Douglas Cutler, renowned modular architect, speaks out against bias suffered by factory buit homes. "Why does it matter where a house is built as long as it is built right." A good factory takes the utmost care when building a house.
Just ask Henry Ford
We Americans love our new homes, but in recent years home buyers could expect to fork out $150-$200 per square foot to have their gleaming treasures built from scratch out of timber. Now that the financial landscape is changing, it is clear that the cost of building houses, stick by stick, is spiraling out of control.
The process of planning and building can be arduous. Architects often work with a customer for months, planning the perfect customized layout only to have the confused buyer change their mind on major details at the last minute. Once completed, this same overwhelmed homebuyer has to negotiate contracts with a builder while paying fees to town commissions for plan approval. This can take months of negotiation with hourly fees for re-engineering rising steadily against a customer’s planned budget.
Finally, an approval arrives and the customer sighs in relief until the general contractor begins hiring subcontractors with often competing schedules. The result can be a chaotic construction sequence with compounding interest on construction loans being the only thing that moves forward at a steady, predictable pace.
As the home progresses, things tend to become even more complicated. The excitement wanes as the customer becomes overwhelmed with choices of flooring, paint colors, doors styles, counter tops and lighting fixtures. They fall in love with faucets, and home appliances that do not fit the custom cabinetry spaces they previously chose… forcing them to go back to retail showrooms and choose again. Plumbing lines have to be moved at the last minute because a certain building code has been changed. I exaggerate — but you get the point. How many times have you heard a customer enthusiastically endorse the process of his home being built? I would venture to guess not too often.
So why, in a conversation about home building, am I going to speak about Henry Ford?
Because ever since Henry’s first, black cars rolled out of his factory, the process of automation made cars affordable for everyone. Stamped out of steel and very much alike from chasse to headlight, cars were soon racing around dirt roads from coast to coast. Later, as the popularity of car ownership grew, General Motors wisely observe that customers wanted some say in how their cars looked and began offering choices of paint color, seat fabric and entertainment features to satisfy the appetite for individual preferences. It was a delicate balance, however. GM noticed that offering too many choices caused the customer to become overwhelmed… thus possibly losing the impetus to purchase the automobile.
In the end the customer was thrilled. Why? Because the bulk of the costs that made up the functioning portions of the vehicle, were affordable, while bright red, blue and yellow cars sat in driveways for all the neighbors to see. This was the beauty of automation and this is how our nation’s economy grew to become the most powerful in the world.
So why, if automation worked so well for autos, are we still building homes one stick at a time the old fashioned way—piece by piece with absolutely no automation of the basics? Why are we not making the process of building a home more affordable for customers? Why are we not building more modular homes in factories with SIPs (structural insulated panels) to accommodate the appetite for energy efficiency.
Okay. I know that the very word “modular” has a stigma. Modular conjures up visions of flimsy doublewides being dragged down freeways. But before you get that image stuck in your head, click here to see my own bank of over seventy five modular plans featuring all the beauty, and individuality that my clients want, and get, in the homes that I have pre-designed just for them.
Or, click here to see why the SIPs method of modular construction is becoming so popular in Europe… but remains underground in the USA.
Each week, on this blog, I am going to fight for the homebuyer by discussing my vision of the future of home building. In a land where homebuyers will be ever more demanding to have the amenities of the modern age, I want to forward to my readers the advantages of SIP technologies in modular construction.
In spite of the stigma hurdle, the future has begun.
- Classic homes are already being built in protected environments to improve quality and expensive man hours.
- Customers can already say “NO” to the juggling of independent contractors and engineers by having their homes built in a modern factory.
- With energy costs projected to increase dramatically, architects and factories are building homes that are energy efficient, and green, beyond our wildest dreams. By using SIPS technologies to form the external walls, modular homes can save a homeowner 15% and more on energy bills.
Best of all, starting now, we all can move into our new, energy efficient homes with wonderful memories of the planning and construction process.
The future is now. Stay tuned.