New direction in housing for S.F.’s homeless: modular
By J.K. Dineen
San Francisco Chronicle
4 October, 2017
Photo courtesy of Brandt
In an effort to increase affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, modular construction has gained popularity in the Bay Area. The building of modular housing in off-site factories greatly cuts both costs and speed of production making the construction style efficient and effective.
College of Environmental Design (CED) alumnus, Rick Holliday (MCP ‘77), is at the forefront of the modular construction movement. Holliday is currently building out of 250,000-square-foot modular production facility, called Factory OS. The factory is located in a shipbuilding facility on Mare Island in Vallejo. The factory will employ upward of 200 employees. Holliday has six upcoming projects: three in West Oakland, one in Emeryville, one in El Cerrito, and one in Mountain View. Holliday and his partners, who include Cannon Constructors CEO Larry Pace, have more than 1,200 units in the works.
“We are trying to take all the lessons from the companies that worked and those that haven’t so we have a factory that will not only succeed but radically change the way housing is built,” Holliday said.
One setback faced by the modular construction movement is the opposition of building trade unions, which have opposed off-site modular construction as it takes a great deal of work away from the trades and moves it to the factory setting. Although modular factories tend to utilize union carpenters, many other trades who perform vital functions, such as framing, piping, wiring, flooring, and painting, are excluded from off-site modular construction.
That being said, many representatives from the affordable housing sector believe that it is of the utmost importance to deliver affordable housing options to individuals experiencing homelessness, despite the costs to union workers.
“The cheaper and faster we can build out the pipeline the more likely we can move at the pace we need to,” said Jeff Kositsky, director of San Francisco's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “This is a great opportunity to get more bang for our buck.”
The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) is in the process of developing proposals to build a 250-unit housing complex using modular construction techniques. The housing complex will be located atop a parking lot owned by the federal government at the intersection of Seventh and Mission streets.
The city estimates that by building the modular complex in an off-site factory, costs will be cut by 20 percent and production will be sped up by 30-40 percent. This project marks the first instance that San Francisco’s building unions have agreed not to oppose modular construction aimed at housing individuals experiencing homelessness.
“They understand that housing the homeless in San Francisco is vitally important,” Kate Hartley, the Director of MOHCD, said. “Our goal is to build units as fast as possible, so we can get people off the streets as fast as possible.”
To read more about the San Francisco modular construction project, click here.