Modular Construction Brings New Possibilities for Affordable Housing
The lack of affordable housing in the United States is reaching crisis levels not only for the poor, but also for the middle class and upper-middle class. Over the past decade, both rents and home prices have risen while incomes have remained roughly flat. More than 18 million households spent more than half their income on housing in 2016. Almost half of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent and nearly two-thirds of renters say they can’t afford to buy a home. The situation is often worst in areas experiencing rapid economic growth, such as the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and Southern California, where new housing construction has lagged behind job growth.
Building more new housing would seem to be a simple solution, but available land is often limited, and many neighborhoods resist new construction due to the disruption it can cause. What’s more, construction costs have risen steadily over the past decade and there’s a shortage of labor, with 85% of contractors reporting difficulty finding skilled workers. In the Bay Area, construction costs alone average more than $800,000 for a new single-family home, leaving all but the wealthiest with few options.
Modular approaches to construction are one important way to bring down costs. CNBC’s recent in-depth report on the possibilities of modular construction features Factory_OS, a modular construction start-up and Autodesk partner. By manufacturing entire rooms and other building components in the controlled conditions of a factory and assembling them on-site, Factory_OS can reduce construction costs by 20-40% and enable developers to put up new buildings 40-50% faster. Modular strategies, also known as prefabrication and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), also have the benefit of greater predictability—work can continue year-round, rain or shine—and greater sustainability, since they produce significantly less waste. And these components can be assembled quickly on-site, reducing disruption for the surrounding neighborhood.
BIM-based digital workflows are essential for modern modular strategies. Build your skills and your insight with these AU sessions:
Brenden Morton shares BamCore’s process for creating prefabricated custom walls from wood-bamboo hybrid panels. These panels eliminate 80-90% of traditional framing needs and provide better thermal and acoustic performance, while also reducing embodied carbon.