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Couple go modular to avoid standard costs

Written by SWMH, Inc on .

When Cliff Hanna and his wife, Lana Le, bought a dream lot overlooking Torrey Pines State Reserve, they hired an architect to design a dream home to match. The trouble was that the price tag came out at $2 million.

“The cost was way too much to build,” Hanna said. “We couldn’t afford it.”

So the couple turned to Hanna’s father, Charles Hanna, a civil engineer who recommended a cheaper construction method: modular housing.

This week, the results of that detour from standard, site-building construction will arrive. A caravan of flatbed trucks will deliver four modules built in Boise, Idaho. A crane will place them on a concrete foundation, constructed over the past six months, in a matter of hours.

Then, over the next three months, Lusk Custom Design & Construction will complete a connecting structure and install the appliances, fixtures and flooring. The Hannas hope to move in by early summer.

Total projected cost: $1,017,000. Time from start to finish: nine months.

Compare that with the 12 months or more it takes to build a comparable custom home and it’s easy to see why modular might be the wave of the future as the U.S. home-building industry shakes off the recession.

“The overall housing market has seen a decline,” said Tony Gacek, executive director of the National Association of Home Builders’ Building Systems Councils. “But in this decline, I think builders are learning more and more that they need to find very cost-effective, streamlined ways to produce quality homes for consumers.”

Hanna’s house is not like the Sears kit-built homes popular in the early 20th century: Order a cottage from the catalog and it’ll be shipped in pieces for assembly. Nor is it a triple-wide mobile home that can fly apart in a windstorm or burn to a crisp in a wildfire.

This house, built by Guerdon Enterprises, contains 25 percent more lumber, making it strong enough to withstand the 750-mile journey from Idaho and the stresses that occur when the modules are lifted into place.

From what the designers, manufacturers and builders say, modular homes are built of the same raw materials used in traditional on-site projects. The cabinetry, appliances, fixtures, flooring, paint and all other components are no different from what’s found in any tract home.

And in the Hannas’ case, there will be some energy-saving, environmentally sustainable features, such as a solar-power system to generate electricity and bamboo flooring, that builders are touting.

Proponents of modular housing argue that building in a factory reduces waste; protects against rain, wind and other inclement weather; and offers better quality control through constant in-house company inspection as well as the usual licensed inspectors who enforce California’s stringent building code.

Source: Union Tribune