A four-story building built in four days with apartments that include closets, a kitchenette, a sofa that converts to a queen-size bed, and a flat-screen TV? We are used to seeing that kind of thing in China but this development was in, of all places, Berkeley.
Berkeleyside: This new 22-unit project from local developer Patrick Kennedy (Panoramic Interests) is the first in the nation to be constructed of prefabricated all-steel modular units made in China. Each module, which looks a little like sleekly designed shipping containers with picture windows on one end, is stacked on another like giant Legos.
Cost savings on the housing itself were significant but local assembly was still expensive. Organized labor isn’t very happy:
Organized labor also dislikes that these MicroPADs are manufactured abroad.
“We’d rather they be constructed here instead of China so they don’t undercut wages and conditions,” said Michael Theriault, secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, in 2016 to the San Francisco Chronicle. “And we want them built under local building code and inspected by local inspectors.”
Cost savings won’t be passed on to consumers if the quantity of housing supplied isn’t increased so this isn’t a solution to high-prices in quantity-constrained cities. Nevertheless, construction costs rather than land supply are an important constraint elsewhere in the country. Moreover, it’s good to see experiments in improving construction productivity, one of our most important but productivity lagging sectors.