The recession isn't slowing down progress at Lazor Office, the Minneapolis-based creator of the FlatPak house. The firm has always designed each of its prefabricated, panelized houses, but now it also makes them. (Previously, the factory process was handled by now-closed Empyrean International.) In mid-February the first residence produced at the new FlatPak factory in Spooner, Wis., was shipped to its site in Golden Valley, Minn.
Bringing production in-house has helped FlatPak maximize efficiency, according to founder Charles Lazor. "The way the houses look is essentially the same, but the process is different," he says. "We have a core team of people who are experts at what they do and a very rigorous document set by which we communicate and build." A five-person FlatPak team travels to each building site to assemble the homes—a step that in the past had fallen to local builders. The new arrangement has allowed the company to fine-tune its timing, a crucial element of the prefab process. "The goal is that while the site work and foundation work are being done, we're making wall and floor and roof components," Lazor explains.
It's been a busy time for Lazor and his colleagues. Spurred by the ongoing housing and economic crisis, they've recently come up with a new, budget-conscious product type called ModPak. "It addresses the current interest in wanting to downsize both in terms of size and price, but also in embracing modern design," he says.
Most of the materials specified for ModPak will be available at a combination of IKEA any big-box home improvement store. Clients will be able to either buy the plans and hire their own builder or have their ModPak made at the FlatPak factory—whichever option makes the most economic sense for them. Comparing the two product lines to cars, Lazor equates a FlatPak with a BMW 3 or 5 Series, and a ModPak with a Volkswagen. "The concept behind ModPak is that it's a less expensive way to get a modern house," he says. "[Less expensive] even than FlatPak."
The first ModPak will go up this spring in Delaware.