Modular homes fill a need in times of calm and storms

In less than two weeks, you can have a new home “constructed” for $500,000.


That’s what Vaughan Buckley Construction, in partnership with Ritz-Craft Custom Homes, can do for you. In early September, the construction company began assembling four single-family homes a short distance from Buckley’s backyard in Roxborough.

Using modular buildings, the homes were put together in less than two weeks. He said each home should cost around $500,000 once completed.

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Ritz-Craft, based in the central Pennsylvania town of Mifflinburg, constructed the homes off-site before shipping them in pieces. Separately, each section looks like a mobile home, but once stacked and decorated, they are nearly indistinguishable from any other home on the block.

On its website, the company says each home in Leverington Mews can have distinctive interior features.

The exterior of the two-story homes is based on a Victorian stone mansion that Buckley renovated for his family on the same plot of land. When he decided to build modular homes nearby, he knew he needed support from the local civic association. It would be two years before he earned its blessing to seek a contract for the project.

Buckley, who opened his construction company in 2009, noted that modular homes are better equipped to handle natural disasters, and are convenient for those who need to rebuild a home in a short period of time. Alternatively, it can take up to a year to build a home in a traditional way from scratch.

Modular buildings are not inspected as frequently as traditionally constructed homes, said Michael Pesarchik, general manager of Ritz-Craft. Builders must follow strict Pennsylvania inspection standards before they can obtain a permit to assemble the homes in Philadelphia.

Under Philadelphia Licenses and Inspections’ requirements, only approved Philadelphia contractors can assemble the modular homes — unless a property owner plans to build on his or her own land, as in Buckley’s case.

“Most of the modulars have newer construction,” Pesarchik said. “They use current engineering depending on where the home goes on site.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has long supported modular construction as a stronger alternative to traditional construction. In a 1993 report on Hurricane Andrew’s destructive impact, FEMA stated that “overall, relatively minimal structural damage was noted in modular housing developments. The module-to-module combination of the units appears to have provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.”

When Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of homes along the East Coast in 2012, FEMA endorsed modular homes as a potential solution for quick recovery. The agency helped fund a New York City plan to build prototype modular homes that could be assembled quickly after a disaster.

“Designated manufacturers will be able to produce as many as 28 units per week,” FEMA stated. “Although that’s not nearly enough for a disaster situation, multiple manufacturers could be placed under contract to deliver these modular homes when a catastrophic event occurs.” 


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