular spaces to helping fill a growing need in America for temporary emergency isolation hospital rooms.

Bestgen, raised in Sturgis and formerly the city’s assistant police chief, said he initially dismissed reactions to the coronavirus as little more than fear-mongering.

That perspective changed drastically two weeks ago when he visited his stepson, a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The day Bestgen was to fly home, the academy cancelled classes and ordered cadets to leave because of the coronavirus.

Then with the death toll mounting in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out a plea for up to 140,000 critical-care isolation rooms and beds to handle the crush of patients.

Hearing Cuomo’s exasperation completed Bestgen’s transformation from ambivalence to action.

“I started realizing that this virus is one of the worst things our country has ever faced,” he said. “My perspective quickly shifted from fear to reality.”

On March 18, a Wednesday, Bestgen told his design team to come up with a plan to build hospital rooms.

He wanted it in place by the following Monday to manufacture 5,000 hospital rooms in 45 days.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Rapid City Journal article

Monday, March 30, 2020

A COVID-19 Update From the Modular Home Builders Association

A Look Ahead: Guidance for Essential Workers

As we plan for our third week of working from home, the team here at MHBA wanted to share a few notes about what the upcoming week has in store.


Last week, we notified you that Pennsylvania factories can remain open as essential services. However, given that many had already closed, it may take several weeks before many are functional. Two days ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued its own guidance on “ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKFORCE.” The guidance includes “workers performing housing construction related activities to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the nation’s existing housing supply shortage.” The guidance also notes that “This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard.” While this guidance helps clarify essential worker status, again it will take some time to bring our modular factories back online.

We are taking advantage of more people being home, and likely online, by running several Facebook posts that highlight the advantages of modular homes over site-built homes. One post reached over 95,000 people with 2,500 visiting our website to read the full story. As a result, our overall website traffic is up 159% during the past two weeks versus the prior-year period.

But we need your help! We need more content from you. Send us your floor plans and consider submitting a project for our Home of the Month contest. The link to submit can be found on the home page under the Home of the Month tab. Our goal is to further educate visitors to our site, then steer them to you through the online directory, request a quote feature, or the links to your website from our member listing and floor plan pages.

Not to be lost with all the talk of Covid-19 is the fact that the deadline for submitting comments to HUD for their proposed changes is March 31st. MHBA plans to submit comments expressing our concerns that HUD code manufacturers will have a nation-wide, blanket exemption for two story homes and attachments that previously required additional underwriting. We also formally requested that HUD delay the deadline for sixty days because of the COVID crisis. As of today, we have not heard back on the request to delay and will be prepared to submit comments by the deadline.

We also reached out to Fannie Mae, who is in the process of finalizing their lenders guide for modular projects. We requested that additional language be included in their guide to clarify that a HUD code home built under a certain (and confusing) trademark name is not in fact a modular home. The MHBA board considered the possibility of filing a claim with the Federal Trade Commission to fight the use of that misleading HUD product name. But ultimately the board felt the legal fees required to fight that battle (approximately $25,000) would be better utilized on a positive marketing effort to promote the advantages of modular homes over site-built homes.

No doubt, COVID news will continue to dominate the airwaves. It seems from the passage of the new CARES Act, that the government response will be more of a decentralized approach to addressing the crisis, with a majority of funding pushed to the state level, instead of a top down approach. We are assessing those construction and funding opportunities and reaching out directly to state officials to encourage a modular solution when possible.

If your company has an inspiring story about helping during this crisis, please share that with us so we can promote your good works. Also feel free to reach out to anyone on our team with questions, comments, or suggestions. While we are working remotely, email is the best way to reach us.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Modular Construction’s Post COVID-19 Reality

There are all sorts of races to be run. Horse, sprint, political and endurance. The COVID-19 is an endurance race that will see many builders, large and small, modular and site stumble and fall before it’s over.


As the coronavirus disease advances across the United States, all aspects of the modular new home builder’s supply chain will be impacted.

Over the decades OSHA has implemented many safety rules to protect construction workers both in the modular home factory and at the job site. Overregulation of modular construction already adds almost 25% to the cost of building a new modular home and post COVID-19 will surely see even more regulations being brought forth including the use of personal protective equipment, gloves, and increased hygiene.

Workplaces will be regulated to enforce social distancing in case another virus comes along. Sales offices may be added to the local health department’s places to inspect for cleanliness. New home buyers may want to see a Health Department certificate of approval before sitting down to speak with a new home builder.

Residential modular factories may fall under social distancing rules where certain stations on the production line will be limited to the number of workers allowed.

Supply chains will be interrupted, especially those from China, as American new home buyers will demand more building materials and fixtures be made in the USA. Tariffs will be raised on many imported products to encourage it.

A recent Associated General Contractors of America survey of over 900 industry people found 28% of respondents being asked by an owner or government agency to stop current work; 11% were asked by an owner or government agency to stop future work; and 22% received a notice from suppliers that deliveries will be late or cancelled.

Coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions and market uncertainty have led to plummeting real estate transactions in the U.S., with industry experts predicting a shutdown in activity by up to 90 percent. Hopefully this will change quickly as shelter-in-place orders are lifted but by that time many small modular new home builders will find they’ve stumbled hard during the endurance race.

Industry experts say it could take up to six months, maybe longer, before real estate transaction volumes return to normal levels. New home buyers could take even longer.

The time to sit back and hope this passes swiftly is over. Employees and customers have been impacted by many small builder’s non-action. That non-action isn’t really their fault as leadership from within the construction industry itself has been slow to respond and not because of anyone’s fault. It’s simply nobody has ever seen a crisis hit the US as fast and as hard as this one. There’s nothing older than yesterday’s predictions.

In just the past 30 days we’ve seen the President, Congress, State Governors and local government officials impose restrictions from closing schools, restaurants to modular home factories. The supply chain feeding small new home builders has been cut.

Many builders work on a draw to draw basis and stopping that flow of cash, even for a short period, probably has them worried if they will survive this crisis. Those who survived the 2008 housing crash didn’t have many houses to build anyway and winding down from that, though very costly, will pale in comparison to what will happen this time.

Instead of having nobody walking into their offices and buying homes like 2008, this crisis caught the modular home builder with contracts signed, homes in production and homes in the factory’s yard waiting to be shipped. State regulations halted almost all of that including the transporting of the modules to the job site.


Once the crisis begins to subside, set crews and crane companies will have builders competing for their services, not only with other small builders but also with the commercial modular factories and developers who will see unprecedented increases in volume.

Working remotely isn’t an option in the construction business. Yes, the modular factory builds the home off-site but the actual home is still built by hand on a production line requiring on-site workers.

The trucks delivering the modules, the set crew, the crane operators and the builder all have to be hands-on in the process. These workers have always expected safe working conditions but now many of them are worried about working with others in close proximity.


Social distancing isn’t just a catchy phrase that will pass as soon as the major part of the crisis ends. It has already been driven into our heads that one of the best ways to stay healthy is to keep your distance from others. Many modular factories employees that are currently able to work from home may find that management likes this arrangement. Using Zoom will increase for interoffice meetings, interactions between builders and factory people and builders and their customers.

Imagine if a question comes up on the production line for someone in the factory’s engineering department after this crisis. Instead of walking to the office and going over the problem which may require the person to leave their office and go to the production floor; the production worker simply Zooms the person while showing him the problem on their company’s tablet.

Another scenario involves the builder’s customers. What happens if your prospective new buyer doesn’t want to come to your office which could become a very legitimate problem? Have you thought about how you will handle that situation?

Have you looked into using Zoom and DocSign in place of face to face in your office?

And let’s not forget your website. Does it need to show your prospective new home buyer that you offer alternative ways to meet? Are you using a CRM program? This world is changing, not only for modular construction, but for every single type of business you can think of.

Let me hear how you are preparing your business for the post COVID-19 world.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker/consultant.
  

Modular Mobilization Coalition for the COVID-19 Crisis Response

Volumetric Building Companies (VBC) is mobilizing a coalition of industry partners with access to dozens of factories nationwide to execute its 10X Mobilization Plan to face today's crisis head-on, addressing the shortage of healthcare facilities by standardizing designated Supplemental Care Unit (SCU). 
SCU's are wood-frame modular units containing six patient beds and two bathrooms. 



Daisy-chaining these factories together with a single point of contact, the Modular Mobilization Coalition is enabled to expedite the build process by 2X and increase collective output by 10X, resulting in units arriving at hot spots within a month. The Modular Mobilization Coalition is also working with Modular Building Institute (MBI), the modular industry association, to reach its membership of 100+ factories around the country as needed.

"The Modular Mobilization Coalition is ready, willing and able to stand up today and support the nation's front-line workers battling this crisis," said Vaughan Buckley, President of Volumetric Building Companies.

SCUs are intelligently designed dual-purpose shelters addressing the immediate needs for triage, quarantine, patient recovery, and care staff resting quarters. They can also move quickly from city to city, as the virus peaks and wanes. When the pandemic subsides, the SCUs will be repurposed as permanent supportive housing for the homeless, at-risk seniors, veterans, those with disabilities or our most vulnerable.

"Our industry is the most capable to support front-line hospital bed shortages with off-site construction and that we can do it in a cohesive, safe, coordinated and efficient way is incredible," said Colby Swanson, Managing Partner of Momentum Innovation Group. "The reality that once the crisis is over, we can re-purpose this into housing for the nation's most vulnerable citizens is really special. This is our chance to make a meaningful impact on the affordable housing crisis while simultaneously considering what's right for the country and for the taxpayer."

SCUs are not meant for critical patients but do allow 80% of non-critical patients to be cared for by healthcare professionals off-site, freeing up limited and crucial hospital space. Talented architects and designers worked tirelessly to assure the modules comply with the International Building Code, FGI's National Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities, and the USACE requirements for Alternative Care Sites.

The established industry of volumetric modular construction consists of hundreds of factories nationally, with partners in the MMC coalition growing daily. The MMC is poised to immediately focus its entire resources to address the U.S. health care crisis. The current coalition of factories spans the nation from California, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, allowing for immediate local and regional response. With thousands of employees primarily in rural environments, the effects of COVID–19 are minimal, providing a stable workforce for continuous production. 

"In a time where companies are trying to protect themselves," said Rick Holliday, CEO and co-founder at Factory OS, "it's been an incredible collaboration. Companies aligning for what's right resulting in a powerful coalition. I'm excited to be a part of it."

To ensure the success of this initiative, VBC is coordinating and/or partnering with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), the National Association of Home Builders – Building Systems Council (NAHB), Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA).

"We're excited to work with VBC and help leverage industry capacity to build solutions that address this crisis," said Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the Modular Building Institute. "Vaughan and his team have put in tremendous time, energy, and resources to pull this together." Tom also stressed the amazing work going into this by the entire industry. "In seven years leading this industry association, I have never seen this level of collaboration among architects, engineers, suppliers, and manufacturers, who considered each other competitors prior to this."

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Modular Industry's COVID -19 Response

An UPDATE from the Modular Home Builders Association on what what they are doing to keep their members informed during this crisis.


There’s a lot of ground to cover as things are moving fast. But that’s ok because this industry is built for speed!


For starters, we have beefed up the industry response page with additional resources including sample floorplans for temporary and permanent needs. We have also added other resources including how to do business with the United States Corps of Engineers (USACE). That may be important since we’ve had a good deal of communication with the Corps today.

Of immediate need, the Corps requested to know what we have now (off the shelf) to address their immediate needs. This was definitely a “what do you have” rather than a “what can you build” request. Their immediate ask for several 10 x 34 ICU units (two beds and a nurse station). We explained that it was highly unlikely that anyone has several units like this in stock now but could build these units quickly. Another option was to modify workforce housing units as a quick but temporary solution. We discussed more common size configurations for modular offices, housing units and containers. They are in the information gathering mode but appreciated our assistance and feedback. They were also happy to hear that the industry is ready and capable of building 2,000+ beds per week once we get a standard set of plans and ramp up.

We furthered our outreach with officials at FEMA and continue to exchange information with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) about modular solutions.

We dropped another press release tonight to update the general public about our efforts and to garner additional support.

Oh, and the Senate unanimously approved a $2.2 trillion relief package last night. There are billions of dollars available for construction activities scattered among several state and federal agencies. Let’s hope the House passes the bill quickly. We will post the details of that bill tomorrow.

We know that this is the modular industry’s opportunity to step up and shine, but please continue to remember the victims of this virus and the large number of “essential workers” who are currently sustaining us. And if your company is doing relatively well these days, remember the local charities in your community that may be struggling and in need of extra support

Please consider joining the MHBA today to work together for a good outcome for modular construction in post COVID-19.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Coronavirus Prompts Rising Worker Anxiety

Across the country, construction crews are wrestling with what it means to be essential during a public health crisis. Many states in shutdown mode have carved out building as a key business, one that’s necessary to keep the economy moving, to provide Americans with shelter and to ensure that structures including hospitals can be maintained and expanded.


New York and Illinois, for example, deemed construction essential. Pennsylvania shut it down, with some exceptions. In many states, construction companies are trying to figure out where their projects stand while parsing broad stay-home orders and lists of critical businesses.

An argument can be made under the order that anything is either essential or is an exemption.

Major contractors in the region said they’ve implemented measures to keep workers safe. Some owners and developers have quietly halted construction and sent workers home. Others are struggling with staffing, as workers call off sick or walk off sites.

Several contractors said they’re having a particularly difficult time finding and keeping workers who handle interior jobs, like drywall or electrical work.