Building a Modular Home? The Results Are What Matter.

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September 8th, 2009
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Dear future homeowner,

It is not difficult to understand the benefits of building modular. Green, fast, tight and possibly less expensive, The only thing that may not be clear is the design and why it is important to use an architect.

This is why. The factories will provide plans, usually for free. And while this may seem very nice, the problem is that we all know you get what you pay for. These free plans provided by factories are responsible for the stigma surrounding modular home construction.

So when building modular, make sure you or the factory you choose do NOT skip the architect. The architect is the only one who will turn a modular house into your dream home. See the chart below for the correct sequence for building modular. Make sure to ask the factory, or the builder dealer, to contact Modular Architecture so we can show you how one of our beautiful homes can be your beautiful home. Or go to our website: www.modulararchitecture.com to see all our fine, elegant home plans.

Call the architect FIRST!

Douglas Cutler Architects: Modular Design

Build Your Vacation Home Using Modular Technology

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June 9th, 2009
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When efficient modular building techniques are combined with today’s incredibly low cost of land, the rationale for building a vacation home is more compelling than ever. Distant, hard-to-reach sites characteristic of vacation spots, such as up in the mountains, along beaches, or even on a remote island, can be easily accessed with modular construction. With 80% of the house created from the sill plate up, work crews don’t need to spend much time commuting, significantly reducing costs.

Market Timing:  The price of land has fallen significantly, especially in several unique vacation spots, but renovating far from home can be both tedious and overwhelming. Instead, by building new, and doing so quickly, your time and money is saved.

Less Risk:  These days, most contractors are small businesses with even smaller balance sheets. The unfortunate reality is that many of these contractors may be gone in the near future. With modular construction, a substantial portion of your home is factory-built in about five days, and is then shipped to the site. Within a few days of its arrival, it is made watertight and secured. So, even if your contractor goes out of business, modular construction gives you the peace of mind that you won’t ever be stuck with a half-finished vacation home.

Quality Control:  With modular construction, you can rest assured that your home will be built with the utmost quality and reliability. By contrast, home improvement contractors’ quality can vary greatly, so should you discover that you ended up with a less-than-desirable contractor, you have the option to pull the contract with the knowledge that the house was built in the modular factory.

Less Time:  Whether it’s your permanent residence or a vacation home, building a house can be time consuming and arduous, and no one can afford to baby sit a construction site. With modular construction, the overall project time can be cut by two-thirds.

Green Construction:  Since the build site is far less disturbed by using modular building systems than it is with conventional building, the environment impact of your home is significantly reduced. Furthermore, pristine vacation spots tend to have considerable environmental regulations, and as such, typically favor the use of modular building systems rather than conventional building.

Always Use an Architect:  Years ago, the modular building industry rarely encouraged the architect to participate. Unfortunately, factories would usually take the design to the 75-yard line, leaving the builder to take the project to the finish, resulting in ugly, boxy design solutions. Including the architect from the beginning affords the owner the ability to competitively bid the project, allowing them to get the best price for the value.

Recently, some architects have begun to embrace modular building systems, and the industry has become more design-driven. A vacation home is often one of the most important purchases in one’s life, and high-quality design sets the mood.

Our firm has over twenty years in custom modular home design, and is one of the first firms specializing in this area. Please feel free to browse our collection, and rest assured that we have the talent and experience necessary to design a new, custom home to meet your unique needs.

The Great Modular Home Building Mystery

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May 12th, 2009
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I don’t have to convince you that modular construction is a better way to build than on-site construction, so I won’t try.  I also don’t have to tell you that our industry is underwater, big time, so I won’t press that painful point either.

So where is the disconnect? On the one hand, modular construction offers a far superior building method… and yet no one wants to market it correctly? Seems like a mystery to me.

Well, it’s no mystery, my friends. The sad truth is that in a world that moves faster than the speed of light, things in our industry have not changed one bit. Today, a builder-dealer pulls two sets of wrinkled and dusty house plans out of his cellar and hands them to his customer just as he did fifty years ago. The customer looks from one plan to the other, straining to see the difference between the two. He finally notices that one plan is for a one level, three bedroom shaped in a rectangle. The other is identical except for a portico over the front door. The customer chooses the upgrade with portico and forks over the deposit. Three weeks later the customer and his family move into a double-wide attached to some plumbing lines snaking out to the local water source. The portico is on a truck somewhere and is said to arrive by Christmas. Hopefully the builder will be around to nail it up.

Why are these days still here? Beats me but I do know this. Nothing about the current sales model of modular home building has anything to do with customer satisfaction.  And when you don’t have customer satisfaction, we all know where the potential customer ends up. He ends up across town at the office of a stick builder who charges a small fortune to cover his subs as they build slowly in the freezing and wet weather with inferior materials and a one year time horizon.

Are we seriously going to let this go on? Let them beat us to the customer when we can do so much more for them?

Now that there is less money to go around for home building, the smart factories and dealers are taking a hard look at what they can do to improve the sales experience for the customer.  One of those things is the inclusion of an architect at the beginning of the process, not just when they need a portico.

Why is this important? Because architects work tirelessly to bring air, light, vistas and green savings to the home-buying customers. And the buyers love it so why not show all that expertise at the very beginning of the process right in the sales room of the factory or builder dealer offices. Let’s show the rest of the economy that even though housing got us into this recession, housing will also lead us out.

Here are some ideas we all can implement immediately… a marketing plan for an industry that never had one:

Develop a builder’s dealer marketing/merchandizing infrastructure, to capture more market share.

  • Build sample show room/sales centers at the main factory for select builder dealers to institute.
  • Institute that every builder dealer has a sales center a minimum of 1,000 sf. on a main road with steady traffic count in an adequate demographic location.
  • Offer a wide design selection to compete with what is offered by conventional builders. The look-alike capes, ranches, and two stories, just don’t cut it anymore.
  • Offer a range of stylistic choices such as colonials, Mediterranean, Victorian, Tudor, contemporary, etc.
    • Offer subcategories such as Georgian Colonial, Federal Style Colonial, Shingle Style Colonial etc.
    • Offer a variety of sizes and layouts in a searchable data base to help the customer find the right plan for them.
    • Offer a three-tiered, pre designed and pre-selected finished price package on each model. Ie: Silver, Gold & Platinum.

Builders should offer specific pricing on the vast offerings of homes all from the “sill plate up.

  • Price what is known, based on all that is shown in the picture, both factory built and site built by the builder including any markups the builder desires. No more can we confuse the customer  by separating out the different responsibilities. This old business model makes it more complicated than it needs to be.
  • The builder/dealer can price the site work separately from the sill plate down on a case-by-case basis to cover any special property conditions as well as any markups they feel necessary.
  • Price the fixture and finish packages as well in a tier system. (silver, gold & platinum) to give even more options in the areas where the customer wants the options.
  • We must stop giving away custom design for free or at a lost lead. Charging more for custom design will encourage customers to select from the vast designer selection first. This can only be done if you have a vast selection of professionally done designs. Endless customization will finally give way to stock designs as envisioned by the modular industry founders. If a customer insists on a custom design, make sure it is carried out by a professional architect., one who is experienced in the modular way of building Always put the best design foot forward so we can keep our heads high when the word modular is used in conjunction with the words home design.
  • Institute “design control”.Never let the customer design your product. Quirky-looking, boxy, unprofessionally built homes, drag down the image of what we do and perpetuates the current stigma we have hung around our necks to this very day.
  • Let the customer select… not design. Remember that each completed house is a giant billboard for every neighbor see. Let them see a home designed by a professional, Design control is a must to elevate modular buildings reputation just as it always has for cars and fashion.
    Every builder dealer should have the best of sales people to guide the customers through the myriad of design choices. A background in art history, interior design or architecture is a plus. Having someone who knows the product line well, from styles to sizes, to lot issues, to budget… all should be presented with the utmost professionalism.
  • Develop easy to use, consumer-friendly forms that address site constraints such as zoning & conservation issues.
  • Compress the time it takes to process a customer from months to days. Don’t lose the customer to bureaucracy or boredom. Develop real time, high resolution imaging of the inside and outside of each product offering.
  • Show high resolutions of kitchen cabinets & optional appliances as a bonus.
    Include any alternate product offerings in the walk through renderings.
  • Once the product offering is developed give a visual selection to the specific product type. “Design Sharing” as we call it can help customer visualize products and make buying decisions more quickly. If successful, leasing out virtual space to building component suppliers will be a future revenue source.
  • Charge a franchise fee to the builder/dealer for the sales center system and marketing program.

In closing, remember this. Our fragmented building industry will come to an end. Modular Architecture, offered on a more holistic basis, will increase market share in a more efficient and cost effective manner. Only then will modular construction come of age and lead the way the world build homes.

Watch out Home Depot!

Modular construction is natural too, ya’ know.

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January 22nd, 2009
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There is an age-old analogy in construction circles regarding how building modules are much like the basic, living cells found in nature. Take the brick for example. A brick is a man-made module of elegant simplicity that has been used by homebuilders for thousands of years. Although it seems lifeless, assembled piles of bricks stuck together with mortar develop into a protective structures, just as cells labeled “skin” combine to cover and protect our bodies.

Recently, modular building modules have evolved into larger and more complex cells born to encapsulate smaller functions. In modular design, these modules now incorporate many of our life support systems: heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, water delivery, waste systems, electricity, security, and much more.  A building leaves the factory at 85% of its final form but before they go, these modular blocks are mixed and matched into any number of different configurations: creating small, cozy homes of 1,500 square feet, all the way up to luxury homes touting 6,000 square feet… and more.

And, just as tiny organisms have evolved, so have the small brick modules formerly used in the buildings of old. Now, sheets of plywood, glass & metal panels and floor joists (to name just a few) are components that have become pieces of our sophisticated structural environment.

Now the analogy gets really interesting.

Within the wall of any tiny, organic cell are instructional genes that help it acquire all the molecular compounds necessary for it to grow, and multiply, into a complete, organism. There are even genes whose only purpose is to control the coordinate assembly of cells at certain times. These are called control genes and I, always the architect, like to think of them as little construction managers… here is why.

TO BE CONTINUED…

My next few entries will concern themselves with the similarities between modular building and nature. Please click on the RSS feed icon above to put my blog on your home page or in email reader. With RSS you will always know when I have been inspired to post my vision of the future of home technologies. Thank you so much for joining me here today. Feel free to post or email your comments about my blog entries. I would love to hear from you. Please remember to forward this link to anyone who builds and needs to understand the future of our industry.

Douglas Cutler R.A.

dcutler@modulararchitecture.com

203 761 9561

Modular Architect Fights It Forward!

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December 8th, 2008
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Douglas Cutler Modular on Cover of Greenwich Magazine

Douglas Cutler Modular on Cover of Greenwich Magazine

“Why does anyone care how a house is built as long as it is built right?” asks Douglas Cutler, renowned modular architect located in Wilton, CT, as he speaks out against the bias suffered by factory built homes. This is a persistent stigma. People believe that mobile homes and modular homes are the same thing. This is so far from the truth.”

“Imagine the outcry if we decided that all children had to be raised only one way—If we said that even if you are a good parent, you can’t raise good kids unless you do it just like everyone else. Well, the same goes for houses. There are advantages to stick built and advantages to modular and we need to make decisions based on many factors. But, today, we can’t make good decisions because the deck is stacked against pre-fab work. What would Henry Ford have said about this?”

“Recently I heard a respected builder say he was thinking of putting up an architecturally designed, modular colonial in a subdivision of other lovely, colonial stick built homes because he was hoping to compete a bit on price and energy efficiency. When the home is finished, no one will know, or care, how it was built because it will have all the balance and style of the other homes on the street. But a local Realtor was horrified at the thought of ruining this neighborhood with the likes of something built in a factory.”

“This is just too ridiculous,” says Cutler.

“The only difference is whether the house is built by freezing and exhausted subcontractors trying to fight the weather or by warm and comfortable professionals working inside a factory. You tell me who would do a better job gunning roofing tiles in the middle of January in Missouri.”

“Now trained architects design both stick built and modular. Armed with certification in modular systems structures, a good architect can take modular shapes and make them into classic Victorians, grace-filled Colonials, charming Cape Cods, and bold and light filled contemporaries. A good factory takes the utmost care when building one of our fine, architecturally designed homes.”

“A trained architect is always the answer but don’t take my word for it just because I am one,” says Douglas Cutler who practices in Fairfield County, CT. Visit my modular models on line at http://www.modulararchitecture.com and see for yourself why there is no need to discriminate against modular home building.”

About Modular Architecture: Douglas Cutler Architects in Wilton, CT has been designing modular homes for years and one of his homes has graced the cover of the prestigious Greenwich Magazine covering culture and style in Greenwich, CT.

Modular Homes: Labor shortages and stricter credit requirements pave the way to a beautiful modular home in your future.

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November 2nd, 2008
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Now that the vast majority of our immigrant construction labor force has left for greener pastures… who will be left to build our homes when the new home construction market returns?

The good news is the inevitable; surplus new home inventories will eventually dry up and new construction starts will begin anew. But, it has been widely reported that skilled construction labor has left the USA for greener pastures and all those hardworking immigrants, legal or not that were so plentiful during the boom years of home building, will not be here for home developers when they need them.

Market economics dictate that if construction laborers will be scare, then the wages of those who are still around will rise dramatically. This in turn will drive the cost of stick built homes through the roof. Adding to this dilemma will be the cost of home mortgages. One collapse of the credit markets per century is enough and sub-prime will be a luxury of the past. All this adds up to higher percentage down payments for the customer, most of whom will not be able to afford the increases associated with new home purchases.

What can they do?

Build modular homes in factories, of course, just like Henry Ford built automobiles in factories.

The Ford factory model was the only way that middle-Americans could afford to buy a car. And it was love at first site. Sadly, modular home construction was not met with the same open arms as cars. Much like the way that the American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical industry dampened the future of naturopathic medicine in America, the stick building industry has put a hex on the image of the modular homes built in factories.

Maybe there were good reasons at first. Shipping was cumbersome, limiting the styles customers craved. But now that certified architects have entered the fray, all that has changed. Beautiful, roomy homes can be built in factories and shipped easily to a plot of land for assembly.

Factories have no subs, or subs of subs, to worry about. Unless the home is in the finishing stages, everything including architectural detail can be completed before the home goes on the road trip.

I, a modular architect, see it going down this way.

As inventories of new homes decline, modular factories will build up staffs of construction labor. Why? Because new home construction will be driven into the factories by the previously mentioned market forces demanding cost reductions.

Factories may offer a skilled laborer a salaried position with benefits just to keep him around for the steady flow of work pouring in. Even with perks, the costs of manufacturing a home in a factory will be less than hiring independent contractors on site. Think about it. With architects now designing modular homes to include style and grace, the customer won’t care where his home is built as long as it is solid, tight and gorgeous.

Modular Home building is the future of home building. Come back often and I will give you lots of reasons why it is time to change the way we think about home building in the United States in 2009 and beyond.

Systems Approval for Modulars… a thing of the past?

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October 24th, 2008
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Very few people can take a stack of boxes and turn them into a pleasing home. Only a trained architect, with certification in modular systems structures, can take those modular boxes and make them into classic Victorians, grace-filled Colonials, charming Cape Cods, and bold and light filled contemporaries.

A trained architect is always the answer but don’t take my word for it just because I am one. Let me give you an example.

A while back we were helping a factory with the styling of a home. They were wise enough to know that their customer wanted an attractive showplace sitting on his expensive piece of land. I kept calling the factory because I saw through progress photographs that they were centering the windows vertically on each other instead of the placement we had drawn in the plans.

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SIPS Modulars:
The Future of Home Building

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October 5th, 2008
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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. Read the rest of this article »