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Colonnade Hotel

120 Huntington Ave

Boston, MA 02116

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The MOD-X workshop will bring together a group of experts from Sweden, Japan, the UK and Poland with colleagues from the US to discuss the current state of offsite construction today, with a particular focus on volumetric modular. Over three days, the workshop participants will discuss these broad questions:

  • How are manufacturers approaching the challenge of growing capacity and capability sustainably and economically in North America?
  • What can innovative business models, product platforms, advocacy initiatives and regulatory frameworks from across the globe tell us about how offsite and particularly volumetric modular construction might evolve in the US in the next decade?
  • How have past, current and future initiatives shaped the context within which volumetric modular is delivered in New York City?

WORKSHOP STRUCTURE

MOD-X’s organizers and curators, Professors Ryan E. Smith and Ivan Rupnik, recently completed an assessment of the global volumetric modular industry, comparing the current state of the worlds largest volumetric modular industry, in the US, with a number of industries abroad, including Sweden, Japan, the UK, Poland and Australia. Supported by the Modular Building Institute, this assessment has shown the importance of understanding volumetric modular as part of a larger ecology of material flows, regulatory frameworks, and socio-economic and cultural trends, among other factors, on a local and global scale as well as the need for more intensive exchanges between the global hotspots of this industry. The research has also shown the importance of balancing a sensitivity for the specific challenges and innovations of a given context with a search for paradigms and best practices that transcend regulatory and market boundaries. By bringing together the community of experts that has formed during this initial research through an intensive workshop, Smith and Rupnik will construct a framework for helping the volumetric modular industry internationally move forward.

Always moving from the specific towards the general, the MOD-X workshop will address these broad issues through three lenses over three days. On day one, the workshop will examine a recent example of a company upgrading capacity and capability sustainably, the new Bensonwood / Unity Homes facility in Keene, New Hampshire, before discussing the current opportunities and challenges to the offsite industry in North America, and abroad. On day two, the workshop will examine four national contexts for offsite and volumetric modular construction, all of whom have been able to manage growth in capacity and capability sustainably. With each session, the workshop will move from the factors that encouraged this sustainable growth at the national scale before turning to a a specific manufacturers and institutions that have benefited from and contributed to this growth back to the current situation in the United States and globally. On day three, the workshop will move from Boston to New York City Deputy Mayor’s Office, where that institutions “mod squad” has been considering how to foster the growth of capacity and capability in that municipality, in order to make access to housing more affordable. This initiative suggests that the kind of long-term nurturing of the offsite industry found at the national scale in some international precedents is already occurring in America, but at the municipal scale.

Workshop participation will be limited to a total of fifty participants, including organizers, 6-10 international guests and up to thirty US attendees. All of the content generated during the course of the workshop will be made accessible to the participants as well as the general public. Instead of a single static report or publication, the goal of the workshops will be to generate a community of experts and a platform for discussion and knowledge exchange into the future.


WORKSHOP AGENDA

Day 1, Monday, November 12

Tour of Bensonwood Facility, Keene, New Hampshire
(Transportation from Boston to Keene will be provided by the organizers)

Over the past few years, the challenge in the offsite and volumetric modular industry has shifted from fostering growth to managing growth. In order to ground this discussion, the Mod-X participants will visit Bensonwood’s new facility in New Hampshire. The new 100,000 sq. ft. facility, planned in 2015 and opened this year, was funded in part through the New Market Credit program. It also utilizes Weinman equipment, acquired through auction and adapted to the new factory. As part of this expansion and with an eye toward economic sustainability, Bensonwood is also entering the building products business through its new Tektoniks line. Through the tour with Ted Benson and his colleagues, the MOD-X workshop team will have an opportunity to understand the business model and product platform of Bensonwood as well as to understand the current regulatory, economic and social context within which offsite construction currently operates in North America. While significant venture capital investment has been made into newcomers, for offsite construction to truly mature in North America, the myriad of established players currently operating will also need to increase their capacity and capability.


Session: Managing Growth - Increasing Capacity and Capability in North America
Location: Keene, New Hampshire Country Club

While offsite construction, including volumetric modular construction, has existed for the better part of twentieth century, the dream of the factory-built home has remained elusive in most of the world, with a few exceptions. Since 2010, interest in offsite construction has resurfaced across the globe. A convincing explanation of this trend was provided by The Economist in 2017. In that article, the construction was unique in being the only industry to have declined in productivity over the last half-century, dropping as much as fifty percent in North America. This drop in productivity, has in turn driven the cost of conventional construction up to a point where the market seems open to other alternatives, including offsite construction. At the same time, The Economist attributed this drop in productivity to the construction industries aversion to capital intensive investments, a mindset generated through the vicious boom and bust cycle to which the offsite industry is also not immune. If this assessment is accurate, than offsite construction, and particularly volumetric modular construction in the United States, has a historic opportunity to finally deliver on its promise of increased productivity, economy and quality, but only if it can answer a key question: how can the offsite and volumetric modular industry increase capacity and capability sustainably so as to take advantage of current demand while at the same time developing product platforms and business models that can weather the boom and bust cycle of the construction industry. Using the tour of the Bensonwood facility as a departure point, this session will engage this issue with the help of Tom Hardiman from the Modular Building Institute will share the state of the volumetric industry in North America and Tedd Benson from Bensonwood will reflect his experience with up-scaling and up-skilling to meet demand.
Dinner Location: Boston (exact location TBD)


Day 2, Tuesday, November 13

Northeastern University, Boston

Session: Global Exchanges, National Ecologies and Economies: Sweden, United Kingdom, Poland, & Japan

In this session, representatives of leading companies and institutions from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Poland and Japan have been invited to participate in the Mod-X workshop. The Swedish context will be examined through the lens of Lindbäcks, presented by Helena Lidelöw, the companies Product Platform manager and Associate Professor of Timber Engineering at Luleå University. The UK context will be presented by Mila Ducheva of the Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures, Edinburgh Napier University and Calum Murray, Managing Director of CCG Homes, Scotland. The Polish context will be presented by Ewelina Wozniak-Szpakiewicz, CEO of DMD Modular and Adjunct Professor at Cracow University of Technology. The Japanese context will be presented by a group representatives from Sekisui Heim.

The Global Context and Local Specificities Broadly speaking, the “global” volumetric modular industry is still primarily local in its market scope, with some important exceptions, which will be discussed. For many of the national contexts examined, postwar housing programs had a lasting impact on the industry, defining the regulatory framework for offsite construction, providing initial support for the foundation of many of the companies examined in the research but also generating some of the stigmas still associated with offsite construction. In Europe and Japan, offsite construction, long associated with the promise of efficiency and economy, is now also being viewed within through the lens of ecology and sustainability. While each of the national case studies share a number of common characteristics, they also all provide unique perspectives into various factors.
  • In the case of Sweden, that countries highly sophisticated approach to timber products offers one of the tightest footprints to companies like Lindbäcks, whose materials are sourced within a few miles of their facilities and markets. Lindbäcks’s long-term focus on multi-family volumetric modular has led to the development of significantly taller structures than are currently admissible in the United States.
  • In the United Kingdom, the offsite construction industry has benefited from a series of government reports on the benefits of this form of construction. Sweden and the UK have also been the sites of two of the largest volumetric facilities in the world, outside of Japan.
  • In Poland, a number of volumetric modular companies, including DMD Modular and Polcom Modular, are subsidiaries of larger furniture companies. In both of their cases, they have developed business models, product platforms and supply chains that focus on international delivery, both to Western Europe and more recently, to New York City
  • Japan is home to one of the largest volumetric companies in the world, Sekisui Heim, with eight factories along the length of Japan delivering 15,000 housing units a year. Over the last decade, Sekisui Heim has expanded its focus from a highly automated product platform and well defined sales strategy towards a cyclical business model that recycles or refurbishes the fund of more than steel volumetric modular housing units already standing in Japan.

Dinner Location: Boston (exact location TBD)


Day 3, Wednesday, November 14

Deputy Mayors Office, New York City

Session: New York City’s Modular Initiatives

Some of the most innovative initiatives supporting the growth of the volumetric modular industry in North America are currently occurring at the municipal scale. Faced with a persistent housing crisis, cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York City have actively encouraged the use of offsite construction through various means. In the case of New York, policies intended to retain and expand manufacturing in New York City contributed to the establishment of two volumetric modular facilities in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the mid nineties: Capsys Corp. and Full Stack Modular. These companies fabricated two of the most published volumetric modular project of this decade, My Micro (now Carmel Place) and the B2 Tower at Atlantic Yards (now 461 Dean St.) only a few miles from their locations, delivering hundreds of ‘mods’ through one of the densest urban environments in the world. In contrast to these hyperlocal projects, two Polish volumetric modular companies, Polcom Modular and DMD modular have delivered units to NYC from across the Atlantic for hospitality projects. Most recently, the office of the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development released a request for proposals (RFP) for innovative modular construction. Working closely with the Deputy Mayor’s “mod squad”, the MOD-X organizers will close the workshop with a session focused on the past, present and future of volumetric modular construction in New York City.



WORKSHOP SCHEDULE (Tenative)

* Make your own travel arrangements. Contact the Colonnade Hotel for your room reservations


Monday, November 12

11 AM MOD X Participants leave from Colonnade Hotel for Keene Country Club by bus
The Colonnade Boston Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

1 PM MOD X Participants Arrive at Keene Country Club - Lunch served
Keene Country Club, 755 W Hill Rd, Keene, NH 03431

1 PM - 2:30 PM Bensonwood/Unity Homes Presentation
Keene Country Club, 755 W Hill Rd, Keene, NH 03431

2:45 - 4:00 PM Tour of Bensonwood/Unity Homes
Unity Homes, 25 Production Ave, Keene, NH 03431

4:15 PM MOD X Participants bus from Bensonwood Factory for Northeastern University

6:30 PM Arrive at Northeastern University
Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

7:00 PM Working Dinner - State of Modular in the US Address - Tom Hardiman, MBI
Northeastern University, Ryder hall, 11 Leon St, Boston, MA 02115

Walk to hotel


Tuesday November 13

Walk from hotel to Northeastern University

9 - 10 AM Introduction - Ivan Rupnik and Ryan E. Smith
John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute, Northeastern University 40 Leon St, Boston, MA 02115

10 AM - 12 PM Japan

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Social Lunch

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Sweden

2:30 PM - 3:45 PM UK

3:45 - 4:15 Break

4:15 - 5:30 Poland

5:30 - 6:00 Closing Remarks

7 PM Social Dinner
Northeastern University, Ryder Hall, 11 Leon St, Boston, MA 02115


Wednesday November 14

7:00 AM MOD X Participants leave from Collonade Hotel for New York City by bus
The Colonnade Boston Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

1 PM - 4 PM NYC Session and Lunch

AIA New York | Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

Walk to Citizen M Hotel

4:30 PM - 6 PM Informal Gathering, Citizen M Hotel
citizenM New York Bowery Hotel, 189 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

7 PM MOD X Participants bus from CItizen M Hotel for Boston
citizenM New York Bowery Hotel, 189 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

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Colonnade Hotel

120 Huntington Ave

Boston, MA 02116

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