DID YOU KNOW: MODULAR IS CLEANER

File Under: General by Excel Team

waste

If you’ve ever visited the construction site of a stick-built home, you’ve probably noticed piles of debris and wood throughout the site. Unfortunately, not all of this material is recycled.

That’s not the case with modular construction. In Excel’s Liverpool, PA, plant, our wood is pre-cut, which results in very little waste. This efficiency is not only better for the environment, it’s also another way we’re able to keep costs down throughout the construction process.

 

BUILDING SMARTER, SAYS BUILDER MAGAZINE (WE AGREE)

File Under: General by Excel Team

buildsmarterBuilder magazine gets passed around a lot here at the Excel offices, and for good reason. It’s chock full of insight into the things builders need to know about how to succeed (or at least stay above water) in today’s tumultuous economic climate. Excel Homes works with more than 600 builder partners throughout the U.S., so any nugget of information we can absorb and pass along is good for both us and them.

Recently, Builder magazine published an article entitled “6 Lessons For Builders From the Housing Bust.” It contained suggestions for ways builders can change the way they work in order to maximize profits and make better homes.

Though all the tips are valuable (feel free to read them here on the ProSales website), the first tip was perhaps the most relevant to today’s climate (no pun intended). It was called “Build Smarter,” and it talked about the need for builders to create homes that are more energy efficient, especially as regulations on new homes becomes stricter.

As the builder of modular homes, we couldn’t agree more. In fact, we’ve been shouting this advice from the roof tops for the past decade or more. Modular homes are among the most energy efficient homes available, and much more efficient than comparable stick-built homes.

The same “Build Smarter” tip also suggested building smaller homes (yet still energy efficient) to lower pricing and remain competitive. This again falls right in line with the teachings of modular construction. Modular homes can be purchased in various sizes, from smaller two-person dwellings to massive mansions capable of housing a small army. The good news about small modular homes: They’re easy to upgrade later on.

It’s almost as if Builder magazine was reading our minds.

 

THE INCREDIBLE EDIBLE HOUSE

File Under: General by Excel Team

A team of architects responded to the Wall Street Journal’s request to design the environmentally-friendly “house of the future” by creating a modular home you can eat. Sort of like the witch’s edible house in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.

Taking a cue from current trends, the architects predicted that most future homes will be modular because modular construction is more efficient and uses fewer resources. The edible part comes in the form of a hydroponic skin attached to the front of the home, on which a variety of vegetables and herbs can be grown and harvested for consumption by the family. The thinking is especially relevant in urban areas, where a traditional ground garden isn’t always possible.

Even though it may seem far fetched now, we love this kind of environmentally friendly thinking. Modular homes have long been the leaders in green construction by using fewer materials, fewer resources and being generally more energy efficient. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll all be opening up our bedroom window to pick some lettuce for the dinner salad!

edible-house

edible-house-close-up

 

MODULAR HISTORY: HABITAT 67

File Under: General by Excel Team

habitat67wide

The architectural marvel pictured above is a project called “Habitat 67” and it’s a stunning example of modular construction at work.

It was designed by Moshe Safdie and built in Montreal, Canada, in 1967 as part of Canada’s Expo 67, whose theme was “Man and His World.” Safdie created Habitat 67 to offer a glimpse of how humans might live one day in densely populated urban environments.

habitatcloseThe structure is comprised of 354 modular, interlocking concrete cubes that create 148 living units, each with its own garden. Interestingly, although the units appear to coexist in the densest of environments, Safdie designed the space so that none of the units would share a wall with neighboring units. Safdie also intended for the structure to provide small, affordable living units – which they were initially – but the units have since skyrocketed in price due to demand and their unique nature.

 

PENNSYLVANIA TAKES STEPS TO MAKE SOLAR POWER MORE AFFORDABLE

File Under: General by Excel Team

solarHere’s good news for Pennsylvania homeowners and businesses considering the switch to solar power. The state legislature finally passed a solar-rebate program designed to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing solar systems. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article, the average 5-kilowatt residential solar system costs between $35,000 and $40,000. A system like that would save around $900 in annual electricity costs.

The stimulus, called the Sunshine Program (more info here), will provide $100 million in funds, which will be used to offer rebates of up to 35 percent of the cost of installing a residential or small business solar power system.

That also means the creation of lots of jobs for solar contractors throughout the state, which makes the Sunshine Program a win-win for everyone involved.

 

MEET THE MAN IN CHARGE OF EXCEL’S DESIGN AND INNOVATION

File Under: General by Excel Team

One of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on is our ability to create homes that meet the design needs of builders and homeowners. And not only do we want to meet those needs by staying one step ahead when it comes to the best that home design has to offer, we want to do it in a cost-effective manner that helps modular homes maintain their edge over stick-built homes when it comes to comparing price tags.

To help us live up to those expectations, Excel Homes has created a new position in its front offices: Director of Architectural Design and Innovation. The position will be devoted to developing and marketing innovative new home designs and products for Excel Homes and we’ve named our current Director of Engineering, Steven Saffell, to be the first to step into the important role.

We asked Steven a few questions to explain his new position and offer some insight on modern design in today’s home building industry.

safell1MODULAR MUSINGS: What do you hope to accomplish in this new position and how will it benefit Excel Homes?

STEVEN SAFFELL: The expectation with this endeavor is to set Excel Homes apart from the competition in both the stick built and the modular industry by providing a level of design rarely experienced at this level.  We will design and bring to market homes that are not just laid out well and pleasing to the eye but take advantage of the latest technologies in building and efficiency.  We want to demonstrate that modular constructed homes can be beautiful, good to the environment and a better value than a site built home.

MM: What’s the biggest challenge facing the modular home industry today?

SS: For the short term the economy has been and will continue to be the biggest challenge.  This downturn will however benefit those companies that survive it.  As Americans are forced to tighten our belts, we have started to look for more economically appealing building methods.  The consumer is doing their homework and many are discovering that the modular industry builds a product that is equal to or better than traditional site built products. It’s not just the fact that we build a stronger structures, it is the reduced time to build and the resulting reduction in the construction loan cycle, less waste, tighter structures and limitless design possibilities that all come together to provide a better value.

The longer term challenge will be to continue to educate the buying public and provide an understanding of what a modular product is and is not.  Too many people still think of this industry as single wide trailers (HUD units) or simple ranches for entry level buyers.  The truth is that we are closer to the traditional site built in construction practices and offerings than we are to the HUD industry any more.  That may be where we got our start, but it is a very different product today and we need to educate our buyers and the building professionals to this fact.

MM: Which trends in modular home design will you and your staff be watching closely?

SS: Energy efficiency and “green” building are the hot terms being bounced around today.  However, this can mean a lot of different things to different people and regrettably to some in the building industry it is simply a new marketing ploy. The consumer must be careful of companies that “green-wash” their product in an effort to sell more. Here at Excel, green building is not a marketing ploy but a way of doing business.

MM: How will the economy affect housing design?

SS: No one can say if it is the economy, greener thinking or simply the consumer’s current trend but it appears Americans are starting to look for better quality over quantity. We will always have those looking for massive homes and we are prepared to provide those too, but we are seeing a growing trend toward smaller, high quality designs with nice amenities.  “More bang for your buck” does not always mean larger homes anymore.

MM: Is it possible to continue to create innovative home designs and products while still allowing modular homes to maintain an edge over stick-built homes when it comes to cost and efficiency of construction?

SS:  While in college one of my architectural professors would say regularly, “Good design does not cost any more than bad design.” That statement is even more relevant when it comes to modular construction. 

The modular construction method has so many efficiencies built into the process that the end result can be nothing more than a superior product that is more cost efficient than stick built. A stable workforce of craftsperson’s, an environmentally controlled building environment, years of experience, and a continuous inspection process all work together to create a process that produces the best quality product at the best price on the market today.

This process coupled with Excel’s commitment to design innovation will provide our customers with a product that sets them apart as leaders in the housing and light commercial construction market going forward.  We have a reputation for providing top quality and service and we intend to be known as the industries innovators also.

MM: What’s next for Excel Homes?

SS: The possibilities are endless. Excel has assembled a team of leaders that have vision and are not restricted by the industries “old way of thinking.” We have some of the best modular industry professionals in the business today coupled with top leaders from other industries to create a fresh approach to doing business that is not willing to except the status quo.

We are not just looking at the design of our homes but the entire process from the marketing of our name and product to how we follow up with the customer after the home is set in place.  Everything is fair game for review as we are committed to finding easier ways for our customers to do business with us, improving our building process and product and following up to make sure it exceeds the expectation of our customers.

 

8,000 REASONS TO BUY YOUR FIRST MODULAR HOME IN 2009

File Under: General by Excel Team

tax_reliefGreat news for those of you considering the purchase of your first home, though many of you may already be aware of it. Under the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” an economic stimulus package designed to revitalize the housing market, all first-time home buyers who purchase or build a house in 2009 year will receive an $8,000 tax credit. Unlike the similar 2008 tax credit, this credit does not need to be repaid.

The good news is, there really aren’t that many catches to the plan. The credit covers 10 percent of the home’s value, up to a maximum of $8,000. In other words, if you purchased a home worth $65,000, you’d receive a tax credit of $6,500. To qualify for the credit, you must make less than $75,000 a year if you’re single, and less than $150,000 for married couples.

As defined by the tax credit website, a “first-time home buyer” is anyone “who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase.” So if you owned a home four years ago, but have rented since then, you qualify as a first-time home buyer!

Feel free to check out the tax credit website and the “frequently asked questions” page for more info about this deal and a similar credit for those of you who bought or built a modular home in 2008.

 

CLEAN THE DOG, WALK THE HOUSE

File Under: General by Excel Team

walking-houseA few weeks ago, we told you about a modular home in Utah made from two metal grain silos. The only problem is, that home just sort of sat there, stuck to its foundation. How much fun is that? Now imagine a house that could walk around on six insect-like legs. That’s exactly the vision a Dutch design firm had when they created the walking house you see on the right.

The house – about 10 feet high, 10 feet wide and roughly 12 feet long – is modular in nature because it can be connected to other walking houses to create a walking village. The designers themselves said: “Walking house is a modular dwelling system that enables persons to live a peaceful nomadic life, moving slowly through the landscape or cityscape with minimal impact on the environment.”

And, as you would expect for such a futuristic design, the walking house is environmentally friendly, featuring solar panels and micro windmills, as well as a rain water collection system and a solar hot water heater. Its pace is only about 200 feet per hour, so you’re not likely to use it for long distance travel, but imagine being able to move your home around a bit for a change in scenery or to put a little distance between you and a noisy neighbor?

 

MODULAR SILOS

File Under: General by Excel Team

We’re used to thinking of modular homes as houses that are nearly indistinguishable from their stick-built cousins, but technically, a modular home can refer to any home that is constructed in parts at an off-site location and then assembled at its final destination.

Take the home pictured below in Woodland, Utah. It was designed by Gigaplex Architects and is constructed from two metal grain silos, joined together to create one very cool 1,800 square foot house. The circular exterior creates circular rooms inside, and, like many modular homes, the silo house is extremely energy efficient.

Excel Homes doesn’t have any designs that use grain silos, but after seeing this home, we might ask our architects to look into it.

silo-home-1

 

WANT TO REFINANCE YOUR MODULAR?

File Under: General by Excel Team

You might consider it, especially with rates being as low as they are. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 4.78 percent, the lowest rate since Freddie Mac began the survey in 1971. That means a lot of homeowners are refinancing their purchase in order to save some money in the long run.

Missouri based mortgage broker Tom Meacham offers a few tips, including not signing on the dotted line unless you’re getting a significantly lower rate. Meacham also points out that your credit score will affect your rates, but a mortgage broker can help you find the best deals.

mortgage