Friday, June 6, 2014

Modular Homes

What have you heard? What preconceived ideas do you have? Let me tell you what we think and what we can do.

Most clients who walk in our door cringe when they hear the words modular, manufactured, or prefab. It takes some time for us to change their minds. In our nation the majority of modular homes are indeed of poor quality. But, then again, the majority of all homes in our nation are of poor quality. It is not inherent to the philosophy of modular, it is inherent to the demands of the US home market.

There is tremendous potential in the prefabrication process. In a factory, workers have advanced technology on hand. They work in a climate-controlled environment to tolerances far superior than those achieved in the field. Studs can be laid straight, cuts can be extremely precise, walls can be plumb, and actually set at right angles. It may sound like I am undermining the custom framer but his job is simply more difficult. Would you request to have your new car built of a pile of miscellaneous parts laid in your driveway, or would you prefer it be assembled in the factory?

Enter expert architects and builders. Enter a detailed drawing set, a properly laid foundation, and precise factory-framed floors, walls, and roofs. The finishing process can proceed with ease crafting your own beautiful home. The walls are straighter, the construction time is faster, and the overall cost may be lower.

When you build your next home, ask us about the potential of a hybrid modular and site-built project.
Hybrid Modular Home: "Boxes" delivered and set on site.

Hybrid Modular Home: In this case the site framing included a roof stretching from "box" to "box".
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home exterior.
Hybrid Modular Home: Completed home interior.


  1. Hi Erik, I am a big fan of the Wedge design. Can this style or something very similar to it be constructed with shipping containers?

    Nout (a Method Savvy employee)

    1. Nout - Great question. The answer is yes, but it comes with many caveats. We field questions about building homes of shipping containers all the time. While it is a popular notion that it will be quick and cheap, it is actually expensive and impractical. Yes, you have a structurally sound box to start with, but it is what you have to do with it to make it a home that is the costly problem. Start with creating new openings in the steel structure for windows and doors and also create a customized system for actually properly installing those doors and windows. Then run plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems inside the container in some type of new exterior wall system that can also be insulated and finished with an interior finish material. There are numerous other "custom" items to address including how the containers are set on the ground and/or foundation systems, how might multiple containers actually be set together and connected and/or penetrated, and most importantly how to effectively design with the consideration of the 8' wide dimension of the standard container. Most of the successful/cool projects I have seen of containers were executed by an individual or family for their own personal use. As such, a lot of love and elbow grease went into the job that doesn't show up as a line item on the invoice. Until someone devises a great retrofit system of pre-made components that solve numerous of the issues using containers for home building, I see this as a difficult path. I hope this is helpful.

    2. Hi Erik, thank you for your reply. What you say makes a lot of sense and brings up quite a bit of information that I hadn't considered. I was thinking of shipping containers as being economical and durable (and even enviro-friendly). As I'd like to eventually build my "dream home" but don't have an unlimited budget, shipping containers might be out of reach for me. But the modular parts of this home seem to work well because they don't need as many custom options to make them work. Do you have any information about the modular sections that you used to build the Wedge house?


    3. Nout,
      Your signature line from the original message says "a Method Savvy employee", which I assume means you work down the hall from us. If that is true, I'd be happy to give you a more thorough run down of our overall thoughts on modular if you want to drop in some time. Let me know if you have a preferred time.