Prefab Grows as Site Built Costs Climb
Apartment Pros Cut Time to Market with Prefab Construction.
Eviva Midtown, a 118-unit mixed-use community just steps from the California State Capitol, will feature luxury amenities, 5,000 square feet of retail space, and an underground parking garage. The community is scheduled for completion in spring of 2016, or just 18 months after the first shovel of dirt was turned at the site, instead of the 24 months originally estimated.
What is the secret to the time-collapse? Modular construction. All of Eviva’s units will be stacked, one by one, atop the project’s ground-floor retail space. Measuring 12 by 64 feet, and weighing 35,000 pounds each, the “boxes,” as they’re known in modular parlance, will then be stitched together, with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) runs strung between them, until Eviva reaches its full, six-story height.
Aside from the building’s stucco façade, once the units are in place, there will be next to nothing left for Moayed’s subs to do. The units, supplied by Boise, Idaho–based Guerdon Modular Buildings, will arrive at the site almost completely finished out. Paint, flooring, baseboards, cabinetry, counters, lighting, faucets, showerheads, tile, mirrors, windows, switch plates, thermostats, and even appliances, will all already be in place.
Only the Beginning
While popular in Europe, modular construction is still in its infancy for multifamily in the States and barely registers as a blip on the data screens of most apartment tracking firms. Indeed, modular only accounted for 1.3% of all construction categories followed by the Charlottesville, Va.–based Modular Building Institute in 2013. But the trade group’s lodging category, which includes MDUs, showed an annual uptick in activity of 31%. Indeed, some notable apartment developers have brought communities out of the ground—and out of the factory—using modular construction in recent years.
Advocates of modular construction tout shorter cycle times and the elimination of material cost overruns (since you know the price of each unit up front, there’s no fudging in the numbers once on site), as well as more consistency in the finished product. Because modular units are built in the controlled environment of a factory, spec drift and exposure to the elements can largely be taken out of the equation. With components built in a factory, fewer union wage hours are worked on site. And the finished product can be more energy efficient and have more sound-dampening qualities than site-built apartments.
Take the Domain in San Jose, California a 444-unit, luxury community developed by Equity Residential that opened in late 2013. The largest modular apartment project completed in the country to date, the building recently took best-in-show honors in the Modular Building Institute’s 2015 Awards of Distinction competition. A quick look at some of the building’s beauty shots tells why: No cookie-cutter development of blocks upon blocks, Domain is virtually indistinguishable from a site-built community.
The layout includes cascading, elongated windows looking out onto the building’s sunny courtyard pool deck, while interiors boast 9-foot ceilings, granite countertops, casement windows, stainless steel appliances, and washers and dryers, which were already installed and in place when the modular units were delivered to the site. Each unit also offers patio space, and top-floor apartments have a walk-out, private rooftop deck.
But it’s not just Domain’s good looks that have been winning it accolades. Started in 2011, the property went to market about nine months sooner than would normally be anticipated for a similar, site-built project—even though it cost about $2 million more to build—and reached full occupancy an entire year earlier than the underwriters’ pro forma estimates. With the historic growth of rents in the past five years, and whispers about the top of the cycle emerging for multifamily, having that kind of jump getting to market can make a staggering difference.
Contact USModular, Inc., – Southern California experts in modular construction. We build faster, better, greener and for less!