the late 1970s, an innovative federal program called Operation Breakthrough promised
to reduce housing costs by applying the techniques of industrialization, honed
in industries such as automotive production, to the home building industry. The
program fell short of its ambitious agenda; however, the building industry and
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), recognizing the inherent
advantages of building in volume under controlled conditions, have continued to
seek ways of applying the efficiencies of factory production to residential construction.|
majority of the nation's new homes still are erected at the building site by a
large number of small builders, and technological advances are slow to make their
way through this fragmented building community. However, some macro trends are
in evidence. As housing prices have continued to rise, traditional builders have
looked toward prefabricated components and subassemblies to better meet the demand
for more affordable homes. At the same time, manufactured, or HUD-code housing,
has expanded into higher income markets and has been increasingly used by innovative
Among the factors driving home builders to industrialize are:
the decline in the number of skilled tradespeople, difficulties with maintaining
construction quality, the complex system of regulations that control on-site construction,
and the need to construct homes at a competitive price. This is particularly the
case with affordable housing, where small changes in price have a huge impact
on the financial viability of a project. It is increasingly difficult for the
affordable home builder to deliver a quality product without having some, if not
most, of the components built off-site.
Along with these pressures, there
have also been significant incentives for the HUD-code home industry to produce
innovative designs. While in the past, HUD-code homes have developed largely apart
from the mainstream home-building industry, this housing type has been increasingly
used by on-site developers. As such, manufactured home designs have become more
complex and sophisticated to meet the demands of a more affluent customer base.
Utilizing HUD-code homes in the single-family attached housing market
is a natural step for the manufactured housing industry. It seems especially appropriate
since attached housing traditionally has been considered an affordable choice
in the site-built industry. HUD-code homes, too, have long been recognized for
their affordability. For some people, competitively priced manufactured homes
are the only available avenue to homeownership.1
Proving the value of
manufactured homes as a building block for single-family attached construction
is research that requires understanding and resolution of several interrelated
issues. There are several major factors that determine under what conditions manufactured
homes are viable for attached construction. These factors are addressed in this
report and include the following:
study presents compelling arguments for further research and development of new
applications for manufactured homes, and highlights the significant cost and time
savings that this technology can offer to the development community in its efforts
to provide affordable housing.
- The potential market size. The
market size was determined in order to measure if there is sufficient demand for
this use of manufactured housing. Demographic and trend data were examined in
order to establish potential market size, distribution, and characteristics.
combination of market conditions most likely to encourage single-family attached
developers to consider manufactured housing. This information was compiled
through interviews with a cross-section of experts in the HUD-code and single-family
- The regulatory barriers to such applications.
A detailed review of the HUD standards and enforcement procedures was conducted
in order to identify the impediments to using manufactured homes in two-story
and attached configurations. The process of removing these barriers was begun
by recommending changes in the federal regulations, under a procedure established
by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act, for updating the HUD construction
standards and enforcement regulations.
- The architectural and
engineering feasibility of using manufactured homes for single-family attached
applications. Practical case studies providing real-life examples, facilitated
as part of this research, clearly illustrate the feasibility of this new application.
In spite of the long development cycles typical of multi-unit attached development,
the current research made significant headway with several developer partners.
The status of these collaborations and lessons learned thus far are described
in this report.
- The cost impact of alternative methods of
construction. Cost information was culled from the case studies in order to
demonstrate the bottom-line impact of developing single-family attached housing
with manufactured homes. While anecdotal and preliminary, the data are encouraging
and suggest that the hypothesized economic advantages of developing with single-family
attached manufactured homes are indeed being realized in practice.