Warren Buffet’s New Take on Modular Housing: Make it Like IKEA

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Robison Wells
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Danny Forster Architecture, a New York firm, has partnered with MiTek Inc, a company owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, to create the Modular Activation Platform (MAP); they intend to solve some of the main problems with modular construction.

While some have tried modular construction, many glaring problems persist, including transportation of modular compartments—prohibitively expensive—and defects, such as leaky roofs. Zoning issues also make the list of hurdles associated with modular building.

MiTek takes inspiration from IKEA: ship it flat and assemble it onsite.

“Communities across the country desperately need housing, and that is a need that modular can answer,” MiTek vice president for modular Todd Ullom said in a statement. MiTek can clear the red tape, Ullom said, “collaborating with municipal authorities and MWBE-certified contractors to get it done.”

For the past three years, MiTek has assembled modular units on an assembly line in Chesterfield, Missouri. They recently received approval to build a tall modular tower in San Francisco, CA.

“You find out real quickly there’s a lot of players—insurance companies, designers, lenders, materials testing people. And modular touches them all,” Ullom said. “You have had enthusiastic endorsement in some areas, but not others. Developers are fairly risk-averse and want a good return on their investment. So you’ve got to limit the risk—you’ve got to get cities, testing agencies on board. We’ve got to get stuff standardized so it works for modular. I’ve spent a lot of years on this bumpy ride and right now we’re trying to fix potholes before we start chasing business.”

Danny Forster outlines the necessity of an all-in attitude with modular building. “If this is going to be the future, you can’t just have one or two businesses do it.” He intends to spark other companies to follow suit by turning modular construction from a niche into a significant trend.

MiTek, a modular construction company with high-ticket investors on board, hopes to push modular building past the red tape into the mainstream.

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