ORIGINAL SEARS KIT HOME RECEIVES MODERN DAY MODULAR RENOVATION

File Under: General by Excel Team

Restoring new life into their original 1928 Sears Roebuck & Co. kit home, located in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was necessary for the Ruppert Family. With space, time and financial considerations top-of-mind, the Rupperts turned to Excel builder partner Carbide Construction of Lorton, Virginia, for the answer.

On December 20, the Rupperts’ traditional Sears model known as “Van Jean” received a modular renovation that not only added fifty percent more living space for the homeowners, but also gave the 83-year-old façade a facelift. Originally offered at a price range of around $2,600 to $2,900, Sears described the structure in marketing materials as “…an unusually well-arranged and cleverly planned Dutch Colonial house.” (The photo below shows the home before work began.)

The Rupperts’ love for their Dutch Colonial home encouraged them to remodel, rather than sell and upgrade to a larger home – or, what has been the trend in their area: tear down the original structure and rebuild. The new addition adds approximately 1,200 square feet, and is incorporated into the existing structure.

“For us, the biggest challenge was maneuvering the crane around DC,” says Carbide Vice President David Gigliotti, who also notes that the slightly sloped terrain posed some difficulties as well. “From a design perspective, it was interesting to marry a pitched roof addition with a Mansard, but in the end, everyone was pleased with the result. From a cost standpoint, we are able to offer a mostly complete home to what traditional stick builders had bid for shell-only construction.”

Carbide serves the Northern Virginia market, which includes Alexandria, Arlington, Springfield, City of Fairfax, Manassas, and McLean, as well as Prince William County and into the borders of Washington, D.C. The company specializes in kitchen and bathroom renovations, and the unique specialty of modular additions, an endeavor begun in 2002 when they partnered exclusively with Excel Homes. Since then, Carbide has completed modular additions ranging from adding two rooms to an entire second level. (In the photo below, a modular addition is lowered into place.)

Gigliotti also explains that this and similar addition projects are part of a larger trend toward renovation.

“Even in the D.C. market, which generally didn’t feel the full effects of the housing downturn, people are increasingly opting to save money, or think ahead to one day being able to accommodate multiple generations by staying in their current home.”

As with all of Carbides sets, all boxes were maneuvered, placed and secured within one day, a sight that drew neighborhood spectators.

“We’re most excited about this project’s details,” says Gigliotti, “and will compare pretty much everything we do going forward with this build. It’s truly an amazing transformation.”

The finished product can be seen below. For more information and photos of the renovation, visit the Carbide Construction website.

 

Excel Homes offers a breath of fresh air for today’s stale modular home market

File Under: General by Excel Team

Just about any industry – from construction to fast food to automotive design – can use a breath of fresh air now and then. That’s why Excel is proud to introduce, for the first time in the United States, the Certified Living Breathing Home program.

The program was developed in Canada with indoor air quality in mind. A Certified Living Breathing Home (LBH) is designed to provide fresh clean indoor air to every room of the house without compromising the energy efficiency of the HVAC system.

The program is well-timed, too. Some experts have expressed a concern about air quality in today’s popular energy efficient homes. By their very nature, these new homes are built tighter, and some studies indicate that the air inside them can be up to 70 times more polluted than the air outside. Ironic, isn’t it? This stagnant air, experts claim, contributes to many health and respiratory issues of the occupants.

Excel Homes and Airia Brands of Canada have reached an agreement that the only place to get a Certified Living Breathing Home in the United States will be through an authorized and trained Excel Home builder.  Each home will be thoroughly tested by a third party expert to ensure that it meets a series of strict air quality standards.

Bottom line: A Certified Living Breathing Home is a healthier home. And although today’s energy efficient homes do a great job of keeping warm air inside in the winter (and outside in the summer), their tight construction makes it impossible to refresh the indoor air without compromising energy efficiency.  In a Living Breathing Home, this stale, humid indoor air is regularly expelled and replaced with fresh, oxygen-rich air from outside.

We invite you to follow along on Facebook to track the progress of the construction of the first Certified Living Breathing Home being built in New York (including the installation of the Heat Recovery Ventilation machine). You can also check out the Living Breathing Homes website to learn more about what makes a Certified Living Breathing Home  a must-have for all modular home builders.

Yes, it’s true … change is in the air, and Excel Homes is happy to be a part of it.

 

THE 12-STEP MODULAR PROCESS: FORMS, PROCEDURES & PERMITS

File Under: General by Excel Team

We’ll be the first to admit that building a new home – whether you’re a builder or a home owner – isn’t easy.  The Excel Homes team does its best, however, to simplify the construction process, starting with the detailed “12 Step Process” outlined on the builder section of our website. In this monthly entry, we’ll take a closer look at one of those steps.

Step two of the 12-step modular construction process is probably the least exciting part of the entire undertaking. We’re not afraid to admit that. It’s a lot of paperwork, signing stuff, and more paperwork, but all of it is vitally important before we’re able to move on to some of the more interesting stages.

Highlights from step two include the following:

  1. Select modular home model and options
  2. Develop and finalize prints, plans, options, finishes and specs
  3. Sign contracts
  4. Sign off on plans and specs
  5. Secure financing
  6. Set target occupancy date
  7. Issue deposit
  8. Establish construction activities/schedule
  9. Obtain and post permits (building, electrical, plumbing, etc.)
  10. Submit application for gas/electrical service
  11. Conduct site survey (stake out)

One of the most important of the 11 “boring” functions above is the creation of a construction activities schedule. Put simply, this document will guide the entire construction process, and details the proper sequence of building activities, including which activities can happen simultaneously – like the construction of the modules and the laying of the foundation.

 

SECOND STORY: THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MODULAR AND STICK BUILT HOMES

File Under: General by Excel Team

The “Second Story” series offers another look at a past Modular Musing blog entry. Why the reprieve? In most cases, like this one, it’s because the topic at hand is too big to cover in just one story.

“What’s the biggest difference between modular and stick-built homes?” That’s a question we hear daily because it’s a good question with a very good answer.

The answer depends on your interpretation of “the biggest difference.” For the sake of this answer, we’ll assume the biggest difference means the most significant benefit that modular construction offers over the stick-built method.

There are many differences between modular and stick-built homes. After informally polling some of the team here at Excel to see if there is a consensus about which difference is the “biggest,” we came to the conclusion that two differences rise to the top of the list when comparing modular and stick-built homes. Those differences are:

MODULAR HOMES ARE STRONGER

After Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in 1992, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) studied the performance and strength of various buildings and found that modular homes stood up to hurricane-force winds much better than standard stick-built homes.

The secret to modular homes’ strength lies in the manufacturing process. To help the modules withstand the demands of the transportation process, modular homes are built with an average of 20 percent more materials than regular homes and often at less cost, but more on that later.

MODULAR HOMES CAN BE BUILT FASTER

Depending on the model and the number of customized options, a modular home can be built in the factory, installed on its foundation and made ready for move-in in as little as five or six weeks. More typically, it might take two to three months, and larger homes might take five months, but that’s still much faster than a stick-built home.

There are several reasons for this efficiency. The main one is that the process we use to build the homes in the factory is much like an assembly line. Each station has staff who are experts in specific tasks, which is one of the reasons modular homes are higher in quality. Our manufacturing process is extremely streamlined, and very little time or material is wasted. Less material waste also means lower costs for the home owner.

The other main reason for the quicker build time is that while the modules of the home are being constructed in the factory, the foundation can get underway at the same time. Obviously, in a stick-built home, the foundation must be built before the rest of the home can be started. Lastly, because modular homes are constructed indoors, there are no weather delays, and builders can work more efficiently and cleanly.

So there you have it. Not one, but two big differences between modular homes and stick-built homes. Of course, those aren’t the only differences, just the biggest ones. We could list all of the others, but then we’d look like we’re just showing off.

 

THE 12-STEP MODULAR PROCESS: LAND/LOT DEVELOPMENT

File Under: General by Excel Team

We’ll be the first to admit that building a new home – whether you’re a builder or a home owner – isn’t easy.  The Excel Homes team does its best, however, to simplify the construction process, starting with the detailed “12 Step Process” outlined on the builder section of our website. In this monthly entry, we’ll take a closer look at one of those steps.

The modular construction process starts where every new home construction project starts, with a piece of land. The land/lot development stage includes steps ranging from the obvious (purchasing the land and clearing the title) to the slightly more technical (surveying the land and conducting a perc/probe tests for septic planning purposes).

Those steps apply to the construction of just about any home, but one step specific to the modular construction process is the completion of a site accessibility study to ensure that the modules (and the trucks transporting them) are able to access the site where the home will eventually be built.

The accessibility study determines the best route for the delivery of the modules and whether the roads are wide enough to accommodate modules up to 16 feet wide. Other factors, like sharp turns in roads and the overhang of trees and power lines, are also considered.

For obvious reasons, the site accessibility study is usually done before the home owner purchases the land. With proper planning almost all sites are deemed accessible for modular construction. Of course, some sites pass the test, but include more than their fair share of obstacles. Still, it’s no match for our skilled drivers, who always seem to find a way to deliver a half dozen oversized modules on time and unscathed.

NEXT MONTH: Step Two – Forms, Procedures and Permits

 

THE NEWEST NEW-AND-IMPROVED MODULAR HOME BROWSER

File Under: General by Excel Team

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Like any good company, a good website is always a work in progress. That was true earlier this year when we announced some upgrades to the model browser section of the Excel Homes website, and it’s even truer today when we unveil an updated version of the model browser, which is housed on our website’s homepage.

The last upgrade to the model browser, back in the fall, included mainly cosmetic changes. This latest overhaul offers much more, including easier navigation, the ability to zoom into floor plans and photos, and higher quality plans for many of the homes. Our web team asked us to also mention the new browser’s “persistent search listing function and advanced filters.” Essentially, that means searching for homes is a whole lot easier than it used to be.

Check out the new browser for yourself and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

 

HERE’S TO A PROSPEROUS 2012

File Under: General by Excel Team

It’s almost a month into the new year, and we hope everyone is having a Happy New Year.

And yes, we do believe it will be a happy one. When it comes to real estate and construction, 2011 probably won’t go down in the record books as one of the most flourishing years in history, but it was at least better than 2010 and 2009. That improvement makes us optimistic that the coming year will continue this upward trend. If you agree or disagree, feel free to register your opinion in our poll in the sidebar on the right.

We’d also like remind you to take some time to make a few New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps they include building a new home or making a few renovations to an existing one. Whatever your resolution, if there’s anything we can do to help, just let us know.

 

PCN Tours visits Excel Homes

File Under: General by Excel Team

In July, the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) stopped by our Liverpool facility to shoot an episode of the behind-the-scenes factory show, PCN Tours. The episode aired in August, but it’s available online for the first time and we’re happy to offer that video on our website.

Highlights from the first half of the video  include:

  • 3:42 – Excel Homes director of architectural design and innovation, Steven Saffell, discussing the critical role that our builder partners play in the modular home construction process and how they work with the customer to create the home they want.
  • 6:28 – Excel Homes Sales Manager Dave Reed offering a glimpse of the raw materials that go into building a modular home.
  • 8:09 – Using an automated four-head saw to create precisely cut floor joists.
  • 9:27 – Making floors, including the use of floor glue (in addition to nails) to add strength to the floors.
  • 11:26 – Building interior walls, which includes mounting drywall with both glue and screws.
  • 16:00 – The advantages of building indoors, including the ability to caulk and seal all plumbing penetrations
  • 16:50 – Using lags to keep interior walls square and true and using spare sheeting behind drywall to provide support for shelving and reinforce drywall seams to make the walls stronger.
 

SECOND LOOK: BUILDING SMARTER

File Under: General by Excel Team

The following was posted here on Modular Musings back in 2009, but it’s good insight, and good insight is always worth a second look.

buildsmarter

Builder magazine gets passed around a lot here at the Excel offices, and for good reason. It’s chock full of insight into the things builders need to know about how to succeed (or at least stay above water) in today’s tumultuous economic climate. Excel Homes works with more than 600 builder partners throughout the U.S., so any nugget of information we can absorb and pass along is good for both us and them.

Recently, Builder magazine published an article entitled “6 Lessons For Builders From the Housing Bust.” It contained suggestions for ways builders can change the way they work in order to maximize profits and make better homes.

Though all the tips are valuable (feel free to read them here on the ProSales website), the first tip was perhaps the most relevant to today’s climate (no pun intended). It was called “Build Smarter,” and it talked about the need for builders to create homes that are more energy efficient, especially as regulations on new homes becomes stricter.

As the builder of modular homes, we couldn’t agree more. In fact, we’ve been shouting this advice from the roof tops for the past decade or more. Modular homes are among the most energy efficient homes available, and much more efficient than comparable stick-built homes.

The same “Build Smarter” tip also suggested building smaller homes (yet still energy efficient) to lower pricing and remain competitive. This again falls right in line with the teachings of modular construction. Modular homes can be purchased in various sizes, from smaller two-person dwellings to massive mansions capable of housing a small army. The good news about small modular homes: They’re easy to upgrade later on.

It’s almost as if Builder magazine was reading our minds.

 

SECOND LOOK: THE MADEIRA SCHOOL PROJECT

File Under: General by Excel Team

The following was posted earlier this year, but we thought it deserved another look. A full set of photos from the construction of the project can be seen here.

Last year, Excel delivered five custom-designed cottages to The Madeira School, an independent all-girls boarding and day school, grades 9–12, located 12 miles outside Washington, D.C., in McLean, Virginia.

Known as the “Griffith Cottages,” the energy-efficient one-story, 3-bedroom / 2-bath homes were designed to blend into the existing rural setting and have been designated as housing for Madeira faculty and their families. The cottages feature energy efficient design, small footprints, standing seam metal roofs and hardwood floors throughout.

The project was made possible through a grant from the Mary Mae Foundation, a private foundation with the goal of rewarding academic excellence at secondary, independent schools. The grant funds, secured by Headmistress Dr. Elisabeth Griffith, must be used to provide faculty housing, and periodically one school is selected to receive a $500,000 grant for construction. The $2.1 million project fulfills Dr. Griffith’s vision of The Madeira School as “a residential learning community in which adults live on campus and act as teachers, advisors, coaches, role models and friends and are committed to educating girls.” The remainder of the funding was provided by the school’s capital campaign, “Cottages for Community.”

According to Excel sales representative Andy Scholz, the company was introduced to the Mary Mae Foundation directors through a referral from Mary Gaiski, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association (PMHA). “They became convinced that modular construction offered the most cost-effective, time-efficient solution – without sacrificing quality or design options,” says Scholz. The Foundation’s funding requirements now mandates that, while the housing design may change to fit an individual school’s needs, the housing itself must be built via modular construction.

Excel worked in tandem with the Mary Mae Foundation, general contractor Great Falls Construction and project manager Advanced Project Management, which dealt exclusively with the school.

Recently, The Madeira School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Griffith Cottages. “Everyone from the Foundation and The Madeira School is absolutely delighted with the outcome,” says Scholz. “The general contractor, Great Falls Construction, did an excellent job with the project, and more importantly, they were all extremely pleased with the quality of the design and workmanship from Excel. The one comment that was consistent from just about every official who had anything to do with this project was, ‘We would do another project with this team anytime.‘”

Scholz also notes that the Madeira project can be easily replicated at almost any location. “Projects of this nature and size are generally small enough that all the parties can stay involved and make sure everything flows smoothly,” he says. “We’re ready to do this again.”