Another Affordable Housing Solution: Modular HousingSeptember 21, 2006 0 comments Print Article
Modular Housing can reduce housing cost by as much as 15% to 30%. Add this to the design characteristics mentioned in our previous affordable housing articles, and we may have discovered a rock solid solution for quality, affordable housing in the core of the city.
Recently, Councilwoman Elaine Brown met with representatives of the North Florida Builders Association to discuss solutions to creating quality, affordable, work force housing in the core. To make affordable housing work, NEFBA believes the following should happen:
1. There would need to be a neighborhood “buy-in” to a proposed development (ex. Springfield).
2. Some type of funding partnership may be needed to acquire the property.
3. There would need to be a vision plan in place for the areas considered for development.
While this is noble, it would take years to pull off such a plan. In regards to downtown and the immediate neighborhoods, the last thing that needs to be done is more visioning studies. We already have plenty of those collecting dust in the crevices of city hall. Instead, we suggest dusting off the 2000 Downtown Master Plan (it also covers Brooklyn and LaVilla) put together by the Delaney Administration and immediately implement the ideas it suggests by issuing RFPs for the remaining city owned plots of land. Doing this before the “Big Ideas” crew decides to hire another consultant to tell us what the past 20 master plans have already stated, is extremely important.
In an effort to help this cause and expedite the process, we also suggest leaders consider modular construction, rather than site-built, because it allows construction costs to be reduced 15% to 30%, while providing units as strong and well built as on-site construction.
What is modular housing?
Modular homes are factory-built homes, but should not be confused with manufactured (HUD Code) homes. Both are built in a factory and then installed on the site, but modular homes must be designed and built to meet the building codes of the final location where the home will sit. The manufacturer contracts with state-approved, third-party plan review agencies that conduct reviews on behalf of the state. The modular manufacturer also contracts with a third-party inspection agency licensed by the state to perform the in-plat inspection while the home is in production. When the housing section or modules are complete, the third party certifies that the home has been manufactured to conform with the approved plans and with all provisions of the building code.
Manufactured homes (HUD Code) are also built in a factory, but they are built to the HUD building code, established by the federal agency with the same building standards in all states. It is important to note that while these homes are built to a different building standard, it has been determined that they are as safe (or safer in some instances) as site-built or modular housing.
What are the benefits of modular construction?
Generally, the modular builder contracts with a limited number of subcontractors. Since the majority of construction is performed in the factory, the modular builder has limited responsibilities. Most modular builders will subcontract foundation construction. The crane company and the installation crew are usually subcontractors. This eliminates the possibility that your builder will have delays from a no-show contractor.
Since most of the work is performed in the factory, the manufacturer is responsible for all construction of the home. When a problem results from work done in the factory (which is rare), the manufacturer corrects it. Ongoing problems with modular homes are very rare.
As a result of intense regulation and inspection of the home during construction, it is extremely rare that a home leaves the factory with a defect in design or manufacturing. The third party inspection services see to this and assume liability for their plan review and inspection responsibility. Since modular construction is regulated by the state, the state is typically involved in correcting the problem.
The larger quantity of construction material used in the modular home results in enhanced structural stability. The material used is also often of higher quality than what a stick builder uses, and the material is stored indoors until needed.
The modular home is completed in the factory in approximately one-third of the time it takes a stick-built home to be completed. The factory-controlled conditions eliminate the possibility of bad weather delaying completion. A modular home is not subject to delays from back-ordered materials or unreliable sub-contractors.
Today's modular homes look like any other home. Today's building technology has allowed modular manufacturers to build almost any style of house, from a simple ranch to a highly customized contemporary. Modular producers are busy building banks, schools, office buildings, motels, hotels, condominiums, and apartments.
Modular homes offer all of the advantages listed above, plus they generally can be built and installed on a permanent foundation on site, with considerable savings in total cost over stick-built/site-built homes.
It seems to this columnist that the advantages listed above are excellent reasons for the Development Authority to at least consider the use of modular construction. If the savings per unit can be substantial, if building can be one-third faster than site-built, if materials and construction are not subject to outside weather conditions, if construction meets all building codes, and if the manufacturer can meet all the design requirements, why not investigate this building method? The savings to the taxpayers could be substantial.
For more information visit: Modular Building Systems Association.