How coronavirus could drive an offsite construction revolution

Social distancing and labor challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic highlight some of the benefits of factory-built homes
The costs to build new homes are on the rise, and COVID-19 is presenting its own challenges with onsite procedures and restrictions. (Photo: Zigmunds Dizgalvis, Dreamstime.com)

New opportunities have presented themselves for builders since COVID-19 forced them to carefully consider the number of workers on a site and their ability to keep their distance from each other. Offsite construction is becoming a real solution for many traditional builders.

There are many reasons to consider becoming a modular builder including fewer construction workers on a jobsite, superior quality and shorter build times. A traditional builder’s construction process is under extreme pressure from weather. Rain can warp plywood floors, and allows for mold to build between the walls, and wind and snow create expansion in framing joints. These environmental factors have been known to impact build schedules and increase the costs to homeowners to fix these issues. A modular house is 98% completed when it arrives onsite. Weather is not a factor because the new home is built in a facility, and modules are protected and individually wrapped during shipment.

[Related: Offsite construction for onsite safety]

A modular builder is responsible for the minor work in completing the area around the marriage line, or the “stitch” — the connection points of the modular boxes. Stitch work includes finishing the floor area at the marriage line, patching drywall cracks from transportation, minor painting, framing interior doorways, resetting and leveling all doors, securing the home to the sill plate, finishing the roof, soffits and fascia, and finishing a small area on the exterior lap siding. All the interior and exterior plumbing lines will need to be connected, HVAC units will need to be connected to the furnace, and electrical lines will need to be installed from the utility company to the electrical box. There is a stamped state approval on the design plans from the factory. To receive the certificate of occupancy, all inspections at the local level must be met and completed. The rest of the home’s construction is the same as with traditional building in completing excavation, foundation, materials and all the other general contractor details.

[Related: Offsite, on targetBuilding more with modular building]

The Colorado Department of Housing website features new rules for registration and certification requirements in order to become a modular builder. If you are willing to learn a new building process, and have experience as a general contractor, stick builder, real estate professional or remodeler, modular construction may be an opportunity for you to expand your business. Impressa Modular is now offering franchise opportunities to become a modular builder. The Rocky Mountain Home Association, Modular Building Institute and Housing Innovation Alliance have more information about manufactured and modular homes, and other innovations to increase the supply of attainable homes.

The costs to build new homes are on the rise, and COVID-19 is presenting its own challenges with onsite procedures and restrictions. Modular construction may offer solutions for your next new home project.

Audree Grubesic is owner of Modular Sure Site, a general contractor on modular homes, and president of Connect Home Builders, a licensed modular home builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

Audree Grubesic

Audree Grubesic is owner of Modular Sure Site, a general contractor on modular homes, and president of Connect Home Builders, a licensed modular home builder. She can be reached at [email protected]

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