Summit County and Breckenridge officials tour Fading West modular home facility in Buena Vista
Community leaders are excited about the possibility of bringing modular homes to the county
When community leaders gathered for the Summit County Housing Action Initiative earlier this summer, one idea thrown into the mix was the use of modular homes and whether these developments could mitigate some of the county’s affordable housing challenges.
During the discussion, it was noted that Fading West Development is building a facility in Buena Vista, which will manufacture and produce modular homes, and that community leaders could tour the plant and the neighboring community of units it has already developed. That tour took place Monday, Aug. 30, when a mix of leaders from Summit County and the town of Breckenridge learned more about the developments.
Overall, the consensus was that these homes could be an extremely impactful strategy to temper the affordable housing issue in the county within the next year or so.
“With the homes themselves, I can say they were great,” Summit County Interim Planning Director Dan Osborne said. “We were able to get inside the homes. They are an attractive, modern home just as you would expect if it was stick-built or otherwise. The factory is an innovative, new way to build houses.”
Breckenridge housing manager Laurie Best said this innovation comes from the nature of how the homes are built.
“Certainly, when you construct your housing off-site in a factory where you control everything … it’s completely different from construction where you’re dealing with weather conditions (and) staffing and labor issues,” Best said. “That can create risk for any construction project. When the modular units are constructed off-site, it’s a very controlled environment, and it’s very quick.”
Not only that, but Breckenridge Town Council member Erin Gigliello said the controlled environment also means these types of units should be developed at a higher quality.
“Going the modular home route is very intriguing,” Gigliello said. “I believe the idea is that it guarantees quality in a different way because you have people working on the same units over and over again, so as far as consistency and quality, that has been shown in the past.”
Osborne said the county and towns have known about modular homes for a while but that the units were previously difficult to offer locally. Most of the facilities that produce these units are out of state, and the cost of transporting them wasn’t feasible. Osborne said Fading West’s new facility less than 100 miles away makes these types of developments much easier to offer as viable housing options in the community.
“From a regional standpoint, to be able to build them regionally, that’s going to be a game-changer,” Osborne said. “It’s going to reduce the transportation costs. You’re going to get a good product. It’s going to create jobs for people — good jobs where you’re inside a conditioned environment, able to build a house for someone.”
Many community leaders also pointed out that this type of development can make a faster impact on the community’s affordable housing issue than a traditional stick-built development. Once the factory is up and running, the controlled environment means the units can be developed quicker. Once manufactured, the modules are put together on a set foundation, and the process can be completed in a week or so.
It’s this particular benefit that stood out the most to Breckenridge Town Council member Dick Carleton.
“If we can work with these guys and make this happen, this type of construction can deliver a product to our workforce tremendously quicker than stick-built construction,” Carleton said. “With the crisis we have with workforce housing right now, that’s a huge benefit.”
Best also agreed that this quick timeline could be in the community’s favor. She said the town and county were in the process of identifying parcels of land that could house these developments, one of which includes a 1.82-acre parcel that could house 44 units. Because the county and town were already in discussions about potential projects, the tour was meant for just these two entities, though a couple of representatives from developer Gorman & Co. also attended.
Osborne noted that no parcels have been officially determined for any projects yet.
Though there’s still work to be done, Carleton said this strategy is exciting because new units could be available as soon as fall 2022.
“I think we could save up to a year in the project,” he said. “Building stick just takes time. … Once we get a site identified, then they can do their design and get us pricing, and once we come to an agreement with that, then we can start right away doing infrastructure work. And while we’re doing that, they can be building the homes or the apartments.”
Though the development sounds exciting, a few attendees noted they had some reservations. First, Fading West’s facility is set to open in a few months, and Carleton noted there might be kinks if this is one of its first projects. Not only that, but the town wants to see most developments be net zero to align with its sustainability goals.
Gigliello said she’d like to see more pricing details for the units, especially as it relates to infrastructure. She also noted that developments have to sustain the High Country climate.
As for next steps, Osborne said he and Best and their teams will continue to work on identifying parcels of land that could house modular homes while Fading West wraps up construction on its new facility.
Some of the other individuals who attended the tour were Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz, Summit County Manager Scott Vargo, Summit County Housing Planner Brandon Howes and Breckenridge Community Development Director Mark Truckey.
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