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The modular “starter house” in Back of the Yards was assembled

Published on Aug. 24, 2020 by Steven Vance

Last Wednesday, August 19, all eight modules of Chicago’s first modular house were assembled, one at a time. The front door and roof were installed before sunset, making the house secure and waterproof.

I told you about the modular single-unit house in April, soon after it was permitted. Kinexx Modular Construction, founded by Paul Tebben and Josh Braun, are building it for The Resurrection Project, an organization that builds affordable housing, at 4856 S Ada St in Back of the Yards.

I arrived to the construction site at around 9:30 AM and left an hour later. In that time, workers adjusted the position of the second module, lifted and placed the third module, and delivered the fourth module. The main process of lifting and placing the third module took less than 10 minutes. All eight modules and the roof were installed by 6 PM.

Modular house assembly photos. Clockwise from top-left: The second/rear module is being adjusted to fit with the first; the third module awaits lifting; the awaiting fourth module has a staircase; the third module has been placed and needs final adjustments.

Watch the two minute delivery and installation video, which has been condensed and sped up about 2.5x. To remind you, this “starter house” has the following dimensions and characteristics:

  • Floor area of 1,450 square feet
  • 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms
  • 17' wide (the standard Chicago lot is 25', and a setbacks usually allow for a 20' wide house)
  • 42' deep (the standard Chicago lot is 125' deep)
  • 9' ceiling height
  • 24' tall

On Thursday, the following day, an electrician and ComEd engineer connected the house’s electricity to the grid, and the house was energized on Friday. When I talked to Braun and Tebben on Friday, they said that the water and sewage should be hooked up that day. Starting today, the metal and vinyl siding will be added, which should take a week. The AC and heating will also be hooked up this week.

Left: A rendering of the modular “starter home”. Right: The structure after assembling all eight modules on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.

Then, a final coat of interior paint needs to be added, and flooring and some tile needs to be installed. I asked why the flooring and tile weren’t installed in the factory, like many other interior finishes.

Tebben said, “This was our first house [by Kinexx], and we wanted to make sure transporting it was safe and didn’t have cracking issues, so we were overly cautious.” Some parts were already tiled, though, and none of them cracked during transport, Tebben said. Braun added, “Lots of people had different opinions, so we picked a happy medium and finished some tile as an experiment prior to transport. There also wasn’t a single piece of drywall that cracked.”

Sometime this week a Chicago Department of Buildings inspector will come for a “final rough inspection” (this isn’t a typical inspection phase). This time in September, the Kinexx founders said, the house will be ready for an occupancy inspection.

How much did it cost? They wouldn’t give me specifics, but said that final costs are really close to the estimated costs for the first house. Braun said, “We had an anticipated price and we hit it, and now we’re more confident that we can deliver this house for someone else for $240,000.”

That price doesn’t include a multi-building discount, but it includes a foundation slab, utility hookup, roof, and siding. It doesn’t include site-specific remediation, landscaping, and fencing.

The modular “starter house” in Back of the Yards was assembled was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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