“There’s really no way a stick-build system can get a market-based, non-deed-restricted, nonsubsidized project that is affordable for someone in the workforce market,” he said. “How are you supposed to build attainable housing in this state?”
Chupp believes that “central workforce housing is critical to a thriving community” and saw the dearth of attainable housing in his town of Buena Vista.
Buena Vista issued only 17 building permits in 2017, Chupp said. “We’ll do 30 in BV this year. There’s just this massive demand that’s pent up for people who need attainable housing, who are traveling an hour and a half to work every day.”
His solution was to turn to modular construction. He launched his firm, Fading West Development, in 2015, with the goal to “create an integrated development system” to reduce risks, and maximize capital and capacity.
Fading West is the developer behind The Farm, an “architecturally interesting” development in Buena Vista that targets buyers making 80% of the area’s median income. Phase 1, comprising 81 units, is expected to be completed in 2021, and the development is approved for a total of 218 units.
Chupp and Fading West simplified the development process by standardizing products and implementing online buying for customers.
“We thought a lot about this idea of the paradox of choice,” Chupp said, “and we’re really focusing on the highest value options that we can offer, but also simplifying that.”
The Farm offers only six floorplans—two townhomes, two narrow lots and two wide lots. That helps keep the total cost of the modules down.
“I’m not trying to create the most value engineered module; I’m trying to create the easiest, most effective module that can be used in a development,” Chupp explained. “We’re thinking about the entire value stream, not just a piece of the value stream.”
Colorado’s first modular factory
Key to Fading West’s plans for optimizing the value stream is a modular factory in Buena Vista, the first to be built in Colorado. Chupp said they’ll break ground on the 110,000 square foot factory early this year, and he expects to begin operations in the second quarter of 2021.
Chupp said the factory will produce about 1,200 units per year, including single-family, apartments and commercial products. It will also provide jobs for the area, Chupp said, employing about 70 production workers and 20 to 25 office workers when it reaches capacity.
“We realized that in order to really maximize and leverage manufacturing, we wanted our own facility,” he said. “At about $10 a mile [to ship modules], that’s probably 8% to 9% of the whole cost of the unit.”