Recap: Pittsburgh Road Trip

5 minute read

Throughout the year, the Alliance visits forward-thinking people and companies in order to keep our network informed. This time, we visited innovators in our own backyard – Western Pennsylvania. 

A BIG thank you to our hosts!

 

EcoCraft

First, one of EcoCraft’s homeowners, Bill Spohn, gave us a tour and sat down to answer questions about design, the production process and his experience living in a high-performance home.

 

 

Listen in to hear answers to the questions below and more from Bill Spohn…

  • What appealed to you about going modular and working with EcoCraft?
  • How have the design and home performance choices impacted the way you’re living now?
  • How important was health as a design driver?
  • If you had a friend who was looking to go modular, what would you tell them? Are there any restrictions to design or differences in the construction process they should be aware of?

 

Module

Then we connected with Ankur Dobriyal, the Director of Construction, to get the inside story and learn more about the behind the scenes of Module.

 

 

Here are just a few things we asked Ankur Dobriyal…

  • In the past couple of years, you’ve built your first set of homes. What have you learned from taking Module’s vision to reality?
  • Have you encountered any constructability issues or identified any other innovation opportunities through partnering with SMI?
  • How many additional homes do you expect to deliver in 2021?
  • How do you see production growing over the next 5 years?

 

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services

We also visited Howard Hanna’s new office in Lawrenceville, a Pittsburgh neighborhood, to capture an interview between Jen Yosef, CEO of Mighty and Helen Hanna Casey, CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

 

 

Here are a few questions we asked Helen:

  • What was it about Howard Hanna and the real estate industry that attracted you?
  • What advice would you give to young women today who are considering a career in the real estate industry or the housing space?
  • What are your biggest priorities for the next couple of years from a digital innovation perspective?
  • Why urban redevelopment? 

 

5 KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM OUR TRIP

 

1. THE ROADBLOCKS ARE SMALLER THAN YOU THINK. YOU JUST NEED A PLAN.

  • ​Focus on Process: “Roadblocks mostly come from the coordination side of things, but this is the case the first time you work with anyone. With factory-built solutions, you need to give extra attention to figure out who on the team does what and identify what the efficiencies are,” says Ankur.
  • Commit Early: “You also need to make all of your design decisions up front before the build begins to save on cost, keep to your timeline and take advantage of having the trades at your disposal in a factory setting,” says Bill Spohn and his wife Marilyn of their experience with EcoCraft Homes.
  • Design Big: Bill also broke the myth that modular housing has to look boxy. With a little forethought and collaboration with a good builder, you can incorporate dynamic design features like open, two story great rooms, pitched rooflines and dimensional entryways using volumetric construction.
  • Build to Fit: Good land is hard to come by! Module is about modularity in design and providing flexibility for your home to grow as your family grows, without looking for a new lot. They can deliver using panelized or volumetric modular solutions, whatever the project (and the land) dictates.

 

2. PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS ARE KEY

  • The Black Street mixed income project is an excellent case study on Public-Private Partnerships converting underutilized vacant lots into high quality market rate and affordable housing units with Module taking the lead through a vertically integrated approach as the developer.
  • The City of Pittsburgh also recently launched a defined modular construction process with support from government agencies and the private sector, including Module and EcoCraft Homes

 

3. THERE’S A WHOLE SUB-INDUSTRY OUT THERE TO SUPPORT YOU

 

4. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO NOW, NOT IN 10 YEARS. “Each year there are 1 to 2 really good things that you can adapt. The secret to being an innovator is not just inventing it yourself, but finding the right platforms that integrate to make it easier for the consumer,” says Helen Hanna Casey.

 

5. STREAMLINE THE PROCESS AND GET BEYOND THE LEADS.

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