The Helms Bakery hosted a live meeting of the Westside Urban Forum on Sept. 22, 2022 for the first time in years, and it was a clarifying conversation on modular and pre-fabricated construction. Moderated by Shane Phillips of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, the panel featured Margaux Rotter of BLVD Hospitality, Lana Cook for Prefab Logic, Angela Brooks of Brooks + Scarpa, and Scott Baldridge of the Aedis Real Estate Group.
The urgent need for building housing in Los Angeles County is a task that continues to intrigue and challenge that most dedicated problem solvers in every field, and the perspective were not optimistic. “Modular is more expensive,” Cook offered with candor, “It isn’t that it’s bad, but if budget is your priority, this may not be the way to go. Every unit has to have six sides; not just four walls, but a top and bottom as well.”
The speed with which a modular unit (or a building constructed from units) can be put in place also has to go through all the same permit and inspection processes that each city requires. Transport can also be an issue.
Rotter noted “The closest factory we have is in Rialto, and that’s pretty good when you realize the next closest one is in Idaho. But trucks, fuel – it all adds up.”
The idea of having a factory in Los Angeles halted at the same factors that plague the building industry itself; “The land is so expensive, and factories have to be working constantly. You can’t have 200 people standing around waiting for an order to come in. To be successful, they need to be busy, all the time.”
Baldridge, who has worked with non-profit corporations to create affordable and supportive housing, believes that the answer is partnership. With service minded entities willing to work with government funding, (such as the local development in Culver City now being created by the Culver-Palms Methodist Church and the Community Corp of Santa Monica) modular could be put in place to meet community needs.