The Chicago Tribune recently reported that two European developers are planning a mixed-use development that could include up to 20,000 modular homes on the former site of a U.S. Steel plant in Chicago. A division of Irish firm WElink Group and Spain-based Barcelona Housing Systems (BHS) has entered into an agreement to purchase the 440-acre site. WElink builds energy-efficient modular housing, and BHS uses solar power and recycled materials in its homes. Closing on the property is to occur within five months. It is anticipated that the development would likely include low- and mid-rise buildings, parks and a marina.

Developers are increasingly using modular and offsite construction to speed up construction and overcome skilled-labor shortage. Modular factories offer efficiencies which produce either whole rooms or room segments concurrently with site work and other site operations. This efficiency can significantly streamline the project schedule.

A number of commercial developers, including Marriott, have made public commitments to use modular construction to reduce costs and achieve overall efficiency. It recently announced that it planned to incorporate modular in approximately 13% of its total North American hotel deals this year. That would translate to approximately 50 hotels that will include some element of modular building.

Although most of the growth in modular in the U.S. has come from the multifamily and hospitality sector, some single-family builders are also using the method. Entekra, An Irish developer, Entekra, plans to build volume modular housing in the U.S. It claims that its model can produce the components for a 2,500-square-foot house in four hours and assemble them on site over the course of four to five days.

Andrew B. Cohn can be reached by email at acohn@kaplaw.com or via phone at 610-941-2549.


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