One answer to Colorado’s affordable housing crisis may lie in a plant north of Denver. Workers at Clayton Homes PBS – Precision Building Systems – assemble two homes a week, complete with amenities like granite counter tops, and sell them for around $300,000.
Today’s modular homes have come a long way since Sears Roebuck kits 100 years ago. You’d be hard pressed to tell the traditional, site-built homes from those built in the Denver factory, set on a plateau, transported to a neighborhood, and set on a foundation.
The only difference is that industrial homes take a month instead of a year to build and sell for about half the price. Barry Kunkle is director of modular design and manufacturing for PBS and makes building houses as easy as assembling Legos.
“We will separate them, put them on our tables and put them together.”
Kunkle helps reinvent home building in Colorado.
“We do two houses a week, so about two and a half days per house from start to finish.”
In the company’s 200 square foot factory, Kunkel explains how parts and panels go to one end of an assembly line and how complete houses emerge from the other.
“At the same time, roof trusses are being built, floor trusses are being built.”
Instead of the step-by-step sequence that happens on site, in the factory, he says, sections of the house are assembled and inspected simultaneously.
“They’ll put in any insulation, any plumbing. They’ll fix all the drywall. They’ll run up this wallboard and come down here. We have a task tracker that tells us by the minute where we need to be.”
By the time the home leaves the factory, all it needs are the finishing touches like paint, cabinetry, and carpeting. Along with greater efficiency, Kunkle says there’s less waste.
“We pre-cut everything. You pre-cut your plumbing, your wiring. We have shop drawings that show the exact lengths.”
All of this helps keep costs down, he says, without sacrificing quality.
“Farmhouse sinks, granite countertops in kitchens and bathrooms. It’s definitely the wave of the future. It’s more accessible so we can keep people in the beautiful state of Colorado and have a good quality house.”
So far, PBS has assembled eight models for Oakwood Homes. Starting this fall, it will build 96 homes for Oakwood’s new development at Green Valley Ranch and there’s already a waiting list for them. Although they’re less than 1,300 square feet, they’re energy efficient, and you can get a two- or three-bedroom home with all the appliances for around $300,000.