Douglas Cutler, renowned modular architect and founder of ModularArchitecture.com, has announced his firm’s participation in breaking ground for the first, non-panelized, modular construction factory in China.
China is still in the early stages of improving safety regulations with regards to housing and so this unprecedented step toward increasing residential production comes at a critical time. Cutler explains, “For the past 50 years, the Chinese have been allowed to build housing with substandard materials and virtually no building standards. Now, that this previous generation of structures are in virtual decay… a desperate housing shortage has been revealed.”
Modular homes, also known as factory-built or pre-fabricated housing has been an increasingly popular method of development in the U.S. for some time. Modular construction is known to have a number of advantages including the reduction of costs and waste, as well as an inherent increase in production capability.
“This is an exciting moment for us because this first factory took almost 4 years to sign,” says Cutler. “Even though everyone knew all the new homes coming out of this factory would need to be financed and insured, there was nothing in place to attract this kind of investment. Complicated agreements had to be reached.”
Douglas Cutler brought together several participants for this project including Roger Lyons, a US-based modular housing consultant and Dr. Koe and Mr. Chuck, who are the primary investors from China.
One of the major roadblocks preventing this deal from occurring sooner was the lack of stringent building codes in China; ones that are common in western nations. “Simply put, Dr Koe and Mr. Chuck, our Chinese investors, will need the participation of foreign insurance companies and banks. To gain the trust of this kind of investment, they needed to convince the powers that be to create red tape that never existed…”
Upgrading local building codes to BOCA standards (Building Officials Code Administrators International) was not an easy task. Cutler explains that there is typically strong resistance from local businesses (mostly builders in this case) who are not always happy with changes that can affect their businesses.
Challenges were also encountered in planning for the new modular home factory. “It will be built in Tianjin, a suburb of Beijing, on a four acre site. There are many people living in this area” elaborates Cutler, “but because private ownership of land is practically nonexistent in China, our Chinese investors had to obtain a 99 year lease directly from the government. This lease will, however, ensure a permanent home for the new factory which will in turn help attract current and potential investors.”
“The goal is to start with this factory in Tianjin and eventually expand to other regions of this vast country. Bringing safe and comfort able housing to the Chinese people will be our mission.”
If you are interested in modular housing in China, the USA or anywhere in the world, contact Douglas Cutler at ModularArchitecture.com