Skyrocketing building costs. The time-consuming construction process. Weather delays. An industry-wide labor shortage. These are some of the obstacles a Las Vegas-based startup company called Boxabl hopes to minimize in the near future with its assembly line-produced, prefabricated modular homes.
To hear the firm’s business development director, Galiano Tiramani, describe it is to picture the patented modules as “universal building blocks.” Think: Lego bricks, laid side by side or stacked to form countless shapes and sizes of homes.
It’s all about bringing the efficiency of mass production to the construction industry. In other words, Boxabl is out to change the world and “crush construction costs” by as much as 50 percent.
“Even modular homes that are built in a factory are built just one at a time,” says Tiramani. “Our solution is to fold up the homes we build and ship them via truck or by rail. Our plan is to have a mega-factory in Vegas and then ship our homes – as quickly as the day after they are built – all over the country.”
Of course, the Boxabl assembly line is still likely a couple of years away from being fully operational because the firm is in the process of raising capital to build its mega-factory. But in the short term, the company is looking forward to showing off a prototype at the February NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.
“We will have the prototype set up outside at the show, and next to it will be the folded-up version next to the finished version,” says Tiramani. “Hopefully that will give everyone the big picture, which is that this is like a new product category in terms of the housing market.”
If a house is really just a collection of rooms, then Boxabl ostensibly is in the business of building rooms, ones that can stand alone or be mixed and matched. Each room that will come off the company’s assembly line will be 20 feet by 40 feet with a 9.5-foot ceiling, each at minimum with electrical wiring and a door cutout. These “blank boxes” could be, for instance, a kitchen layout with exterior siding, or a living room with a stucco and stone finish.
Each wall panel will be created by a single mold and made in about 90 seconds. Then it will be placed on the line and laminated to a magnesium oxide wallboard, forming a product that is fireproof, waterproof, mold resistant, and not susceptible to termite damage.
“If you think of the way a traditional home is built, you have the interior sheetrock, the studs, the insulation, then the exterior sheathing, then some kind of plastic wrap, then the final exterior finish,” says Tiramani. “But the Boxabl method takes the process from about 50 different components and five different trades and narrows it down to a simple, couple-step process.”
Tiramani hopes Boxabl, founded by Paolo Tiramani of the 500 Group Inc., catches the attention of the growing production-builder market by appealing to that segment’s focus on economies of scale. He points to major developers that design and build entire subdivisions with dozens, even hundreds, of homes. Boxabl would be able to take a builder’s plans for, say, three or four different models and then manufacture them quickly and efficiently and, just as importantly, deliver them cross-country at a cost-effective price.
“Other companies building modular homes, if they have to ship them more than 200 miles, it just becomes too expensive because these are huge, overweight loads,” says Tiramani. The weight of a Boxabl unit, on the other hand can weigh only 8,000 to 12,000 pounds.
The low cost and ease of transportation could benefit those who need a modular home most in areas where housing has been decimated by natural disasters.
“One of the other really cool things about our product,” says Tiramani, “is, say a thousand homes are destroyed by a hurricane. We can ship a thousand Boxabls to a nearby empty field, where they are unpacked and unfolded and immediately provide emergency, temporary housing for displaced people. As the situation settles and those residents move back home, the Boxabls can be packed up to use again another time.”
From temporary emergency housing to low-income residential to commercial to high-end semi-custom homes, in the future, there just may be a Boxabl for every situation.
The Boxabl prototype will debut February 19-21 at the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. It will feature a multi-slide door and windows from Western Window Systems.