ARCHHIVE: What is Module?
Brian Gaudio: Module is a design and technology startup based in Pittsburgh, PA. The company is redesigning homeownership to be more sustainable and accessible in the 21st century. Instead of over-building and over-buying (like many large homebuilders have done for the past 70 years), Module offers a “pay-as-you-go” entry point to homeownership. Give people a right-sized starter home that prioritizes design and sustainability instead of square footage.
A Module demo expandable housing system unit, built in partnership with Comcast-Xfinity Home. All images courtesy Module.
How did your team find its way from design, to starting a modular housing company?
Our team hails from multiple sides of the design world: architecture, contracting & interiors, and product design. I’m trained as an architect and worked in affordable housing. Our Chief Product Officer Drew worked at an industrial design firm helping companies like Home Depot bring new products to market. Our third co-founder Hallie was designing tiny houses prior to joining Module. She also co-owned a residential contracting firm specializing and kitchen and bathroom remodels. I decided to start Module to respond to the question on the minds of many architects and planners around the world: “How do we make good design and quality housing attainable for all?” It’s a question that touches on construction costs, real estate laws, zoning, and sustainability. The problem is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it is a critical challenge facing cities for years to come. Previously, I tried answering to the question through the nonprofit sector, at universities, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Our team decided to build a startup company around this problem with the goal of growing to a national footprint faster than we could by starting an architecture practice or a community design center.
Module Demo Unit Tour: https://youtu.be/viC8qrbp0Ug
From where do you take your design cues? What precedents play into Module’s designs?
The main precedent for Module comes from the work of architects in South America. Prior to starting Module, I directed a documentary on the global housing crisis and innovative design solutions to address it. Within Formal Cities features work from architects and designers from 5 cities in South America, including ELEMENTAL’s pritzker prize winning work in “incremental housing.” Incremental Housing is a housing typology wherein homebuyers build their homes up room by room, depending on their financial means and immediate needs. As far as precedents in the US, we like the work ISA has done on the 100K houses in Philadelphia.
Where do you see your company falling in the spectrum of architecture and product design?
As a seed stage company, we’re growing into our identity within the real estate/ construction tech space. Compared to other startup companies in the industry like Kasita and Blokable, we are closer to the architecture side of the spectrum as opposed to product design. One challenge housing has compared to any other “product” is that it is tied to the land it sits on (physically and legally). Thus, the context in which the product sits (geographical, social, etc) is important to consider and should shape it’s design in some way. Providing housing is a complex solution, with many moving parts outside its physical construction, including financing and permitting which are oftentimes case specific.
Easy-to-connect rooms and add-ons allow homeowners to expand when the time is right. All images courtesy Module.
What has been the most difficult challenge in terms of fabrication and implementation?
Our most difficult challenge in terms of fabrication is the balancing of maintaining a high performance building envelope, with optimizing for cost of construction. We have no doubt our product is significantly better quality compared to the average stick-framed house. Now it’s a matter of setting up supply chain partners and distribution channels to reach a mass market price point.
An interior rendering of a Module home. All images courtesy Module.
What role do you see Module playing in providing affordable housing?
Delivering affordable housing cannot be done by just one entity. The best affordable housing projects are public-private partnerships with innovative design and project delivery, government funding through tax credits, non-profit support, and community engagement. We are ready and willing to be the design and project delivery piece to affordable housing, but understand we cannot execute a project without strong partners. We welcome those partnerships and are currently in discussions with several groups in Pittsburgh for projects in 2019 and beyond.
Module Logo modulehousing.com (twitter @ModuleHousing)
Brian Gaudio is the CEO of Module. His inspiration for starting Module came while he was directing Within Formal Cities – a documentary about the housing crisis in South America, which debuted in 2016. Prior to starting Module, Brian was a Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Dominican Republic, where he led an urban design research initiative. He worked in Blue Sky Department at Walt Disney Imagineering where he helped create new ride concepts for the Disney Parks.
ARCHHIVE is an annual print publication expanding on the ideas presented in Buildner’ online architectural design competitions. Buildner is a generator of new ideas, conceived by a worldwide think tank, for tackling challenging design issues. It often works with civic, industry, or government partners to initiate its competitions, some of which are conceptual while others are intended to be built.
Each issue of ARCHHIVE will bring together architects with startups, entrepreneurs, developers, and problem-solving organizations which tackle these same global issues, often in ways other than building. ARCHHIVE merges the wealth of Buildner’ novel architectural design proposals, with complementary ideas in entrepreneurship, policy, and technology.
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