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Modular Homes: The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room

Gorilla lying on bed
Modular has now become the way forward for the home construction industry. Gone are the days when a “stick built” home was defined as the best way to build a home.

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Yes, saying that modular homes are the 800 pound gorilla in the room is mixing metaphors. But, I think it is appropriate. The term 800 pound gorilla refers to something so powerful that it would crush would-be competitors. It is mixed with the term “Elephant in the Room” which refers to a controversial issue that is obviously present but avoided as a subject for discussion because it is uncomfortable— it changes the status quo. Modular construction is just that. It is a building technique that is so powerful that it can change the way homes are built across the country. It can solve the labor and quality issues that so many builders are experiencing today. A house is the only thing you buy that isn’t built in a factory. In the past, because of confusion and misinformation, it has been uncomfortable for many to discuss the possibility that modular construction could become the primary way we build homes in the U.S. That has all changed. Modular is now being viewed as the only way forward if we are going to solve the housing crisis in America! 

WHAT IS MODULAR CONSTRUCTION? 

First, the term modular home is a misnomer. Modular is a type of construction, not a type of home. However, because everyone has adopted the term modular home it is the simplest way to describe a home that was built using modular construction. Using modular construction to build a home is just a way to divide a house plan into modules, build it off-site in the controlled environment of a factory (just like everything else that you buy: a car, a phone, a TV, etc.) and then delivering it to a home site for installation. A home built using modular construction now leads the residential construction industry in creativity, energy efficiency, design, and value while providing some of the healthiest living spaces. 

It does this by turning home construction into an efficient manufacturing process versus the current inefficient process of construction in the field. It gains even larger efficiencies because construction is happening at two locations simultaneously. Onsite construction still has to take place. Driveways, utilities, and foundations have to be built… onsite. But, modular moves most of the rest of a home’s construction indoors and constructs it at the exact same time the site work is happening. In traditional construction, these processes have to happen sequentially. You can’t start building a floor if there is no foundation to place it on. Modular minimizes total time to completion by maximizing off-site construction of the home. 

MODULAR MISINFORMATION 

One of the biggest impediments in the past has been the misconception or misunderstanding of what modular construction is. This is primarily driven because of modular constructions affordable housing cousin, the mobile home (manufactured home). Everything starts with an “M” and sounds the same. While modular and manufactured homes both take advantage of the efficiencies of factory construction, they do it for very different purposes. Manufactured homes are targeted to affordability. They are built to a building code that is very different from the building code that both modular homes and homes constructed onsite are required to follow. 

Modular homes are built to the local building code for all homes. The only difference really is that they are built off-site and delivered to the site. A modular home factory has taken the construction process and turned it into a manufacturing process. This means you get the quality of something that was built in the controlled environment of the factory versus the inconsistencies of something that was built outside and subject to the weather. 

MODULAR MEANS  

More Design Choices – With advancements in modular construction you can build virtually any home plan that can be efficiently divided into modules. They can then be built using indoor off-site construction and assembled onsite.  

More Energy Efficient – Because modular construction concentrates the manufacturing of many homes in one location it means that processes can be applied consistently. Tight, indoor construction processes mean healthier living for you and your family. Modular construction is a building system. By using a consistent system to build your home, details that are often overlooked in traditional construction are managed and done properly in a factory environment. Building a home to a high-performance standard is almost a by-product of building indoors. 

More Resilient – The term resiliency refers to a home’s ability to withstand and recover from natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding. Resiliency also can extend to events like severe winter storms. Modular homes are built strong. The basis for modular construction is to build a home that meets or exceeds building code. However, the modules that make up a modular building are built off-site and transported to that site. The effort of getting them from a factory to the building site is about the equivalent of surviving a hurricane and an earthquake before a module ever reaches a job site. 

More Value – The process of modular construction is the equivalent of construction efficiency. Efficiency means planning the entire construction process. The process builds efficiency in many ways: better use of material, buying in materials in bulk, and better construction planning. 

MODULAR JUST MEANS MORE 

We are seeing it today. Home buyers and home builders are doing their research. Home builders are frustrated with finding skilled labor to build a quality home. Let’s face it, they just aren’t able to find it. Add to that the focus of production builders to save every penny on the construction of every home and it adds up to disappointment for most home buyers. Quality issues appear in the products themselves and the installation of those products in homes today. 

Modular has now become the way forward for the home construction industry. Gone are the days when a “stick-built” home was defined as the best way to build a home. Today it is becoming seen for what it really is, the putting together of miscellaneous materials outdoors in the weather, by a group of laborers that may have just been hired with no training because it just had to get done on schedule. Modular construction takes home and produces it with the same processes that every other item you purchase uses, which means assembled in a manufacturing facility. It’s time to learn why modular just means more!

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