West Loch Modular Housing Project Nears Completion
The project is expected to finish later this year
The City and County of Honolulu recently made significant progress towards low-cost housing with an innovative modular housing project, the West Loch Modular Housing Project. Installed in just a week (including a one-day delay due to high winds), the project was an impressive reduction of time compared to traditionally built housing projects. Had it not been modular, this project would have taken at least 18 months to complete. For this modular project, sitework and construction itself took only five months, from August through December. The West Loch Modular Housing Project is notably exciting due to the reduced construction costs, which was roughly $300-$350 per square foot including site work, as compared to $500 per square foot at the high end for a conventional project.
The City and County of Honolulu held a groundbreaking ceremony in July 2020 to embark upon the construction of the West Loch Modular Housing Project and then started work in August. Similar Canadian projects have been completed with fewer code restrictions than Hawaii in less than three weeks. This means Hawaii might be able to bring on low-cost housing projects even more quickly in the future.
The City and County of Honolulu previously completed two modular housing projects, but this is the first multi-story modular building in Hawaii. Modular buildings are very common for military bases, railroad posts, and schools, but stacking these modules for the purpose of housing sets this project apart from previous modular buildings.
This specific project is located in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, where the property had been identified from the 1990’s as a site for affordable housing development. With the site consisting of 1.43 acres, the West Loch Modular Housing Project will be a three-story modular building with 58 rental studio units. The building itself will be built out of eight different modules, and each studio unit will come fully furnished with a bedbug proof bed, double pane windows, and will include a bathroom and kitchen and will have a required number of American Disabilities Act accessible units. The ground floor and amenities will include a commercial kitchen, dining room, laundry facility, an office for the property manager, and 34 initial parking stalls. The City and County of Honolulu is devoted to keeping all units affordable for those at or below 50% of the area median income. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – who calculates and publishes the annual area median income numbers – the area median income for a single person is $42,000 a year.
The general contractor – T. Iida Contracting, Ltd. – is managing all site work, utilities, foundation, parking lot, and landscaping duties. T. Iida Contracting, Ltd. began site work in late July while the modular units were being fabricated off site to allow for an expedited delivery schedule. These modules took three months to build, and on December 14th, 2020, the City and County of Honolulu began accepting the delivery of forty prefabricated modular units to the project site. The general contractor is positioned to oversee the delivery of up to eight modules by truck from Kalaeloa Harbor per day for one week. After receiving these modules, the general contractor stacked the units by crane into a three-story configuration. There will still be finishing work when the stacking of the modules is done, but the project is expected to be fully completed by the end of April of 2021.
The Honolulu City Council adopted resolutions that urged the administration to pursue innovative construction options, like modular housing, to accelerate the delivery of affordable housing units. Then Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell stated, “These are the kinds of projects we need in Honolulu to make sure we’re serving our most vulnerable communities.” Caldwell added, “The challenge to build more affordable housing needs to be met with innovative solutions, and this modular housing project, the first of its kind in the state, is an example of the types of solutions we will hopefully see more of in the future.” The total cost for this project is expected to be $18 million: $10 million for the structures and $8 million for the site work. A primary benefit of modular construction, according to city officials, is that product delivery is 30-50% faster than conventional construction.
The City of Vancouver, Canada used Horizon North, a Canadian based company, as its manufacturer when completing their housing projects in 2018 that constructed 606 modular units on 10 different sites. In December of 2019, the selection committee for the West Loch Modular Housing Project selected Horizon North after seeing Vancouver’s affordable housing plan and execution. The Horizon North design for each modular unit in the West Loch Modular Housing Project has been modified for Hawaii’s weather and local conditions; such as larger windows, termite treated wood, ventilation adjustments, and fixtures. The project is designed by G70, a local architecture/engineering firm, and the plans will be authorized under the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting.
When seeking experienced modular manufacturers in building multi-story buildings for affordable housing, the City and County of Honolulu had two goals: (1) utilize this innovative building style to hasten the delivery of units, and (2) explore the standardization of building designs to enable replication that would over time result in cost savings to meet the critical affordable housing needs for Honolulu. As work is still being done to complete this innovative affordable housing project, and the community seeks to fulfill these goals, Honolulu is taking a sizable step to better serve its people.