Another Affordable Housing Solution: Modular Housing

September 21, 2006 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article 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.