Along the coastal communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, many homeowners are turning to off-site construction as a way to rebuild their homes affordably, efficiently, and quickly.
More than 650,000 homes along the shores of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut took the brunt of the October 2012 storm. Estimates are that close to 60,000 homes still need to be rebuilt, and many homeowners are exploring alternatives to site-built construction.
“The storm has forced a lot of people to look into how they want to rebuild,” says Mike Dayer of Phoenix Custom Homes, a modular builder in Manahawkin, N.J. “It’s really brought modular building into the mainstream here.”
To meet the demand, Dayer's Pennsylvania-based prefab manufacturer is offering a new collection of homes engineered to match the challenging building sites and updated code requirements in the hurricane-affected areas. The Restore the Shore collection from Ritz-Craft features ranch, Cape Cod, and two-story plans designed for either crawlspace or piling foundations. Living areas range from 1,197 square feet to 2,382 square feet. Special considerations include floor plans specifically designed for smaller coastal lots and quicker build times.
Storm-affected customers have been impressed with the many benefits of modular homes, says Ritz-Craft director of business development Mike Zangardi. The process is somewhat less expensive than traditional construction and often takes less time, requiring roughly three months to construct a home once modules are delivered to the jobsite and craned into place. In most instances, items like insulation, plumbing, windows, doors, trim, and drywall also are installed at the factory. The computer-controlled process also greatly reduces construction waste.
Ritz-Craft's process produces homes that are practically airtight, Zangardi says, thanks to factory-installed fiberglass batts and blown-in cellulose, advanced framing techniques, and painstakingly air-sealed envelopes that achieve R-19 walls and R-30 in the attic. Since modular homes are built indoors and away from the elements, the chance of mold is virtually taken out of the equation, Dayer says.
The engineered approach also offers special safeguards for coastal homes, Zangardi says, such as additional strapping and bolting and specially formulated two-part adhesives. “Modular construction is ideal for high-wind zones,” he adds. “We have the ability in the factory to really achieve what’s needed—in terms of additional strapping—that’s more cumbersome to add in the field.”
Prefabricated housing has an added benefit for builders: It reduces dependence on on-site skilled labor, a commodity in short supply in New Jersey's booming rebuilding market. “Typically in situations like high-volume rebuilding, prices rise pretty rapidly related to labor costs because it becomes in short supply relative to the market,” Zangardi says. "This doesn't happen with modular building."
Modular builders along the shore are seeing an increase in sales. Phoenix Custom Homes has sold 15 units this year and taken deposits on 25 more. “Modular has become the buzzword here," says Dayer, who no longer has to explain to customers what a modular home is. “Now everyone knows what they are.”