One of the UK’s leading offsite construction specialists – has been awarded the contract to provide modular housing for homeless families in Barking who are in urgent need of accommodation.

#affordablehousing #offsite #developers #premiermodular

The new homes are being developed by Be First, the regeneration arm of Barking and Dagenham Council.

The £1.5 million contract was awarded to Premier by main contractor Jerram Falkus and will provide 20 two-bedroom apartments across two blocks, all manufactured offsite.

The build programme has been reduced to only 15 weeks for the procurement, manufacturing and fitting out of the apartments, installation on site and commissioning, thanks to the use of an innovative offsite solution for this project.

The apartments will be fully finished at Premier’s factory in East Yorkshire using high-quality materials and will be delivered to site complete with bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, partitions, doors, windows and external cladding.

After the installation of the apartments, only M&E connections, joint details between modules and service risers will need to be completed on site.

Set for completion by the end of this year, the building will occupy a highly constrained site in a residential area and adjacent to a live railway line. Premier plans to install a trackway across an open field to bring in the 250-tonne crane and the apartments. As there are restricted hours for delivery of the modules as the site is located within the M25, the project requires detailed logistical planning.



Marcia Kirlew, development manager at Be First, said of the project: “Modular construction allows us to halve the construction time, with obvious benefits to residents in the neighbouring areas. But, more importantly, it allows us to respond to the rapidly developing needs of our local community much faster than we would otherwise, by providing value-for-money, high-quality housing for local people.”

Ed Bartlett, project lead at Jerram Falkus, added: “It is great to see how Be First has really embraced offsite construction to allow the development of challenging sites such as this, which would be very difficult to develop using in-situ construction methods. As a contractor, we appreciate that modular housing is helping us to deliver construction projects faster for our clients, addressing the shortfall in available housing.”

Dan Allison, divisional director at Premier Modular, commented: “Each two-bedroom apartment occupies a single 12.5 tonne module to optimise efficiency and will be factory tested before arriving on site. Premier will only be on site for 25 days which demonstrates the speed of our modular housing solution very well. This is a huge benefit when there is an urgent need for homes for local homeless people in the borough.”

He said it was the firm’s second emergency housing project to help meet government targets to address homelessness, alongside a £7.5 million contract for Buckinghamshire Council for the offsite construction of 58 apartments for homeless people in High Wycombe.

Designed by ATP, the Barking scheme will have roof-mounted PV panels to generate electricity and bike shelters will be installed, as well as some car parking and landscaping.

Premier Modular specialises in the offsite construction of high-quality mid-rise apartments and studios for affordable housing, Build to Rent, student accommodation and emergency housing for homeless people.

Up to 100,000 square metres of living space can be manufactured per year in a single shift, providing capacity for large-scale residential developments with minimal disruption, greater clarity of delivery on time and budget, earlier occupation and a faster return on investment for the developer.


Source: Property Investment Today

With right stimulus MMC could deliver quality housing and jobs in large numbers, argue authors

#mmc #affordablehousing #HTA #governmentfunding #constructionindustry

The government should embark on a programme to build 75,000 modular homes a year, according to a report co-authored by HTA Design partner Mike De’Ath and the government’s modern methods of construction champion Mark Farmer.

The report suggest the government is currently considering the proposals, which call for a further cash injection for the recently launched £11.5bn Affordable Housing Programme in this autumn’s spending review.

Lack of common standards is holding back the amount of homes being built, the report says

Farmer told Building Design’s sister title Housing Today that the construction of an “additional” 75,000 homes a year by 2030 could push the use of off-site construction and MMC to a tipping point of wider industry acceptance and move the modular sector beyond its current “cottage industry” status.

Farmer was in 2016, author of the government-commissioned ‘Modernise or Die’ which called for major reform in the construction industry in the face of a deepening skills crisis.

HTA has designed more than 6,000 dwellings of modular homes, including George Street towers in Croydon, the tallest modular buildings in Europe.

De’Ath said modular homes outperformed traditional new homes in nearly every area, not least speed and quality of build.

He added: “Our ambition for 75,000 new, beautifully designed, modular homes is realistic and achievable, so our ask of government therefore is simple: help us stimulate and then galvanise the demand for modular homebuilding.

”With this help, a sustained long-term pipeline can underpin investment in manufacturing to deliver the quality homes we need while creating the jobs we want.”

The report is also endorsed by the government’s housing and planning advisor Nicholas Boys Smith, founder of Create Streets, and chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, who has written the introduction.



As well as further government cash, the report says the sector needs Homes England to take a pro-active co-ordinating role to broker existing demand for MMC homes across the market, in order that suppliers can be confident of demand, and scale up to meet it.

Farmer said: “The modular sector has always worked as a bit of a cottage industry – there’s massive fragmentation and everyone’s doing their own thing. Government and Homes England need to take a leadership role to aggregate all this, co-ordinating both demand and supply going forward.”

He said this role would go beyond simply setting up a framework, to actively managing the demand for MMC homes, and acting as broker with suppliers. The quango would also drive greater standardisation in the sector, ensuring different systems were interoperable. “Homes England is probably the only party that can be seen as an honest broker for this,” Farmer said.

He said the industry’s production capacity was limited to only around 10,000-15,000 units a year at present, with only 4,000-5,000 of this capacity being utilised, with demand being held back by concerns over the stability of MMC manufacturing businesses and the lack of common standards which would allow another supplier to take over a scheme in the event of a business collapse.

“The primary driver is to make the market more visible to manufacturers, so they can see the level of demand and invest and respond. At the moment those who have factories set up are often under-utilised so they can’t see this demand.”

Farmer said the risk of an imminent market housing downturn meant the government had to act to ensure the uptake of MMC. “If we leave it to open market developers, we are likely to see a reduction. So, this strategy has to be both about making demand visible and increasing real demand via the affordable homes spend.”

The report also calls for the government to focus specifically on rental and discounted ownership tenures to deliver the growth in MMC homes.

The government last week said that development partners in the new Affordable Homes Programme should make 25% of their homes using MMC, and previously set up an Accelerated Construction Fund designed in part to boost the sector.

The report says construction of 75,000 additional MMC homes would create 50,000 new jobs, add 0.75% to GDP and reduce carbon emissions in new homes by up to 40%.


Source: Builidng Design Online




The government agency will require bidders for its £7.4bn pot for affordable housing supply in the next five years to use modern methods of construction such as off-site manufacturing.

#mmc #off-site #funding #contractors #affordablehomes #developers


The Affordable Homes Programme provides grant funding to support the capital costs of developing affordable housing for rent or sale.

As the Government’s housing accelerator, Homes England will be making available £7.39bn from April 2021 to deliver up to 130,000 affordable homes by March 2026, all outside London. Affordable housing in London is governed by the Greater London Authority.

In a statement Homes England said it “expects partners to share the ambitions set out in Homes England’s strategic plan to create a more resilient and diverse housing market. This means partners will also be expected to focus on promoting significant use of Modern Methods of Construction, high-quality sustainable design and working closely with local SME housebuilders.”



The funding is for the supply of new build affordable housing, not met by the market.

Nick Walkley, CEO of Homes England, said: “There will be more of this to follow as we seek to use all our programmes to ramp up MMC capacity and capability.”

  • Off Site Manufacturing – Volumetric
  • OSM – Panellised
  • OSM – Hybrid
  • OSM – Sub-assemblies and components
  • Non-OSM Modern Methods of Construction

Homes England said non-OSM methods of construction  “is intended to encompass schemes utilising innovative housing building techniques and structural systems that fall outside the OSM categories. The presence of innovation is an essential feature that might manifest itself through an innovative non-OSM building system, through a building technique familiar in other sectors but new to house-building, or through traditional components being combined in innovative ways. Typically, ‘TunnelForm’ or H + H Celcon ‘Thin joint blocks’ would fall within this category.”

The funding also supports wider strategic objectives, including:

  • Encouraging uptake of the National Design Guide, which is part of the government’s collection of planning practice guidance within the National Planning Policy Framework.
  • Improving the energy efficiency and sustainability of new affordable housing supply.
  • Encouraging the use of SME contractors.

To allow for this, some of these elements are included in the assessment criteria for funding applications, and others are included in the standard conditions of funding.

Source: Placetech



The pro’s and con’s of Modular Construction across the Atlantic


#USA #modularconstruction #costing #developers

There are plenty of completed modular projects under the construction industry’s collective belt, but there are plenty of owners and developers who have not explored modular as a feasible alternative to traditional construction methods.

Some construction companies are in a unique position as long-time, trusted partners to a developer, but even contractors that are relatively new to a relationship might want to direct the owner toward a method of building that can deliver quality, consistency and time and cost benefits — sometimes.

How should you start that conversation with the owner, and what are the most important aspects of going modular to cover? Here are the key points to convey to owners.

Cost savings reality

It’s important to have an early conversation with owners about the potential for cost savings because the reality could be different from their preconceptions.

Modular construction does not always equate to cost savings, according to Justin Stewart, CEO of Synergy Construction and its offshoot Synergy Modular, both based in Seattle. Whether a modular project will save money when compared to traditional, site-built construction often depends on geography, with one location offering significant cost savings and another a premium.

“So it’s not as simple as saying that it’s definitely going to cost less,” Stewart said. “And that shouldn’t be people’s main driver when they want to look at this. The main upside is that you’re getting a higher level of consistency and quality in a much shorter time period.”

Some owners, said John Beddow, CEO at modular manufacturer Guerdon, are underwater on their budgets, a situation that can spur the initial investigation into the possibility of going modular.

“They’re looking for a life raft,” he said.

Where modular can offer some bottom-line relief is when the project is in an area where labor costs are very high, said Michael Johnson, president and CEO of UrbanCore Development, which specializes in public-private, mixed-income residential developments, including the largest modular housing project in Oakland, California, the $56 million Coliseum Connections completed last year.

“In the factory,” he said, “the labor rates are lower than they typically are in the field … particularly in an area or for a project where you might have prevailing wage or Davis Bacon requirements because of some government funding being a part of the project.”



The reliable benefits

While owners and developers might not realize the savings they thought they would on the construction process, there are many other benefits to modular that they should be excited about, and some translate to cost reductions down the road.

“We will typically start with a conversation about the hidden advantages of modular,” Beddow said, noting this includes a tighter and more reliable schedule.

“Right now,” he said, “finishing projects is taking longer than in the past.”

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There aren’t enough subcontractors and other site personnel to finish projects on time, Beddow said, so the ability to meet milestones in a timely manner has “an intrinsic value” to both the general contractor and developer. The general contractor realizes a reduction in general conditions costs, and the developer gets to market faster, which cuts the financing time and jump starts the revenue stream.

Another plus with having the bulk of construction taking place in the factory, he said, is that general contractors can use smaller subcontractors or those with limited crew availability to perform the necessary work at the construction site.

The quality and consistency of the finished product are also top-notch, he said, even when having to meet strict standards like those of seismic building codes.

“The modules themselves have already proven, by being lifted by a crane and hauled down the road for 600 miles, that they are structurally sound,” Beddow said. “They’re going to be more adept, and they’ve got a floor and a ceiling on every box, on every unit. That gives it a very stable structure.”

Well-constructed modular units, he added, also have high sound transmission coefficients, which is important for apartments and hotels where keeping the noise down between units is paramount.

“That’s a huge positive,” Beddow said.

Financing issues

Learning the ins and outs of the modular process, Stewart said, is a relatively simple task, but financing is probably the biggest challenge.

Because the structure is being built in a factory at the same time that site work is going on, he said, the owner typically cannot secure a loan with real estate because “it’s not real estate until it’s bolted to the foundation.”

In addition, he said, major financial institutions are regulated by underwriting rules, which include ratios for what is allowed as far as offsite stored materials, and modular projects far exceeds those.

“A modular supplier is going to take a unit from scratch to finish,” Stewart said, “in about four days. So they have to have every single building material sitting there on hand. There is no ordering as you go… so it’s even more upfront money.”

Nontraditional lenders have stepped in to help with financing when traditional lenders can’t make a construction loan work.

And to make sure that owners are not stuck with an unexpected tax bill, Stewart said, it’s important to contract with the modular manufacturer correctly. If the contract is for the purchase of product only, he said, then the entire order could be taxed.

“Our preferred method of contracting is [with] the modular supplier as a subcontractor,” Stewart said. Included in that subcontract is also transportation, setting of the modules at the site and touch-ups to the interior of the units.

Right team and upfront collaboration

Whether saving money is the priority or simply getting the desired end result, Johnson said it’s important that the owner assemble a solid team — architect, general contractor and modular manufacturer.

“You can blow [any chance at savings] and potentially have extensive change orders if you don’t have the right team,” he said, “[and run the risk] that you don’t execute the project right, that things won’t be coordinated between the factory and the site-built conditions and that you have problems you have to try to correct in the field.”

The good news, Stewart said, is that there is an increasing number of owners approaching the industry set on using modular, helped along by industry groups, hotel brands and anecdotal information about successful projects that have taken advantage of offsite construction.

The volume of requests has driven Synergy to develop a project feasibility package, which includes a full code study, preliminary schedules and cost estimates, that will help potential customers get an accurate picture of whether modular is a good fit for them.

“In-house people don’t have those metrics,” he said. “They don’t have the way to evaluate this type of construction without going out and finding people that have done this before.”


Source: Construction Dive



CBI unveils vision for how the government can drum up private investment for ‘infrastructure revolution’ to build green economic recovery

#zeroemmissions #infrastructure #construction #cbi

Regulatory bodies should be given more responsibility for ensuring delivery of infrastructure under the government’s long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy aligns with the UK’s net zero emissions target.

That is one of the key recommendations contained in a major new report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which sets out its vision for how the government could galvanise private sector investment behind a sweeping infrastructure programme that would both drive a recovery from the coronavirus crisis and put the UK on track to meet its climate targets.

Achieving net zero emissions would require transformative investment in highly regulated industries such as energy and transport, and as such regulators should be given a “specific regard” to deliver the National Infrastructure Strategy and a “clear responsibility” to ensure regulatory policy aligns with the UK’s net zero ambitions, as well as other government strategic objectives on infrastructure, the CBI said.

The proposal echoes similar calls from leading figures in the energy industry and a number of opposition MPs, who have long argued that regulatory bodies such as Ofgem and Ofwat require an explicit mandate to support and enable the net zero transition. Critics have argued that a tendency by regulators to prioritise shorter term concerns, such as limiting increases in energy costs, has hampered investment in critical green infrastructure, such as smart grid upgrade programmes.


Among the other recommendations listed in the CBI paper are for calls for the National Infrastructure Commission and Infrastructure and Projects Authority to given greater independence and authority to hold government to account on infrastructure delivery progress, and proposals for the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline to be reformed to provide greater clarity on investment opportunities for the private sector.

The report, dubbed Financing the Future, collates recommendations from investors, developers, engineers, and consultants that make up the CBI’s membership. It emphasises that the UK must plough ahead with a significant programme of infrastructure investment if it is to meet its climate ambitions and tap the economic gains projected to be delivered through green growth.

“The delivery of new infrastructure will also play a key role in supporting a green recovery, and progressing towards meeting the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as modern networks and new methods of construction help cut emissions,” it states.

But with the public purse straining from a raft of Covid-19 support measures and a £372bn deficit expected in 2020-2021, private sector investment will be a critical driver of this ‘infrastructure revolution’, the CBI argued.

“While the UK government’s commitment to delivering infrastructure remains undeterred, the country’s fiscal position has substantially worsened,” said CBI chief policy director Matthew Fell. “In this context, the private sector now has an even more important role to play in helping to bridge the funding gap needed to deliver the government’s vision for UK infrastructure.”

In the event that the UK leaves the European Investment Bank, the CBI reccomends the government to set up a UK infrastructure bank focused on ‘crowding in’ private finance by reducing investor risks and promoting market stability.

Fell stressed the government must take steps to tackle “concerns about regulation and a lack of clarity about investment opportunities” as it moves ahead with its plans to spend £640bn on revitalising Britain’s roads, railways, broadband, and housing through measures announced in the March Budget.

“The government must commit to an approach that gives confidence to investors and capitalises on the attributes of businesses and public sector establishing itself once again as a world class destination for investment,” he said.

Industry leaders today welcomed the report’s publication, predicting that if adopted its recommendations would help the UK ‘build back better’.

Guy Thompson, director environmental futures at Wessex Water, said: “We need to invest more in essential infrastructure and to take a long-term view on that investment. The focus on a green economic recovery from the Covid crisis presents an opportunity to build infrastructure that is more resilient in the face of climate change and other environmental pressures.”

His comments were echoed by Richard Threlfall, global head of infrastructure at KPMG International, who argued that “with constrained public finances, now more than ever, we need to attract private finance, both from the UK and from inward investment”. “I welcome the powerful set of recommendations in this report, which if enacted would really help the UK to build back better,” he added.

Commenting on the report, a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We’re committed to building a Britain with world class infrastructure. Spring Budget 2020 set out that the public sector will invest £640bn over five years in our future prosperity.”

The government has repeatedly stressed that it is committed to engineering a ‘green recovery’ and unleashing an infrastructure boom akin to Roosevelt’s New Deal as it looks to revive the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

But campaigners have called on the government to fast-track its infrastructure plans, highlighting how both Germany and France have already unveiled multi-billion Euro green stimulus programmes.

The CBI’s calls for a clearer net zero mandate for regulators also comes ahead of a crucial decision for energy regulator Ofgem as it weighs up a new set of price controls for network operators. Leading network operators have argued they need a more generous price control regime to help draw in the investment required to deliver a new wave of smart grid and green gas technologies.


Source: Business Green





HOUSING 2020: As part of this year’s event, LHC will have a virtual stand where attendees can speak directly to a procurement expert.

#socialhousing #construction #events #mmc #zerocarbon

Even while working from home, local authority and housing association development teams can access exclusive technical advice on how to implement MMC for social housing projects, via LHC’s virtual stand and talks at next week’s Housing 2020 event.

LHC’s Offsite Project Integrator (OPI1) framework was launched earlier this year to help authorities and housing associations to find the technical support that can help with the planning and implementation of offsite housing schemes. The OPI1 framework covers the preliminary stages prior to RIBA Stage 0 and then implementation to stage 7. This framework sits alongside the Offsite Construction of New Homes (NH2) framework to offer local authorities and housing associations solutions at every stage from design right through to occupation.

John Skivington, group director of LHC, will be discussing the opportunities for MMC in social housing during the “Engineering the homes of the future: MMC, BIM and digitalisation” panel alongside speakers from NHBC, Urban Splash and Cast Consultancy. This session will take place on the Future of Living stage on Tuesday 8 September.

“We hope that this session will help to dispel some of the myths around MMC that make local authorities nervous about fully embracing this way of building new homes,” says John.

“Although the format of the event is obviously different this year, our technical experts will still be available to live chat and answer any questions local authorities or housing associations may have about getting started with MMC or about our frameworks in general.”



Improving energy efficiency in housing stock is another key theme for Housing 2020. LHC is a supporting partner of the Climate Change Hackathon and the Climate Champion Power List. In the Climate Change Hackathon participants will be looking at how both new homes and retrofit adaptations can withstand the impacts of a changing climate to keep people safe and comfortable, even as these climate change risks grow.

Unlike a traditional hackathon, the Climate Change Hackathon will be split into four, two-hour sessions. The sessions will focus on solutions that will engage with a variety of stakeholders and motivate the housing sector to adopt a climate emergency approach to all their decision making.

Tony Woods, technical manager at LHC, will be on the panel for “Zero carbon 2030: can housing do it and what would it take?” alongside speakers from BEIS, Savills, Connected Places Catapult and Liberty Group to discuss the technology, financial planning and leadership needed to move the housing sector towards net zero emissions. The debate will take place on the Keynote stage on Thursday 10 September.


For more information on LHC’s approach to MMC, visit its dedicated MMC website:

The UK’s Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) have unveiled a new report that sets out the key factors to reduce risk and bring down the cost of new nuclear power plant projects by 30% by 2030.

#nuclearenergy #construction #uk


The report was produced by a “cross-industry team”, working as part of the government-backed Nuclear Sector Deal.

These factors include rigorous pre-construction planning, with simplicity of design and construction methodology, repeating designs across multiple stations, and building up and transferring a skilled and experienced workforce to new projects.

The report also identifies how a new financing model that controls construction risk will also bring down consumer costs by “mobilising a wider pool of investors” and cutting the cost of capital. The report incorporates lessons from projects “across the globe” and shows that nuclear power is vital to achieving Net Zero by 2050, whilst creating thousands of high quality jobs and economic opportunities across the country, the NIA said.

UK Minister for Business and Energy Nadhim Zahawi said: “I am delighted to see the nuclear industry setting out a clear and robust framework to reduce costs, in line with its commitments under the Nuclear Sector Deal. New nuclear will play an important role as we reach our net zero target by providing reliable, low carbon power as part of our future energy mix.”

NIA Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association Tom Greatrex said: “Nuclear power stations are very cost effective to run due to high reliability, low and predictable fuel costs and very large volumes of power generated whatever the weather. This report demonstrates that the upfront costs can be tackled effectively by bearing down on construction complexity and risks, and by tackling unnecessarily high financing costs.”

Risk Assessment Tool

To embed this framework, the industry is developing a comprehensive Risk Assessment Tool which will monitor 14 key factors for project delivery and efficiency.

The tool will enable developers, investors and the government to develop a clear understanding of project risks to support investment decisions, and then track the ongoing management of those actions and risks throughout the delivery of the project.

The NIA said the industry has achieved early progress against these initial indicators:

  • Rigorous pre-construction planning: designs should be as mature as possible and all key stakeholders aligned on the scope and scheduling of a project before construction begins;
  • The designs that will be used at Wylfa Newydd and Sizewell C are highly advanced, and years of work have been undertaken to prepare the delivery organisations for construction;
  • Repeating designs: constructing a number of the same reactors dramatically reduces design costs, allows the application of best practice from previous projects and facilitates continuous investment in the supply chain and workforce training;
  • Hinkley Point C has borne first generation costs for new nuclear in the UK, and setting up the supply chain, skilling workers, and building capabilities will reduce costs for all subsequent large-scale reactors;
  • Wylfa Newydd will use the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which been built on time and budget four times in Japan between 1992 and 2006. The last station was built in just 37 months
  • Transferring skilled labour: workers can apply their learnings and experience from building one plant to building another;
  • At Hinkley Point C, it took 16 hours to install a tonne of rebar at Unit Two, down from 25 hours for Unit One – a 36% reduction.

The NIA said the industry is confident that by taking the steps outlined in the report, and by action from government to secure a new financing model, costs will fall in accordance with the commitments made under the Nuclear Sector Deal.



In May 2019 the Committee on Climate Change said in its Net Zero – Technical report that, “Power sector decarbonisation does not rely on variable renewables alone, but a portfolio of technologies including nuclear power.” And the Energy Systems Catapult concluded in June 2020 that “committing to a further 10GW of new nuclear beyond Hinkley Point C is a low regrets option for the UK as it targets a Net Zero economy”.

All but one of the UK’s existing nuclear power stations are set to close by 2030 and the government is currently consulting on a Regulated Asset Base approach to financing nuclear power plants, under which a given project’s returns would be overseen by a regulator. The NIA said this would involve “some sharing of costs and risks” with consumers, adding that this “would be appropriate, provided that developers are taking sufficient risk reduction measures, as identified in the report, to make the allocation reasonable”.

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, chair of the Cost Reduction Working Group of the Nuclear Sector Deal, said: “I am very pleased to say that the nuclear new build cost reduction workstream has made great progress, and our report clearly shows it’s possible to deliver a cost-effective programme of new nuclear power stations in the UK. But promises of cost reduction are not enough – in making this case, the developers of new nuclear plants are showing that we recognise the delivery risks we face, and how to manage them.”


Source: World Nuclear News


Symone Garvett of the Builder talks to Richard Doublass of California based Trumark about their new design layout concept

#flooring #architects #design #construction

Through the trials and tribulations that 2020 has brought upon society, homeowners and home buyers have learned how to be flexible and quickly adapt to the current environment. From at-home working and learning to virtual hangouts and fitness classes, people are realizing homes are a top priority and “flex spaces” within them are more important than ever.

In response to the growing trend, California-based builder Trumark Cos. developed TruFlex, an innovative design layout concept that allows home buyers to customize their homes by choosing from various preset designs specific to each level of the home.

Available at Trumark’s West Village property in Brea, Calif.—which was awarded Best Multifamily Housing Community, 15-30 du/acre at PCBC’s 2020 Gold Nugget Awards—TruFlex enables homeowners to customize their townhome floor plan to include a home office, a home gym, a nursery, or whatever their individual lifestyles may require.

BUILDER spoke with Richard Douglass, Southern California division president at Trumark Cos., about TruFlex, including what inspired the concept, how the company had to adapt its practices to offer this option, and buyer reactions to the customizable floor plans.

BUILDER: What exactly is TruFlex?

Douglass: Truflex is our name for a flexible floor plan and building design and infrastructure program. “Tru” borrows from our company name, but the real essence of “TruFlex” comes from our cross-functional approach to design and construction.

BUILDER: When and where did Trumark start offering these customizable layouts?

Douglass: Our first offering was a duplex product in Chino Hills, Calif. The land-use regulations allowed little differentiation in square footage and lot coverage. We had to get creative with interior space so each plan would live differently or flex to different lifestyles. We could not rely on plan size and shape to dictate floor plan design. We focused on methods to combine adjoining rooms with flexibility in partition location and openings.

BUILDER: What inspired the concept?

Douglass: A number of factors, most notably the background among members of our senior management team. We are very collaborative. Some of us have backgrounds in modular design, panelized construction, and adaptable building methods. Others have worked in Europe and in Asia. In effect, our group sees the world a bit differently. We were also in the midst of learning some really hard lessons from previous high-density urban products that were challenging in terms of constructability, costs, and cycle time. Much of that product had been designed years before.

The labor shortage was a growing factor, and, honestly, the complexity of our designs at that point were overwhelming our trades’ ability to perform. We knew labor issues would only get worse as the market improved, so there was no turning back. We made it our mission to root out as much inefficiency as possible, and we dedicated tremendous time and focus on new methods. That gave way to more uniformity in size and shape, modularity in terms of dimensions of spaces. No uneven dimensions, for example. This was then coupled with a total breakdown of each construction step and sequence. Just relentlessness on the process, but not just for process sake. The real motivation was to take gained efficiencies and plow the savings back into more impactful featuresTruFlex Floor Plan Options View All 4 Photos Play slideshow

BUILDER: Did Trumark have to adapt its current building practices to offer this option? How?

Douglass: Yes, in a variety of ways. The emphasis on process was matched with an equal focus on lifestyle being translated into interior design. In simple terms, we challenged ourselves by building the simplest boxes side by side to gain enormous predictability and efficiency. But then, the bigger challenge was the need to differentiate these modules from an excitement and ability to thrive in the home. Once the lifestyle components were determined, we then focused on the building infrastructure (wires, pipes, technology) that we could apply uniformly. The idea was that even if this was initially complex, by making it repeatable we only had to deal with the complexity once. This has a lot of infrastructure planning implications. For example, placing water pipes in walls for a bathroom that may or may not be selected. If they don’t want the bathroom, the pipes stay buried. If they want it, we connect to it. That’s just one of many examples.

This all meant countless hours of interior design studies with all of our disciplines at the table. We felt confident we could create an efficient module that was simpler, more cost effective, and faster to construct. The idea was then to make it adaptable, and exciting for people to live in. Our interior designers and marketing people came up with a lot of “what-if’s” geared to a spectrum of potential buyers. It’s amazing to consider just how much that spectrum has broadened in recent years, and we challenged ourselves to think of as many as possible and yet still keep the variations at a reasonable level. There have to be limits, of course. From there it was then merging the “infrastructure” into the designs.

BUILDER: Roughly how much more does it cost to incorporate an idea like this?

Douglass: It costs no more. It actually costs less. When things become more predictable and repeatable you gain economies and eliminate waste. With modularity and panels, to a large extent, there should be very little cutting on the jobsite and very little waste. We don’t need to rely on sophisticated foremen to figure things out and then struggle to build it. There are not enough of those people around anymore. We build most of the product on paper. It sounds simple, but it takes focus and dedication. The ultimate would be a “kit house,” which is not exactly a new concept. But to pull that off you need a tremendous dedication to pre-plan and pre-construct. We think like athletes. We train and train and practice before we play. It means we go faster once we start. Then, we take saved time and money and put it into the more impactful design features like staircases, window systems, and designer features.

BUILDER: How have buyers reacted to the customization? In the millennial cohort? And in other popular demographics?

Douglass: In a variety of ways, and we are only just beginning. We can pre-plot certain plans in a given phase or sequence. The same module can have a killer master suite with luxury baths on the third floor or three bedrooms and two baths for a young family in the same space. The infrastructure is there, we just plug it in. It sounds simple, but it takes planning and practice. We plant the most advanced technology in the plans, with lots of wired outlets that can be connected to Wi-Fi and robust broadband. That means a lot our spaces are perfect for home offices. You can go with gyms or playrooms. It’s all about adaptable or adjacent spaces. When you think of it that way, modular gets more exciting. We can program ideal floor plans ourselves and put these into spec starts, or a customer can order what they want from our design options.



BUILDER: What patterns have emerged with the floor plans?

Douglass: In the Chino Hills project, the preferred flex option was to transform the room adjoining the master bedroom into a retreat, office, or gym with the possibility of making it a bedroom in the future or the opposite. For those who purchased the plan as a bedroom, we left a door opening under the drywall so it would be easy for the homeowner to create the opening at a later date.

In our latest community in Brea, buyers have been at different ends of the spectrum—some minimum bedroom count and some maximum bedroom count. Neither of which would have been pre-plotted in a standard community with typical floor plans.

BUILDER: What other trends might emerge in the post-pandemic housing market, and how does Trumark plan to cater to those trends?

Douglass: Although we created TruFlex before the pandemic, these flexible floor plans are more relevant now. Our lifestyles will still be different than pre-pandemic. These flexible plans will allow us to increase our focus on the true function of a home office with a quiet place for online meetings. We will see two people working from home—not just one—and see two people working from home and kids attending class online. We are also exploring greater use of materials that have antimicrobial surfaces—countertops and door hardware. And we will always be keen on adopting new energy-efficient products and construction methods.


Source: Builder