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Empowering Communities: The Last Mile Network

Module has partnered with affordable housing developers and local communities to launch the “Last Mile Network,” bringing the power of prefab construction into an urban context with a hub-and-spoke manufacturing model. The Last Mile Network is made up of locally owned manufacturing facilities that can produce hundreds of energy-efficient, affordable housing units. Homes built in these facilities are 40% faster to construct, up to 80% more energy efficient, and have up to a 20% lower lifecycle cost than traditionally built housing. With the support of Fannie Mae, Module is scaling the Last Mile concept so that local developers in the Mid-Atlantic region can order units from the facilities and develop new missing-middle housing in their communities.

The Network comprises various regional and local stakeholders who together design, manufacture, deliver, and finish Module homes.

The Network includes:

  • Production Hub

  • Spoke Facilities

  • Design Partners

  • Construction Partners

  • Last Mile Lab

a 3d diagram of Last Mile Network spoke facility

3D diagram of Spoke Facility

Production Hub

A Production Hub is a series of manufacturing facilities that produce modular homes. The way in which the Last Mile Network manufactures homes resembles making a car or airplane. In this model, a larger, centralized factory called a “Production Hub” manufactures the parts that make up the home, including the walls, floors, and roofs. Additionally, the Production Hub buys “in-bulk” most of the building materials and mechanical equipment that will go inside the home, including flooring, tile, HVAC equipment, plumbing fixtures, etc. All of these “components” are shipped on a standard truck (8-foot wide load) to smaller factories called “Spoke Facilities.”

image depicting the production hub of last mile network

Production Hub

Spoke Facilities

These spoke facilities are located within a 30-minute drive of the communities they serve. The parts are assembled at these smaller factories to make the final product — a home! The walls, floors, and roofs are assembled into volumetric “boxes” for each floor of the home. Then, the building materials and equipment are installed on each floor of the house before the homes are ready to ship. Typically, there is one “box” per floor, so if the facility is building a three-story home, there will be three boxes.

This manufacturing method ensures the components of each home are standardized, with adjustments to fit community needs.

image depicting spokes of Last Mile Network

Spoke Facilities

Design Partners

Local Design partners in each market, including architects and engineers who manage the zoning, local building permits, and environmental review for new housing projects. While everything built in a Last Mile Facility is permitted by the State, local zoning code still applies, and any construction work that is completed on-site is subject to local building permitting and code requirements.

Responsibilities of a Module Design Partner

Image depicting scope of work for design partners

Construction Partners

Construction Partners are local general contractors and tradespeople responsible for performing the site work for the project. Scope typically includes building the foundation, connecting into local utilities, installing the units on the foundation, and building any other on-site items such as front porches, garages, basements, etc.

Scope of Work for Construction Partners

Image depicting scope of work for construction partners

The Last Mile Lab

The Last Mile Lab provides on-ramps into the construction industry. Workforce development programs create pathways for residents in communities of color to not only secure well-paying jobs but also to build wealth. In a typical factory environment, there are those who own the factory and those who work at the factory. With the Last Mile Network, everyone who works at the factory has an equity stake in the business.

image depicting the install of kitchen backsplash
image depicting instructor teaching students in modular facility

Module’s First Last Mile Facility in Pittsburgh

In partnership with the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Module launched the Last Mile Lab in the summer of 2022. The initial cohort of trainees learned modular home finishing skills. The Last Mile Lab is a construction innovation lab as well as a workforce training program. The Last Mile Lab aims to fuel innovation in the home-building industry while furthering Module’s mission to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive way to build new housing. The facility and program in Pittsburgh target residents with barriers to employment, including returning citizens and others left behind by work in the construction trades.

Module’s workforce development partner is the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, a black-led non-profit, vocational training program whose mission is to empower men and women with significant barriers to employment through skill building and career opportunities. They offer a 10-week tuition-free training program in masonry and carpentry, life skills courses, and social service support. Students are matched with a career in a variety of trades or trade-related fields upon graduation. The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh and Module have educated 16 students across two cohorts about modular construction and provided opportunities for those students to perform finishing labor related to Module homes.

The facility was established with less than $1 million through partnerships and investments from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge, and TIP – a substantial feat when many facilities take tens of millions of dollars to open. The facility’s location in the Pittsburgh area is also intentional. Many modular factories are located hundreds of miles from the sites where those homes will be located.

The first unit produced at the Last Mile Lab was an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or compact, backyard home called The Berkley ADU. It was highlighted on the National Mall as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 Housing Innovation Showcase.

The trainees who finished the home each signed their names above the door frame, the same way steelworkers would sign a beam of a skyscraper, an acknowledgment of their city’s history as the steel hub of the world.

Stay tuned to learn more about The Berkley ADU in an upcoming case study.

Interested in becoming part of the Last Mile Network? Complete the form here.


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