- Modular company Prefab Logic and other investors have announced they are building a $102.5 million automated volumetric modular construction factory — Autovol — in Nampa, Idaho. The company said the facility will be able to assist in tackling the affordable housing crisis through high-capacity production of multiunit modular dwellings.
- Prefab Logic will design the factory with an unnamed robotics development company, and Autovol will operate the facility. The factory will produce at a minimum 80% capacity, which translates to at least 1,600 modules per year and will target the expensive West Coast U.S. housing market.
- Preconstruction work at the 52-acre site started in October, and construction is expected to wrap up in early 2020. “Autovol will open up with automation far beyond what’s being done in any modular factory today. It’s Construction 3.0,” said Autovol CEO Rick Murdock, who, along with Curtis Fletcher, co-founded Prefab Logic.
Multifamily, hospital and hotel projects — or any type of project that has some element that lends itself to an automated, assembly-line process — is a target of modular builders. Given the shortage of skilled labor, the efficiencies realized in the prefabricated modular process could provide the industry some relief.
In the short term, however, the limited number of modular manufacturers, according to Bisnow, could increase prices for modular units and extend construction schedules, shaving a bit off the anticipated savings of time and money, at least until supply catches up.
And modular might not be the way to go for every multiunit project. Wally Naylor, project executive at Charles Pankow Builders and speaker at a Bisnow conference in November, said the modular “sweet spot” was 100 units, addressing other speakers’ comments about the impracticality of modular for a too-small project and the chaos that can ensue on a very large modular undertaking.
The cost-benefit analysis, however, will likely tighten up as more projects get built. And while the affordable housing issue is one that some think modular can conquer, the method is popping up in some pretty pricey places as well.
The first residential tower at Related Cos.' $25 billion Hudson Yards development in Manhattan will soon open for residents, and the 88-story 15 Hudson Yards will be connected to a 200,000-square-foot modular arts center dubbed The Shed. The structure was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group and will open in April.
Another new modular project in New York City is the CitizenM Bowery hotel, which opened in September. It is reportedly the tallest modular hotel in the U.S., with its 15 stories of hotel rooms built atop a 100,000-square-foot cast-in-place base.