Modular Briefs – March/April 2004

Genesis Introduces Custom, Affordable Designs at IBS
Over at the Genesis model home, “off-site construction” is the preferred nomenclature for explaining how the company can add technology to a builder’s tool belt. This year, Genesis sought to educate builders and developers that their designs are both custom and affordable.

Genesis, a division of Champion Enterprises (Auburn Hills, MI), introduced its Customer Design Technology or CDT with its debut of The Jefferson, a 2,000-sq.ft. two-story home with a traditional craftsmen style design. The home is part of the Genesis Americana Series.

“With CDT, home buyers can personalize the design of their homes through a series of pre-engineered options,” explains Roger Lasater, senior vice president.

With user-friendly computer software, builders or buyers can enlarge bedrooms, add special kitchen designs and increase the home’s overall square footage. They also are able to modify exterior elements, including shingle color, siding color and type, and even select different exteriors.

In addition to CDT, builders and developers can benefit from a number of manufacturing efficiencies provided by Genesis’ construction process. Because these homes are constructed indoors in a quality- and climate-controlled environment, Genesis’ reliable and experienced workforce can build homes year-round. In addition, Genesis is able to buy in bulk the same construction materials used by site builders, therefore securing the best pricing. These efficiencies and savings enable builders to cut costs per square foot by up to 15%.

With 90% of the home constructed at its facility, Genesis serves the role of multiple subcontractors, eliminating the need for builders to manage subcontractors independently. An off-site constructed home built by Genesis can be ready for occupancy in less than 90 days. Genesis operates 10 modular home-building facilities strategically located to serve builders and developers across the nation.

NextGen Opens Builders’ Eyes to Possibilities
Conventional site builders were clearly intrigued by modular technology and the “Evolution of the American Home,” the theme for the 2004 NextGen Demonstration Home at the International Builders’ Show this past January in Las Vegas.

Thousands of builders toured this 2,400-sq.ft. home on display outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. The home’s list of products and features was so long that organizers put together a folding map worthy of AAA to explain each product, its location within the home and its advantage to both buyer and builder.

“Our goal is to show that a home can incorporate the most advanced technology—as well as the latest in safety and energy efficiency—and still be affordable to most Americans,” says Paul Barnett, president of iShow, organizer of NextGen.

Goals for the NextGen house, established by the Partnership for Advanced Technology in Housing (PATH), included that it be affordable, connected, energy efficient, stronger and safer. Organizers easily achieved these goals with innovative products around every corner. A few that caught the attention of builders included:

  • The TotoUSA’s Neorest integrated toilet in the master bath was a top draw. One builder described it admiringly as, “my new best friend.” The sleek, tankless, one-piece toilet has a lid that opens when anyone approaches; it also closes the lid and flushes automatically. It features a New Cyclone Flushing system—no waiting for refill and no refill noise. The Neorest also offers bidet style front- and back-aerated warm-water spray controlled by a wireless remote. Other features include oscillating spray massage, heated seat, automatic catalytic air deodorizer and warm air dryer.
  • The kitchen featured a refrigerator-oven combo by Tmio that allows homeowners to prepare an oven-baked meal and then keep it refrigerated until they are ready to get things cooking. The refrigerated oven can be turned on or off by cellphone, laptop or PDA—perfect for busy commuting families.
  • Nearly every room in the NextGen house had a Sharp Aquos liquid-crystal television. Plus, the home featured a home theater system that would make Francis Ford Coppola drool with its 100″ screen and sound system that could melt the fillings in your teeth.
  • The popular gas hearth from Heat-N-Glo sports a heat-recovery ventilator that brings fresh air in while exhausting stale air.
  • Windows and doors were low-e and made of fiberglass, which is impervious to water, cold, heat, insects and salt air, and is not harmed by exposure to the sun.

Other admired features include: environmentally friendly solar modules that convert sunlight into electricity, spray foam insulation that expands into the smallest cavities and a factory-installed cooling system that increases convenience and reduces construction cycle time.

After IBS, the 2004 NextGen home was donated to Opportunity Village, Nevada’s leading not-for-profit organization serving people with mental disabilities.

Fleetwood Jumps into the Modular Business
In a growing sign that the modular home industry is accelerating, manufactured home producer Fleetwood Homes (Riverside, CA) has launched a new modular home product line. Fleetwood Homes operates 21 housing facilities nationwide and is a publicly traded (NYSE: FLE) Fortune 1000 company.

Fleetwood displayed its new capabilities through its LifeStages Modular Home at IBS in January. Designed with built-in flexibility, the home was developed to accommodate the diverse needs of builders across the United States.

“We’re already receiving outstanding reviews on our new modular homes by customers and builders alike,” says Wes Chancey, Fleetwood’s vice president of sales, marketing, distribution and product design for the Housing Group.

“No other home manufacturer can match our experience or expertise in helping builders and developers build their business based on specific market needs and requirements.”

“The home was the hit of the show,” says Kevin Hull, vice president of sales for Fleetwood’s housing group. “It’s a house that could be built across the U.S.— all for under $35 a sq.ft.”

Analysts say Fleetwood’s launch in the modular industry will cause all boats to rise on the same tide. “I think it’s exciting,” says Fred Hallahan of Hallahan & Associates (Baltimore, MD), which compiles annual state-by-state and county-by-county statistics on modular homes. “Fleetwood is following the examples set by Palm Harbor (which recently purchased modular manufacturer Nationwide Custom Homes) and Champion Enterprises (which launched the Genesis brand). This is really good news for the modular industry to have such a large, well-funded company join their efforts. It’s a progressive move for Fleetwood as well, to move into a higher end, more sophisticated market.”

Winalta Closes U.S. Factory
In December, modular manufacturer Winalta (Edmonton, Canada) closed its U.S. modular factory in Linton, IN, in order to focus on its Canadian housing operations and its new subsidiary, Vanguard, which manufactures recreational vehicles.

“It was an extremely difficult decision to discontinue manufacturing in Linton,” says James. A. Sapara, chairman and CEO. “The management and employees at the facility were extremely dedicated and loyal and we thank them sincerely for their efforts.

“While our expectations were very high for this operation, it became very clear that the financial commitment and time required to meet those expectations was not commercially acceptable,” says Sapara. “In the best interests of our shareholders, management will focus on our very successful Canadian operations and our recently acquired recreational vehicle manufacturing operations, Vanguard. Both entities are expected to generate good financial results, ongoing.”

Winalta lost $482,000 in fiscal 2003 after a $3.7 million write-down, compared with a profit of $3.6 million in 2002. Revenue for the year-ended Oct. 31, 2003, rose to a record $65.7 million from $61.7 million, but the closure of a U.S. plant created the big write-down.

MBSA HOUSING CONFERENCE – MARCH 21-23
The Modular Building Systems Association (Harrisburg, PA) is holding its annual three-day trade show and conference, March 21-23, at the Palmetto Dunes & Hilton Head Marriott Beach and Golf Resort.

The three-day show includes seminars on modular housing, vendor expo, awards, legislative reports and world-class golf. Open to developers, entrepreneurs, builders and manufacturers, this event draws together all those in this industry to educate and enlighten participants on a host of issues that directly affect this industry, says Steve Snyder, executive director. The conference is open to MBSA members and nonmembers alike. For details, call 717-238-9130.

In other news from the MBSA, the organization has just unveiled a new design for its Web site (www.modularhousing.com). The new site offers greater content for buyers, builders, manufacturers and suppliers to the industry, says Steve Snyder, executive director of the MBSA. çWe are all very excited about the MBSA’s redesigned presence on the Web. The new site will allow us to interact with our members and get information to them in a new and dynamic manner. It will also allow us the flexibility to add content in the future that will both assist our members and help to educate the general public and home buyers about the benefits of modular housing.”

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