Q&A: Rise Modular CEO on the changing ways to tackle multifamily construction

By JD Duggan, Finance & Commerce, April 15, 2022

Modular construction is on the rise, and Christian Lawrence is here to meet the call.

He’s the CEO and founder of RISE Modular, which builds and co-develops modular multifamily housing and hospitality projects. Pieces of structures are built offsite and assembled onsite, saving costs in construction and reducing waste in the process.

While it’s been used on the coasts and throughout the world, Rise Modular is the first modular housing manufacturer in Minnesota. Lawrence started the company in 2018 and has seen demand continue to increase for modular housing.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: You started this company in 2018. What inspired that?

A: I got into real estate several years prior to that and I quickly learned that construction costs were outpacing rent and wage growth. This presented a huge challenge and problem for the industry and society as a whole. As you know, we read about and experienced the affordable housing crisis locally, regionally, and nationally. I’m a big believer that technology can move the needle on such issues and that moving said needle helped solve a problem but also created opportunity.

So I started researching offsite construction and construction technology more broadly and discovered volumetric modular, in particular, and its use in parts of Europe and Asia, very successfully for many decades. I wanted to see what – if any of it – was being done in this country and saw a couple of projects that had been built or were getting built on the east and west coast, but very few and far between. Nothing in the center of the country.

I had a project at the time that I wanted to explore building this way but couldn’t find a supplier in the Midwest, so I decided to do some market research and validate the business plan to build a platform here in the Twin Cities.

Q: Tell me about modular construction. What does the process look like?

A: So the best analogy is like Legos. We’re building pieces of a building, or volumetric mods, six-sided mods with the floor, ceiling, all the walls, interior finishes, kitchens, bathrooms, in a manufacturing facility on an assembly line. Then we’re transporting them to the job site where they’re stacked – much like Legos, albeit quite a bit more complicated – onsite to comprise the building.

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