WINDSOR -- Nine years after starting a modular building manufacturing division of his Santa Rosa-based construction group, Jeff Luchetti plans to take that business to a much higher level with a 45,000-square-foot factory set to open at the former Standard Structures property this fall.
[caption id="attachment_94875" align="alignleft" width="134"] Jeff Luchetti (credit: Jeff Luchetti Construction)[/caption]
Since leasing the former Redbuilt truss production building along Highway 101 in late May, JL Modular, Inc., has been working to outfit it to produce modular and prefabricated structures for use in the division's projects as well as for jobs under way by the other two divisions, commercial general contractor Jeff Luchetti Construction and JL Builders custom homes.
"The biggest thing for us is to have more control, save money and time, and reduce risk," said Jeff Luchetti. Adding a factory gives the company vertical integration, both as a manufacturer of structures and a builder, he said.
[caption id="attachment_94910" align="alignleft" width="225"] JL Modular says prefabricating roof sections, shown here, in the factory speeds construction at the job site. (credit: JL Modular)[/caption]
A major market for JL Modular now is education, building permanent-quality relocatable buildings for schools dealing with fluctuating enrollment and needing more classrooms built over summer. The timeframe for standard classroom construction can be six to eight months for design and approval by the Division of the State Architect and another eight to 12 months for construction. Modulars can get state precheck approval in one to two months and be completed in 10 to 12 weeks.
But there are markets beyond schools, namely multifamily housing and hospitality. JL Modular was already involved in high-end housing with the Carneros Homes project, bringing $2 million homes to the Carneros Inn development southwest of Napa.
[caption id="attachment_94876" align="alignleft" width="450"] Modular buildings also can be built in 3-D sections with roof, walls and floor. (credit: JL Modular)[/caption]
And the potential for prefabricating sections or 3-D modules for the construction divisions is appealing, Mr. Luchetti said. Private-sector work is picking up around the Bay Area for 30-employee Jeff Luchetti Construction. Annual revenue has been about $50 million for the past three years.
"We can do site work while they are being manufactured in the factory," he said.
For example, walls, floors or roofs could be prefabricated in pieces, delivered by truck to the job site and hoisted into place by crane. Another option is to build 3-D building sections, with floor, walls and roof as one piece.
Currently, JL Modular jobs are ordered through a structural-steel supplier. The goal is to move assembly of modules to the new factory, set to open in October or November. Wood and light-gauge steel would be cut to size in the factory, but structural steel still would be ordered to size from a supplier. Outsourcing metal forming to suppliers dramatically reduces the startup cost for the factory, Mr. Luchetti said.
Another motivator to open the factory now is a recently secured contract to make modular buildings for University of California, Berkeley, to start this year and be finished next year, Mr. Luchetti said. The plan is to build those modules in the new factory, Mr. Luchetti said.
In the North Bay construction business, there have been a number of approaches to building all or significant parts of structures in a factory. The largest so far is Blu Homes, which makes fold-out panelized dwellings from a nearly 200,000-square-foot plant in Vallejo. Healthy Buildings Technology Group of Napa has been experimenting with fully finished factory-built versions of its OHome, OHousing and OClass models. HybridCore of Santa Rosa designs room modules that are built inside and delivered to the job site. Fairweather & Associates' Santa Rosa shops does prefabrication for the contractor's custom-home projects and has been exploring panelized construction. Bamcore in Windsor is starting up a plant to make structural insulated panels from bamboo plywood.