Formerly of Marmol Radziner Prefab, Connect:Homes founders Jared Levy and Gordon Stott have made their careers in making building methods more efficient, from price to preconstruction. Levy shares some of his new company’s strategies and philosophy.
What are the major flaws in prefab, and how did those prompt you to create Connect:Homes?
Housing is one of the few remaining regionally constrained industries in this globalized economy. For prefab to be a viable alternative, it needs to deliver on the promise that it can be affordable and available wherever you are.
Why doesn’t Connect offer a kit of parts or panelized homes?
Our goal is to minimize the work that gets done on-site—where there are a whole host of variables—and to maximize the work that gets done in a controlled factory setting, where costs are known up front.
You’ve found a way to cut the price of transporting prefab homes by an average of 90 percent. Why is it usually so expensive, and how have you achieved such a dramatic price decrease?
The industry standard in modular housing is to build the biggest module roadways will allow. So you end up with these oversize components that require pilot cars and specialized trucks, routes, and permits. Once you get 200 miles away from the factory, it becomes cost-prohibitive to deliver. (To ship an industry standard–size building module across the country costs over $20,000 with overseas costs rising to over $80,000. A typical five-module home would cost over $100,000 to deliver cross-country and over $400,000 to deliver overseas.)
We’ve developed a patent-pending modular system of homes that range from 640 to 2,560 square feet and deliver for much less (under $5,000 to ship within the United States and around $8,000 to ship internationally). Base models cost between $128,000 and $448,000. We designed those modules to plug into the existing intermodal shipping network used for transporting shipping containers.
Are shipping containers bad for us?
Our feeling is that they aren’t meant for habitation. They are designed to move 32 tons of cargo on the open seas. That has some pretty unique requirements, like anticorrosive chemical coatings and pesticides. So if you need to do some radical alterations [to make them livable] you may need to ask, Is it worth it?
What do you see on the horizon for the prefab industry?
We all need to do a better job of educating home buyers about the benefits of modular. Conventional construction is complicated and time consuming and not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of people out there who really want a better way.
Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.