Think you can tell the difference between a stick-built home and a modular home simply by eyeballing it?  According to modular home manufacturer Excel Homes, it’s not as easy as you might think. 

To prove its point, the Camp Hill, Pa.-based prefab company recently challenged thousands of traditional builders to visit and put their preconceptions to the test by attempting to pinpoint which of three houses in a lineup was the modular one. Participants were given a quick primer on the basics of modular construction after learning whether or not they’d chosen correctly. But the quiz offered builders more than just new information: the more than 5,000 builders who took the online challenge over the summer were also automatically registered in a drawing for $100,000 to be put toward an Excel modular home. 

The lucky winner of that cash prize, Jay Adamski of Adamski Construction in McDonald, Pa., intends to put the money toward his first modular project--a series of townhomes and duplexes set for installment in late spring or early summer 2009.  Adamski, who has specialized in stick-built homes for the past 30 years, says this could be just the beginning of several modular projects in his company’s future.

“I am always looking for new ways to keep up with industry changes,” says Adamski. "There's a lot of buzz right now about the quality, design, efficiency, and value benefits of modular and pre-fab construction techniques, but the current market has made it hard to try new ventures.”  The cash allowance, he says, offers license to experiment.

Excel Homes CEO Steve Scharnhorst sees the promotion as a worthwhile investment. He hopes that pairing modular construction with Adamski’s local reputation and experience will help change public and industry perceptions about factory-built homes and dispel myths about the manufacturing process.

“Modular construction still suffers from a perception of being limited or lower-quality,” says Scharnhorst, when in reality the quality and aesthetics can be equal. “The finished product is indistinguishable, so really what we’re talking about is the ability to build a home six to ten times faster with less overhead,” he says. “Having the same workers come to the same place every day with their tools in the same place without worrying about weather or subcontractor schedules makes for a faster, less costly method of building.”

Adamski, who will receive a tour of Excel Homes’ Liverpool, Pa., factory as part of his prize, already sounds like a convert to the method. “Everyone relates [modular homes] to double-wides, and they’re not,” he says.

Kelsey Williams is an editorial intern for BUILDER magazine.