75 Vallejo apartments are 1st local project for Solano County modular factory

Starting May 3, shrouded blocks the size of city buses began arriving at a future apartment site at 2118 Sacramento St. in the Solano County city of Vallejo only to be hoisted by crane an placed onto a site-built, ground floor podium, like Lego blocks.

The 70-foot-long blocks, shrouded in white vinyl for protection against the elements, represent the future of affordable housing construction and offer a partial solution to the Bay Area’s housing shortage.

They are manufactured by Factory_OS (as in off-site) in Building 680 on Nimitz Avenue, the former home of a World War II era ship repair facility at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

Factory_OS began operations in 2017 and since then has built over 1,500 modules. Many go to house workers or as low-income housing throughout the Bay Area, including The Union, a 110-unit project near the West Oakland BART Station, and the 156-unit Mayfair Project, part of a transit-oriented development next to the El Cerrito Del Norte BART Station.

The Sacramento Street Apartments is the first housing project in Vallejo to be built with Factory_OS’s modules.

The Sacramento Street project will provide 75 units of long-term, affordable housing with supportive health and social services for chronically homeless adults and families.

The project is being developed in partnership with Eden Housing a developer of affordable, multi-family housing based in Hayward.

The general contractor is James E. Roberts-Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Danville; building designer is David Baker Architects, with offices in San Francisco, Oakland and Birmingham, Alabama; and Fletcher Studio of San Francisco.

The project will include 51 studio apartments, 18 one-bedroom, and 5 two-bedroom apartments on three levels above the ground floor. The complex is comprised of two buildings, linked by an aerial bridge over a landscaped plaza. The buildings will also house a property manager's unit, support service offices, and a community meeting room. Outside amenities for the apartment residents will include a community garden, orchard, play area, dog run and patios.

Factory_OS did not respond to press inquiries as to the unit cost and total project cost of the Sacramento Street Apartments

The company is the shared vision of company co-founders Rick Holliday, CEO, and Larry Pace, chief operating officer. Both are veteran multi-family housing developers and innovators. Holliday helped form Eden Housing in 1978 and later joined with Don Terner to create San Francisco-based BRIDGE Housing.

Both firms continue to build and operate affordable housing projects throughout California and are among the nation’s most successful non-profit housing developers. Pace is the founder and president of Cannon Constructors North, a leader in prefabricated housing construction techniques.

A McKinsey & Company Report released June 2019 found that off-site modular construction can produce finished housing units, ready for occupancy, 40% to 50% faster (because site work and off-site fabrication of the modules can be done at the same time) and at a 20% lower cost than conventional, on-site, stick-built construction.

The McKinsey Report concluded that modular construction achieves greater certainty in both cost and schedule, less disruption of neighborhoods surrounding the project site, reduced materials waste, and higher quality building connections and finishes, leading to improved energy and seismic performance.

A 2021 case study published by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that the per unit cost of 145 affordable housing units at 833 Bryant St. in San Francisco (also manufactured off site by Factory_OS) was $382,917, or 25% less per unit than similar projects in San Francisco.

The project was also completed 30% faster than the other projects studied.

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