Friday, March 27, 2020

Work Stopped at Urban Splash Sites and Factories

Urban Splash has stopped work at all of its sites and factories. The modular housebuilder said work could not continue safely in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the company’s chair Tom Bloxham said it had become increasingly evident that it was impossible to keep them open safely.

He said: "We made the very difficult decision to temporarily close down all of our sales offices, our show homes, our modular factory and our building sites.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Housing Today article

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Vancouver’s Homeless Modular Housing Project Reaches Completion

Construction has reached completion on Vancouver’s newest temporary modular housing building for the homeless, coincidentally just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic, when physical distancing and heightened social and health service measures are being enacted for the most vulnerable.

CLICK HERE to read the entire DH article

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Vertical Panel Saw Increases Efficiency for Stelling Properties Factory

Engineers of innovative modular systems, Stelling Properties, were looking for a vertical panel saw to increase efficiency across its operation at Stelling Modular – its rapidly growing modular housing department. After speaking with the team at Daltons Wadkin about its specific requirements, the Elcon 155DS vertical wall saw was the ideal solution.

Following discussions with Daltons Wadkin about the best solution for their cutting requirements, Stelling Modular attended an in-house demonstration and were immediately impressed by the Elcon DS LIMPIO.

The patented and award-winning LIMPIO system from Elcon greatly reduces dust emissions by simultaneously extracting waste from both the front and rear of the panel.

Nine months since the Elcon DS vertical panel saw was installed at Stelling Modular, Colin told us they have seen an exceptional increase in productivity. He explained to us that in each of the modules that they make there is a fully equipped bathroom, and each bathroom requires a shower frame to be made.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Personal Finance Lessons From Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes

During the financial crisis, lenders across the United States collapsed as borrowers failed to meet their mortgage payment obligations due to the economic situation.

One company fared better than most in this environment. That was Berkshire Hathaway's housing subsidiary, Clayton Homes.

Clayton Homes is the largest builder of manufactured housing and modular homes in the U.S. Berkshire acquired it in 2003 for $1.7 billion, and since then, it has been a profit powerhouse for the business.

That said, the business has attracted some criticisms for its lending practices, though Buffett has been quick to rebuke these criticisms and concerns.

For its part, the company has remained popular with homebuyers and borrowers. Actions speak louder than words in this case.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Yahoo! Finance article

Thursday, March 19, 2020

British Modular Housebuilder Top Hat Posts $22.6m in Losses

Goldman Sachs-backed modular housebuilder says it has continued support of US investment giant.

Top Hot modular homesA business that is part of Top Hat, the modular homes start-up backed by Goldman Sachs to the tune of $81m last year, recorded operating losses of more than $22m in the near-six months to 5 April 2019.

According to accounts filed last week with Companies House, Derby-based developer Top Hat Communities posted negative turnover of $1.1m between 1 November 2018 and 5 April 2019, and operating losses of $22.6.2m. It also recorded a loss before tax of $22.7m.

CLICK HERE to read more

Redevelopment of RV Parks in Florida Keys Continues

Signs of progress are taking place along the waterfront at the former San Pedro and Sea Breeze trailer parks on Plantation Key.

Construction equipment has moved into the former San Pedro mobile-home and RV park, which closed after Hurricane Irma.

Work on a new seawall and dock for the property near mile marker 87.4, bayside, started recently, said James Hoekstra, senior vice president for owner Sun Communities.

Additional planning and permitting remains for about 150 units, a mix of two-story modular homes on stilts and transient spots for recreational vehicles.

CLICK HERE to read the entire KeysNews article

Britain's “Flying Factories” Could Help Solve US Affordability Problem

One way to cut costs and at the same time provide local solutions to the problem of affordable housing to areas is to build “pop up” modular home factories that build module after module, ship them a short distance to the job site and then closed down with the equipment being reused at a new ‘pop up’ factory.

As a technique, modular, or volumetric construction, is particularly well suited to high-volume, repetitive components, or products that require factory conditions to achieve the desired level of quality. It can also allow parallel working on different aspects of a project simultaneously.

Beattie Passive chairman Ron Beattie

Britain’s Beattie Passive, based in Norfolk at Hethel Engineering Centre, has designed a “flying factory” which can be used to build volumetric, or modular, homes.

And not just any ‘flying or pop up’. The homes produced in this factory will be Passive and built by local agencies serving the area. The company will provide knowledge and support to help these agencies and non-profit organizations run the factories, plus a blueprint for their construction. Local labor will staff the factories and will be provided with training in volumetric engineering by Beattie Passive in an attempt to ease construction labor shortages.

They are different from conventional off-site factories in that they only operate for the duration of a project and are then closed.

Flying factories have the advantage of being able to locate close to, or even on construction sites, or close to sources of materials and so reduce transportation costs, disruption and delays. It can also be more flexible, as leases or buildings are temporary, and so facilities can be scaled up or scaled down to suite the demand from a particular project.

Ron Beattie, who founded the company with wife Rosemary, said it was a “whole new venture” for the growing firm.

“Construction is changing. We need to find new ways of delivering homes, we cannot do it the old way and with young people not wanting to come into the industry it is struggling,” he said.

“Flying factories have been around for a while but now we need to do more off-site. We have got volumetric factories which can build units, transport them and put them up in a day.”

Beattie Passive will supply everything from the engineering to factory management while local organizations will get training on how to manufacture the modules. Beattie Passive has been a leader in providing instructors and classroom training for new hires which gives them a better workforce. Real training was recognized by the company as a cornerstone for future growth.

The big question is “Will this work in the US?” The answer is easy….YES!

Will any modular factory or large offsite builder step forward to do it within the next 5 years? Now that is a question that may not have an answer.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Case for Consolidation

Andy Gianino, owner of The Home Store, one of the largest modular new home builders in New England and author of the best selling guide to modular home construction, wrote an article for this blog back in 2015 and what he expressed then is even more valid in today’s market.

With fewer new home builders entering the trade, his ideas of consolidation deserve to be reread today. Here is Andy Gianino’s remarkable blog post:

The Case for Builder Consolidation

Imagine that a new modular builder/dealer company called ABC, Inc. offers the services outlined below. If you’re a modular builder, ask yourself two questions. (1) How much would you benefit if your company were part of ABC? (2) How would your company fare if it had to compete against an ABC builder in your territory?

Here’s what ABC would provide your company:

ABC has a national website that appears on the first page of the search engines in your area. ABC also has a social media presence that is updated several times a day with rich content. Since 85% of all people interested in building a new home begin their shopping on the internet, ABC provides you with a wealth of leads.

Lead Nurturing
All of your ABC’s internet and phone leads are screened, qualified, and nurtured by a group of experienced “greeters” at the main office. These specialists engage the leads with the help of an advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Greeters stay in regular contact with your leads using a series of targeted email templates and calls that are prompted by automatic reminders and guided by phone scripts. The greeters pass leads to your salespeople only when the leads are ready, willing, and able to take the next step. This enables your salespeople to stay motivated and focused on selling homes.

Modular and Contracting Design and Plans
Hundreds of ABC’s standard plans are drawn in Chief Architect. Each plan is drawn with multiple interior and exterior options and easily modified by your trained salespeople. Custom plans can be generated from templates that take into account modular design constraints. Neither your salesperson nor customer must wait for the manufacturer to draw the plans.

The design program also creates site-built drawings, such as for garages, porches, decks, foundations, finished attics and basements, etc.

Modular Specifications and Pricing
All standard plans and thousands of options are priced in ABC’s custom CRM program. Because ABC’s modular pricing program is tied to its drawing program, it can automatically generate detailed modular specifications and itemized prices without your salesperson or customer waiting for the manufacturer.

Contractor Scope of Work
ABC’s contractor pricing program is integrated with its drawing and modular pricing programs so it can automatically create a detailed contracting scope of work with specifications. It also generates itemized prices for both labor and materials.

Sales and Contractor Administration
ABC’s CRM system tracks all the details and to-do tasks for each customer so no one in your company has to remember what needs to be done or when.

Turnkey Project Management
Planning and contractor shopping are faster and more accurate with ABC’s CRM system, since it generates plan-specific instructions and drawings for your set crew, as well as project scheduling for your button-up crew. These tools are given to homebuyers who want to complete their own turnkey, ensuring they know their responsibilities.

Sales and Turnkey Training
ABC provides on-site classes and on-line webinars for sales and construction. It also provides manuals, videos, and podcasts of best practices for sales and construction and for contractor troubleshooting best practices. ABC’s CRM system has a built-in training and supervisory function to help your staff become proficient with using it.

Each one of these improvements will individually help ABC’s builders. Together they will elevate every ABC builder above their competitors – both other modular and stick builders.

I believe that such a package of services will allow ABC’s builders to lower their costs markedly, which will help them reliably beat stick builders’ prices. It will shorten the time from initial design to completion, increasing ABC’s builders’ advantage over stick builders. And it will provide ABC’s builders with better quality products as well as superior services, which will enhance their reputation. These improvements will enable ABC’s builders’ to grow their sales and profits considerably.

However, if we modular builders stand pat and try to remain independent, we will find our market share under attack from bigger, better capitalized, and more state-of-the-art modular competitors. If we continue to market, sell, and build the same way we do now, and with the same relationship to our manufacturers that we now (more or less) enjoy, I don’t believe we will reach our full potential.

How Do We Get There?
We could continue to wait for a manufacturer to provide these services. But as I said in my presentation to the Modular Home Builders Association last fall, most builders have such a weak commitment to their manufacturers that manufacturers have little incentive to invest in these services. They also don’t appear to have the financial resources at this time to make the necessary investments.

An alternative is for each builder to create some of these systems on their own. But as someone who has done this, I don’t recommend it because of cost and time.
On the other hand, if several of us join together, we can afford to implement these improvements. In fact, because the expenses will be shared, we can continually build on them over time.

Let me emphasize that these ideas don’t exclude a partnership with a manufacturer. In fact, our interests would be served best by a closer relationship with a manufacturer. This would enable us to integrate our builder systems with theirs, which would strengthen both of us. But unless this happens soon, I believe it is in our interest to move ahead on our own.

Finally, several of the modular builders I spoke with over the last few weeks asked how I saw the consolidation happening. It’s too early for any of us to say whether the consolidation should be secured by a merger and acquisition roll-up, a franchise system, or some other arrangement. It will depend on what those of you who are interested prefer and how the consolidation is financed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Apartment Building of the Future is Here, and It Looks Like a Giant Battery

If you crossed a D-volt battery and the Death Star, you might get something that looks like Front Flats, the latest apartment project from the architect-developers known as Onion Flats. That’s meant as a compliment, by the way. Jammed against Philadelphia’s Market-Frankford El on the Kensington-Fishtown border, the four-story building doesn’t just resemble a power plant, it functions as one, too.

Apart from the ground floor and a few narrow openings for windows, every inch of the exterior is encased in a sarcophagus of indigo-colored solar panels. The panels are designed to produce enough electricity to feed all of Front Flats’ 28 apartments, and still have plenty of juice left over to send a sizable amount back to the grid.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Seattle Times article

Friday, March 13, 2020

Autodesk Construction Cloud Network Has 1 Million Users

Technology company expands sector leadership team, updates new research and women's safety harness initiatives

Autodesk's Construction Cloud's builders network now has more than 1 million users, the technology vendor disclosed March 10 at the ConExpo/ConAGG trade show in Las Vegas.

The San Rafael, Calif-based technology company said BuildingConnected’s preconstruction platform now manages an estimated $56 billion worth of project bids each month, with 15 of the top 20 ENR-ranked general contractors using it to manage bidding.

PlanGrid, which Autodesck acquired in 2018, now is used on nearly 2 million projects worldwide. Autodesk Construction Cloud includes the products Assemble, BIM 360, BuildingConnected and PlanGrid.

More than 1.5 billion drawings now are stored and shared in Autodesk Construction Cloud and BIM360, the company says.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Engineering News-Record article

Container-Based Construction: The Next Frontier in Affordable Housing

SG Blocks CEO & Chairman Paul Galvin talks about how using shipping containers as a primary building material can accelerate much-needed affordable housing construction.

Constantly rising construction costs, the increasing need for affordable housing units across the country, coupled with the lack of developable land in some regions as well as environmental concerns are driving an array of innovations in affordable housing. Recent Berkadia research showed that developers are beginning to consider modular and manufactured housing a viable alternative to conventional construction. And with rent control legislation impacting affordability in so many ways—including decreasing supply—developers are progressively considering other means to build affordable housing properties faster and cheaper.

SG Blocks CEO & Chairman Paul Galvin has more than two decades of experience in developing and managing real estate assets.

CLICK HERE to read the entire Multi-Housing News interview

Six British Innovations in Construction, Building and Architecture

Oftentimes, it’s young start-ups and small enterprises that present innovations in the construction and building sector. Here are six promising new brands out of the UK and their solutions in energy, buildings, off-site, resourceful materials, interiors and critical infrastructure.

The FutureBuild event in London put up six different stages during The Big Innovation Pitch on March 3 and 4, 2020. 37 small companies pitched their new products and approaches against each other.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Delaware Labor Shortage Spurs Project to Go Modular

With its new $150-million research facility under construction and heading for a year-end completion target, global chemical company Chemours aims to consolidate its existing laboratories and offices into the 312,000-sq-ft facility on the University of Delaware’s Science Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus in Newark, Del.

The project was challenging from its conception, and the mission became even more daunting when the company decided to fast-track the work. Given the size and complexity of the building systems and the constraints posed by a tight construction labor force in the area, contractor IMC Construction Inc. worked early with Chemours and the architect, L2 Partridge, to pursue a modular and preassembly strategy that aimed to save time, preserve budget and meet its labor needs.

The module bid packages were awarded to H.T. Lyons, a subsidiary of ENGIE North America, which constructed the modules at its shop near Allentown, Pa. As part of its contract, H.T. Lyons provided all of the trades necessary to complete the racks and offered design-assist services to help detail the modules. When completed, the modules were shipped to the site for installation. They were shrink-wrapped, allowing crews to install them with the protective wrap on until the building was closed in and fireproofing was sprayed.

CLICK HERE to read the entire ENRMidAtantic article

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Report Shows Modular Construction Business is Booming

According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue.

Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits.

CLICK HERE to read more

US Home Building Fell 4% in July, Slowing Housing Market

The pace of U.S. home construction fell a sharp 4% in July despite strong demand from would-be buyers, held back by a shortage of skilled labor and affordable land.

The Commerce Department said Friday that housing starts slipped last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million units. So far this year, housing starts have declined 3.1%. Though there was a slight 1.3% uptick in the construction of single-family homes last month, the gain was offset by a 17.2% plunge in the apartment category.

CLICK HERE to read the entire report