One of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on is our ability to create homes that meet the design needs of builders and homeowners. And not only do we want to meet those needs by staying one step ahead when it comes to the best that home design has to offer, we want to do it in a cost-effective manner that helps modular homes maintain their edge over stick-built homes when it comes to comparing price tags.
To help us live up to those expectations, Excel Homes has created a new position in its front offices: Director of Architectural Design and Innovation. The position will be devoted to developing and marketing innovative new home designs and products for Excel Homes and we’ve named our current Director of Engineering, Steven Saffell, to be the first to step into the important role.
We asked Steven a few questions to explain his new position and offer some insight on modern design in today’s home building industry.
MODULAR MUSINGS: What do you hope to accomplish in this new position and how will it benefit Excel Homes?
STEVEN SAFFELL: The expectation with this endeavor is to set Excel Homes apart from the competition in both the stick built and the modular industry by providing a level of design rarely experienced at this level. We will design and bring to market homes that are not just laid out well and pleasing to the eye but take advantage of the latest technologies in building and efficiency. We want to demonstrate that modular constructed homes can be beautiful, good to the environment and a better value than a site built home.
MM: What’s the biggest challenge facing the modular home industry today?
SS: For the short term the economy has been and will continue to be the biggest challenge. This downturn will however benefit those companies that survive it. As Americans are forced to tighten our belts, we have started to look for more economically appealing building methods. The consumer is doing their homework and many are discovering that the modular industry builds a product that is equal to or better than traditional site built products. It’s not just the fact that we build a stronger structures, it is the reduced time to build and the resulting reduction in the construction loan cycle, less waste, tighter structures and limitless design possibilities that all come together to provide a better value.
The longer term challenge will be to continue to educate the buying public and provide an understanding of what a modular product is and is not. Too many people still think of this industry as single wide trailers (HUD units) or simple ranches for entry level buyers. The truth is that we are closer to the traditional site built in construction practices and offerings than we are to the HUD industry any more. That may be where we got our start, but it is a very different product today and we need to educate our buyers and the building professionals to this fact.
MM: Which trends in modular home design will you and your staff be watching closely?
SS: Energy efficiency and “green” building are the hot terms being bounced around today. However, this can mean a lot of different things to different people and regrettably to some in the building industry it is simply a new marketing ploy. The consumer must be careful of companies that “green-wash” their product in an effort to sell more. Here at Excel, green building is not a marketing ploy but a way of doing business.
MM: How will the economy affect housing design?
SS: No one can say if it is the economy, greener thinking or simply the consumer’s current trend but it appears Americans are starting to look for better quality over quantity. We will always have those looking for massive homes and we are prepared to provide those too, but we are seeing a growing trend toward smaller, high quality designs with nice amenities. “More bang for your buck” does not always mean larger homes anymore.
MM: Is it possible to continue to create innovative home designs and products while still allowing modular homes to maintain an edge over stick-built homes when it comes to cost and efficiency of construction?
SS: While in college one of my architectural professors would say regularly, “Good design does not cost any more than bad design.” That statement is even more relevant when it comes to modular construction.
The modular construction method has so many efficiencies built into the process that the end result can be nothing more than a superior product that is more cost efficient than stick built. A stable workforce of craftsperson’s, an environmentally controlled building environment, years of experience, and a continuous inspection process all work together to create a process that produces the best quality product at the best price on the market today.
This process coupled with Excel’s commitment to design innovation will provide our customers with a product that sets them apart as leaders in the housing and light commercial construction market going forward. We have a reputation for providing top quality and service and we intend to be known as the industries innovators also.
MM: What’s next for Excel Homes?
SS: The possibilities are endless. Excel has assembled a team of leaders that have vision and are not restricted by the industries “old way of thinking.” We have some of the best modular industry professionals in the business today coupled with top leaders from other industries to create a fresh approach to doing business that is not willing to except the status quo.
We are not just looking at the design of our homes but the entire process from the marketing of our name and product to how we follow up with the customer after the home is set in place. Everything is fair game for review as we are committed to finding easier ways for our customers to do business with us, improving our building process and product and following up to make sure it exceeds the expectation of our customers.