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Urban Innovation


Boston has found a way to increase its amount of new housing in an innovative and cost-efficient manner. 

Many cities are not only short on housing, but developers aren’t anxious to make major, costly investments, especially when a quick return on investment isn’t exactly guaranteed. Boston is working to help solve these two issues and more with the creation of a new urban housing unit, an innovation from Mod-Tech Homes LLC.

Working with Boston-based designer Addison Godine, Marshfield, Mass.-based Mod-Tech Homes produced an urban housing unit that is available to developers and investors looking to provide housing units along Massachusetts’ transit regions. The custom-designed 13.5-feet-by-33-feet, 380-square-foot prototype was part of Mayor Marty Walsh’s Housing Innovation Lab (HIL) that was showcased at Boston’s City Hall Plaza before embarking on a three-month tour, which saw the apartment “on wheels” transported throughout various Boston neighborhoods. It is part of the mayor’s initiative to build 53,000 new housing units in Boston by the year 2030.

The urban housing units are stackable and can be constructed to accommodate multiple residents. Mod-Tech Homes is bringing the innovative modular housing concept to transit neighborhoods along T stops and commuter rail lines in the state.

Mod-Tech Homes specializes in new homes on either a raw land or a teardown/rebuild. The company’s team executes the entire project from feasibility to design, permitting, financing and complete construction. Mod-Tech Homes works with four modular home factories to provide customers with the largest and most diverse choice of homes and additions.

Francine Townsend, owner of Mod-Tech Homes, and Consultant Paul Townsend worked with Godine to find a production facility and ensure the unit could be produced on a very tight schedule and work within a modest budget. Godine explains that the city first became interested in the concept of “the Roadshow” through the efforts of Tamara Roy of Stantec, president of the Boston Society of Architects who has been dubbed “the Mother of the Micro” by one of her clients. Roy’s Stantec office and Godine collaborated on the design, and Mod-Tech Homes helped to translate the design into modular production.

Paul Townsend says that when he and Addison Godine first discussed the particulars of the project, modular construction offered a number of advantages over traditional, onsite construction. “It is first and foremost superior construction,” Townsend says.

He further notes that the inspection process for approving modular construction is more streamlined than traditional. “We began thinking of these housing units in an urban setting and eventually realized they could provide a housing solution at our points of public transportation,” he says.

Townsend negotiated and engaged with PennKraft Building Systems to construct the prototype in its climate-controlled factory. PennKraft, based in Knox, Pa., serves the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast markets. “They are a superior outfit to work with,” Townsend says. “They went the extra mile to meet our specifications.”

The urban housing unit, designed to the international building code, includes a bedroom, kitchen, full shower/bathroom, sitting area a significant amount of built-in storage and a sliding door. Its smart home options include service data, smart light bulbs, and it is energy efficient. The smaller size has appeal for millennials, elderly and all age groups in between, Townsend believes.

“One of the advantages of this housing is, once approved, it can be used on smaller sites, sometimes known as in-fill lots, where three-deckers were sited but are no longer on the site and are perfect located near public transportation,” he says.

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