Texas Bill Disrupts Status Quo
A recently introduced bill in Texas (HB 4072) would increase the size of modular buildings allowed under the Texas Industrialized Buildings program from 4 stories to 14. My first reaction to the bill was that not many people are going to rush to build a 14-story modular building in Texas if this passes. And I’m sure the state agency has some reservations about the bill, given the staff shortages that always seem to have plagued them.
Then I thought about it some more and changed my tune.
If the bill passes and we don’t suddenly see tall modular buildings, is that a sign of failure? Of course not. It doesn’t really matter if a 14-story modular building happens within the year or even in the next 2 or 3 years.
What matters is that owners and developers across Texas (and the country) will realize that they are now ALLOWED to build 14-story modular buildings in Texas. This bill’s passing would be an endorsement by the state that it is possible to build a 14-story modular building in Texas. And developers will start asking how they CAN do this, who can build it, and where they can learn more about modular construction? Manufacturers will start to ask if they have the capability and resources to build this high in Texas. It puts the conversation on the table and this change of perspective is what matters. And that’s how a movement begins.
Now, we all know modular construction is not a new concept. But modular high-rises are fairly new. It wasn’t that long ago that many of us took a trip to England to see a twenty-four-story modular building, which at the time was the tallest in the world. We were blown away! And, as I recall, several people on that trip went on record as saying there will never be a demand in the U.S. for tall modular buildings.
Fast forward just a few years and that building in England is now the third tallest modular building in the world, behind a thirty-one-story project in New York and another high-rise in Melbourne, Australia. Ironically, the tallest modular building in North America prior to the New York project was a twenty-one story Hilton hotel built in 1969 in San Antonio, Texas.
If HB 4072 passes, it removes one barrier for the industry and opens the door for new opportunities. Of course, it will be up to the industry to take advantage of that opportunity, if presented.
Started on April 5, 2017 by Tom Hardiman