Such mass customization doesn't exactly come cheap, but as a rule it costs significantly less than pure custom, site-built projects, which still account for half the firm's work. As a point of comparison, take two houses it's doing within a few hours of each other in New York state. One, a customized modular residence, costs $175 to $200 per square foot. The other, a site-built custom home, tops out at $300 to $350 per square foot, nearly twice as much. And the price of Resolution: 4's modular homes could decrease as time goes on. According to Tanney, 60 to 80 percent of each module is built at a factory. The remaining 20 to 40 percent of construction—which can range from finish flooring and tile work to cabinetry and roofing, depending on the client's preferences—happens on site, and this variable drives up the home's overall cost. The more the architects can figure out how to do at the factory, the more affordable the final price tag will be.
Tanney admits his and Luntz's 10-person firm isn't yet making a profit from prefab, though it's getting close. Finding modular housing factories to collaborate with has proved difficult, due to the prevailing industry attitude that Modern houses are ugly and hard to sell. That may be changing, though. “Since all the buzz about prefab started, a number of the manufacturers have done focus groups and come back to us saying yes, there is a market,” he says. A couple of panelized housing companies also have approached Resolution: 4 about designing prefab prototypes for possible production down the line. So the firm's future just might include panelized construction, as well as the modular system it's worked so hard to implement.
Its immediate goal, though, is to get the 20-plus modular homes it's working on (including a seven-to-11-unit artists' community) successfully built and occupied. “We're trying to hunker down and build,” says Tanney. Has their considerable investment of time, money, and effort in prefab been worth it? “Hell, yeah,” he says. “It's exhilarating. We're in this for the long haul.”
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