Ordinarily, I hate it when journalists resort to personal experience for column material. Just this once, I am going do it, because I am doing something else I will do only once in this lifetime: Building a house. It's a modular house, and I am amazed at how quickly and efficiently the construction process has progressed.

William Gloede I'm not promoting modular design and construction in the production home building business; surely better minds than mine have wrapped themselves around that. But cycle time and efficiency in construction being as critical as they are to big builders, I figured it might be instructive to report on what can be done in the modular world.

The house is located on an island, connected to the mainland by a short causeway, in the town of St. George, Maine. I've owned the property for about 15 years.

After talking to a half-dozen builders, my wife and I decided last fall on a custom modular designed by Scott Gove of Waldoboro, Maine?based Maine Modular & Manufactured Homes, which he co-owns with Karl Pitcher.

We spent the winter adding dormers, windows, wall-mounted LP-gas heating/hot water systems, LP-gas standby generators (this is, after all, coastal Maine, home of the original Nor'easter), and a host of other things. We finally signed the contract in April.

Ground was broken in May, and I do mean broken–the island was once a granite quarry. Instead of blasting, however, Gove anchored the foundation to the ledge, giving us a high-and-dry, 1,500-square-foot daylight basement with a full view of the cove. The foundation and some rather considerable preliminary site work were done by the first week in June.

DROP AND ROLL: Early afternoon on July 12, the third box was hoisted into position (above). Two days later, the roof and dormers are up (below). Photos: Courtesy William Gloede The house could have been set then, but the manufacturer, KBS Building Systems of South Paris, Maine, had not yet started manufacturing the house. So the site sat idle for several weeks.

KBS built the house–a 2,000-square-foot, "three box" Cape chalet with an ELL offset (and 20-foot ceilings) and a master bedroom and bath–in five days. The two upstairs bedrooms and bath are being done on site. If KBS cut any corners, I have yet to find them.

On July 12, the house was delivered and set. By the middle of the next week, the house was weather-tight, and the carpenters were in, framing out the upstairs bedrooms. A week later, the electricians were in and out in four days. The drywall guys come next; the carpenters will return to finish up; and the heating contractor will set up the mechanical systems (and hook up the appliances, which, I hope, will have been delivered).

Move-in day is set for August 25, about 18 weeks after we signed the contract. That's a long time for Gove, who says he can take a house from release of order to occupancy in 10 weeks. And he says he can do any size or design so long as it can be built in sections no wider than 16 feet, the wide-load limit on most roads.

I have found three problems so far: One, since fixed, involved a countertop cut to the wrong size for my stove; the others were a missing cabinet and a poorly aligned separator in one of the transom windows. That's it.

Using the exterior dimensions of the place to figure square footage (cathedral ceilings waste an awful lot of otherwise useable space, but I love them), the entire project, minus the land, of course, is coming in under $130 per square foot, not including the basement space, but including site work, septic system, and well.

And no, I am not getting a break for writing this column. I truly am amazed.