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The construction of a new 31,375-square-foot affordable housing modular factory is underway in Boulder, Colorado, that will have the capacity to build up to 50 modular homes annually. The project is the result of a partnership between the city of Boulder, Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), and Flatirons Habitat for Humanity (FHFH).

While the city of Boulder is providing funding to construct the factory and purchase necessary equipment, FHFH will manage and staff the facility. The BVSD is providing the land, and the students of the Technical Education Center (TEC) construction program will have access to hands-on learning.

Scheduled to be completed in early 2024, the factory is slated to produce 12 to 15 modular homes per year in the first few years. The homes will be high-quality all-electric structures powered by solar energy, and will be permanently affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income households.

The first homes on deck to be produced in the completed factory are residences for a mobile home park in north Boulder that is part of the Ponderosa Community Stabilization Project. The project aims to minimize displacement, replace outdated infrastructure, preserve long-term affordability, and reduce flood risk to the community.

“Flatirons Habitat is excited to partner in this project to build high-quality, energy-efficient homes for the Ponderosa community,” says Susan Lythgoe Vasquez, executive director of Flatirons Habitat for Humanity. “The efficiencies brought by modular construction will enable us to bring more homes to the Ponderosa community more quickly and with less disruption than if we were to build traditionally.” The factory plans to build up to 73 new homes for Ponderosa residents.

Each modular home will be primarily built by volunteers, like traditional Habitat for Humanity builds, but will also provide hands-on learning for Boulder students. Through the partnership, TEC students will be exposed to a range of construction industry skills and trades with the factory’s nine assembly stations. The stations will include floor framing; wall setting; roof setting; electrical; plumbing; wall finishing; base trim, door hanging, roofing, and siding; trim, cabinets, and fascia; and appliances, final touches, and cleaning.

Speaking on the opportunity the factory presents TEC students, director of Career and College Connections and principal of Boulder TEC, Arlie Huffman, Ph.D., says: “I have had innumerable conversations with people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or older who say how much they wish they had the opportunity to experience any aspect of the construction trades while they were in high school. Some found their career paths ultimately ending up in this area after a significant period of time, but most others are left wondering how earlier exposure to the field might have changed their lives.

“Our overall goal is for as many BVSD students as possible to be able to get in-depth, hands-on experiences that will allow them to make informed decisions about the next steps in their lives. Having the modular fabrication facility on our site eliminates many of the barriers (i.e., transportation, class scheduling, arranging mentorships, etc.) students often run into in our community.”

Reflecting the school district and city’s commitments to addressing climate change, the factory itself will run on electric power from rooftop solar and will be constructed using salvaged steel. From three separate sources, the city has been awarded $4.3 million to support the facility's construction.