If you visit a construction site today, you’ll see the same sorts of workers, the same materials, the same hammers and nails that would’ve been a construction site from 40 or 50 years ago.
Construction methods might not have seen the kind of technological revolution that has swept over other industries in previous decades, but rising construction and labor costs are pushing some companies to look at new ways of doing things.
Rise Modular is a Minnesota startup company that will soon begin manufacturing modular apartments and hotel rooms from a factory in Owatonna, to be shipped and assembled at sites all over the Midwest.
The process, which has been growing in popularity in coastal markets, promises to be faster, cheaper, safer and of higher quality than traditional on-site building, says Rise Modular founder and CEO Christian Lawrence.
Finance & Commerce spoke with Lawrence about the opportunity he sees for modular construction to reshape the construction market, affordable housing and the career path for future construction workers. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you get into modular development?
A: My background is in finance. I got into development a few years ago, and in one of my first developments, we were looking to build 200 [modular] units of market-rate apartments, five-over-one. And I visited all the plants in the upper Midwest, including Dynamic Homes. And they couldn’t do a project that size, because they’re primarily focused on single family. They can’t or haven’t done five-over-one, type-three construction. So I decided to investigate whether there’s an opportunity to start my own company, and I’ve now spent the last year validating that opportunity and putting together the team and business plan.
We’ll be the first and only modular company in the Midwest, and probably the second or third in the country, that is exclusively focused on wood modular for large-scale multifamily and hospitality projects.
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