CRE N Illinois

Modular construction facility opens on Chicago’s Southwest Side

Representatives of Skender, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Chicago city officials cut the ribbon on Skender’s new modular construction facility. Representatives of Skender, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Chicago city officials cut the ribbon on Skender’s new modular construction facility.
Skender’s new modular construction facility, located at 3348 S. Pulaski Road in Chicago. Skender’s new modular construction facility, located at 3348 S. Pulaski Road in Chicago.
From left to right: Alderman Walter Burnett (27th), Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary–Treasurer Gary Perinar, Alderman Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Skender CEO Mark Skender. From left to right: Alderman Walter Burnett (27th), Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary–Treasurer Gary Perinar, Alderman Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Skender CEO Mark Skender.
Skender’s new modular construction facility is able to turn incoming materials into finished building modules in as little as five days. Skender’s new modular construction facility is able to turn incoming materials into finished building modules in as little as five days.
Skender CEO Mark Skender speaks in front of union works, city officials and others gathered inside the firm’s new modular construction facility. Skender CEO Mark Skender speaks in front of union works, city officials and others gathered inside the firm’s new modular construction facility.
When at full capacity, Skender’s new modular construction facility will employ around 150 workers. When at full capacity, Skender’s new modular construction facility will employ around 150 workers.

Skender cut the ribbon today on their advanced manufacturing facility in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. The factory will use the firm’s fully-integrated process to turn out building modules to be transported and installed on the construction site.

By using a modular building approach, nearly all of a project’s construction is conducted in the climate-controlled environment, located at 3348 S. Pulaski Road. This method increases quality and safety, lowers costs, eliminates weather risk, significantly reduces delivery schedule and ensures that the finished product is built in a highly efficient manner.

“Our production launch is an important milestone in our radical new approach to building,” said Mark Skender, CEO, Skender. “By bringing design, manufacturing and construction under one brand and one integrated team, we can dramatically improve productivity and build more efficiently while increasing the quality of materials and finishes, as well as the energy performance.”

First project

As announced last week, the first modular building project to come out of the facility will be 10 three-flats on Chicago’s West Side, all offering affordable housing units. Chicago-based developer Sterling Bay ordered the steel-frame three-flats, which will be ready for occupancy in a nine-week production schedule—80 percent faster and between 5 to 20 percent cheaper than conventional construction methods.

“I appreciate that Sterling Bay has jumped in as the first customer for this incredibly important venture. They’re doing great work all over the city and I appreciate it,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Thank you for being part of the pipeline for the work that’s going to be done here at this facility.”

As part of their partnership with Skender, Sterling Bay will also construct a seven-story, 83-unit apartment building at 1100 West Grand Avenue; the 92,000-square-foot modular building will be completed by the first quarter of 2020. They also plan to build affordable housing on another 100 or more vacant lots all around the city, partnering with affordable housing nonprofit organizations to lease and manage the units.

“We are proud to open our facility with a premier workforce and a project that demonstrates a new housing delivery model capable of changing how we fight the affordable housing crisis,” said Skender. “This is a true gamechanger.”

Union shop

Skender reached an agreement with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters allowing Skender’s manufacturing employees to organize and become bargaining members. When the facility is at full capacity in approximately 18 months, it will employ around 150 workers.

“This puts the City of Chicago at the forefront of a new, innovative and efficient method of constructing multifamily, healthcare and hospitality projects through modular manufacturing,” said Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters executive secretary–treasurer, Gary Perinar. “Our highly trained and skilled carpenters will ensure high-quality products and projects that will improve and enhance communities across the city.”

To help source, train and prepare the workforce for specialized careers in manufacturing, Skender has partnered with Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters as well as Cara Chicago, Heartland Alliance, Chicago Women in Trades, Central States SER and the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.

As modular construction helps to build properties faster and cheaper, it is an ideal strategy for creating affordable housing units in Chicago—for which there is a dire need. But this facility aims to address this situation on another front, by creating a source for high-quality, stable, blue collar jobs.

“They used to say that nothing stops a bullet like a job,” said Michael Rodriguez, Alderman of the 22nd Ward in which the manufacturing facility is located. “Well I say nothing stops a bullet like a career—a living wage job.”

Modular construction

After building modules are completed at the factory, they are shipped to destination sites for assembly and finish work. The steel modules are extremely durable and offer higher energy performance than previous iterations of modular construction.

To that point, Skender’s modular construction approach also combines Lean manufacturing practices with the latest integrated building information modeling and manufacturing technology. This reduces cost and time to market while simultaneously integrating sustainability into the completed property. Building components, fixtures, finishes and most appliances will go into each module at the factory, ensuring that 95 percent of the construction is handled off-site.

“We’ve developed a hyper-efficient process that eliminates waste and dramatically cuts the time it takes to bring a building to market,” said Pete Murray, president, Skender Manufacturing. “The learnings from each project inform the next to create even greater time and cost savings.”