Diverging from the Doublewide: How Kasita is Bringing New Levels of Design and Quality to Modular Housing

There are some products that consumers expect to get better every year: products like smartphones, prosthetic limbs, and automobiles, to name a few. Then there are products that consumers...

There are some products that consumers expect to get better every year: products like smartphones, prosthetic limbs, and automobiles, to name a few. Then there are products that consumers assume will stay as-is: nail clippers, trash cans, and hammers, for example. These latter products are “good enough” in terms of design and quality, but few expect a Model S of nail clippers.

In 2005, Roy and Ryan Seiders decided to take one of those latter, improvement-resistant products and bring it into the former category. The product was a cooler. Their company is YETI.

The company started when the brothers, who are both anglers, noticed that standard, store bought coolers didn’t hold up to the rigors of serious fishermen. According to the NY Times, Ryan acquired a high-quality cooler from Thailand that was far superior to anything available in the States. Roy started to distribute those coolers, but eventually the brothers decided they could improve the design even more. So YETI was born.

YETI coolers are manufactured using a process called rotomolding–the same process used to make river kayaks, which undergo constant abuse. They have become the gold standard for coolers and have developed a cultish following. Unlike most coolers, quality of design and construction is YETI’s primary focus, not price. Their hard coolers range anywhere from $200 for their smallest model, to $1300 for their largest. And consumers love and appreciate the quality of the product.

Reimagined Modular

The Kasita, a modern modular home being delivered via crane to its new owner.

It’s perverse that a home—typically a person’s largest single consumer product—is more nail clipper than smartphone. Outside of features like HVAC systems and kitchen appliances, people don’t expect that a home built today will be any better than one built 100 years ago, and some might even argue that the older one is of higher quality.

Kasita is on a mission to change that. We’re leveraging the latest technological and intellectual resources to make the best designed, highest quality modular homes available. One of the chief ways of achieving this is to approach housing as much from an industrial design perspective as an architectural one.

Most homes and buildings are designed and built for specific sites. This one-off approach, while having the advantage of being able to marry building to site, also has serious limitations. Without repetition, there is only so much design and production that can be standardized, and therefore optimized.

Because conditions change from building-to-building, it is difficult to create systems-based improvements to construction.  And the industry lags behind virtually every other industry in terms of innovation and efficiency. According to McKinsey, construction R&D accounts for less than 1% of revenue, versus 3.5% and 4.5% for the auto and aerospace industries. And construction labor productivity (construction output relative to the labor put in) has averaged 1% growth for the last 20 years compared to 2.8% for the total world economy.

Clearly, it’s time for something to change in the construction industry.

Modular Manufacturing is the Construction Industry, Modernized

Modular home construction in action at the Kasita factory in Austin, TX.

Modular housing construction takes an industrial approach to design and construction. Units are built assembly-line fashion in controlled, factory conditions with repetitive processes.

These factories can also hold advanced machinery to automate construction. For example, Swedish modular home-builder Lindbäcks has a machine that can build a fully-framed and insulated wall in 17 minutes.

And it’s because of this efficiency and precision that interest in modular home construction has skyrocketed in recent years. It promises to expedite and economize housing design and production. This is critical for the U.S.  because we’re facing severe housing production shortfalls. Also important is that modular construction reduces dependence on America’s shrinking qualified labor pool. NAHB reported there were 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. in 2016, an increase of 81% in the last two years. This shortage is expected to worsen in the coming years.

But when people hear the term modular, “high design” and “high quality” are rarely descriptors that come to mind. For most, the term conjures images of Eminem’s home in the movie Eight Mile or generic, vinyl-clad homes being escorted down the road atop trailer beds. But times have changed.

Modular ≠ Manufactured

The Kasita modular home being transported on a single truck.

The problem is that people often mistake modular for “manufactured” housing (also known as mobile homes).

But these two just aren’t the same.

Historically, these homes are built to substandard quality levels, and designed chiefly with affordability in mind. Consider that the average sales price for a manufactured home in 2015 was $68,000 versus $276,284 for site-built housing (both figures exclude the price of land).

Modular housing is generally such high quality that it looks like conventionally-built homes. The modular-built homes are built to the same standards and codes as conventional homes and  can be installed in most any residential location.

So why the term “modular”?

It’s because the homes are made of one or more modules. They’re small enough to be constructed in assembly line fashion in a factory, and, most important, small enough to fit on the back of a truck for transportation to a house site. So this usually means that modules cannot exceed 14 feet in width and 60 feet in length (the maximum size for cargo on an escorted trailer).

Research shows that most modular home construction has advantages over conventional construction. A FEMA report issued after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 found that modular housing “provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.”

And we agree, because we see the results daily in our factory.

Kasita: Reimagining modular home construction

The award-winning Kasita architectural team working on blueprints for the Kasita modular home.

Kasita is taking the inherent advantages of modular home construction and combining them with award-winning design and technology. The net result is a house with unprecedented durability and quality. We are doing for modular housing what YETI did for coolers.

Here’s how we make the vision a reality:

Kasita homes are 3D modeled during design and engineering, then go through a secondary design for manufacturing process that allows us to manufacture them rapidly and efficiently. The manufacturing process we employ uses ultra-high precision light gauge steel frames that have tolerances of ⅛” over 20 feet. The Kasita exteriors are sheathed in aluminum composite panels and commercial glazed windows.

Our top quality materials, expert architecture and ability to assemble in controlled factory conditions using mass-manufacturing processes makes Kasita one of the highest quality modular housing units money can buy.

And Kasita homes are sturdy.

Just take a look at our certifications and specs:

  • The ability to withstand 120 MPH wind loads and snow loads of up to 125 pounds per square foot.
  • Meets or exceeds 2015 International Residential Code.
  • Meets or exceeds 2016 California Building Code.
  • Meets energy code for climate zones 2-6 and all of California.
  • Minimal heat transfer via a continuous insulation wrap.
  • The lighting system in the entire home uses less energy than one traditional 100 watt incandescent light bulb.
  • Excellent indoor air quality through the use of green, low-VOC materials.
  • Continuous fresh air with minimal heat loss achieved with an energy recovery ventilator (ERV).
  • Comfortable interior temperature achieved with a highly-efficient HVAC system.
  • Termite proof steel structure.

While our initial intention was to design and manufacture the most connected, highly-designed, modular home the world had ever seen, the end product is so much more. Like YETI, Kasita uses the latest in design and manufacturing to be the gold standard of quality in the housing market…and this is just the beginning.

Look out for our next blog post that will focus on the technological expertise that comes embedded within Kasita homes. We’re reinventing home every day. And we can’t wait to show you what’s next.

For now, have a look at our products, and if you want a Kasita for yourself, get in touch.