Skip to content

How Air Caster Technology Has Helped Improve Modular Building Manufacturing

John Massenburg, President and CEO, AeroGo, Inc.

John Massenburg is the President and CEO of AeroGo, Inc.

By manufacturing houses and doing it repetitively, Fading West, a Colorado-based firm, has kept costs down and produced houses more quickly. To accomplish this goal, the company designed a manufacturing facility that can turn around hundreds of modular units, using a breakthrough process that utilizes the adoption of air casters, a low-profile material handling system inspired by hovercraft technology. Traditional systems, like cranes and forklifts, lack the capacity for larger modules, while rail systems are too inflexible and immobile.


At Fading West, the company uses an unconventional U-shaped production line with nine stations down one row, one in the middle, and nine more stations up the other row. As a result, Fading West doubled its throughput and minimized travel and other forms of waste with consistently positive results.

Transforming the Construction Industry

Modular housing construction firm Fading West Development is anything but fading away. Indeed, the Buena Vista, Colorado-based company, named after an album from American rock band Switchfoot, has seen its success skyrocket in housing construction since its inception. That’s due to its clever and innovative solution to a massive and growing problem: building modular homes, apartments, and other value-engineered residential products in a factory setting to address the nationwide crisis in housing affordability. “I came here to Fading West to ask how we can revolutionize the construction industry to create more affordable housing and get it into the marketplace,” says Sean Brown, Fading West’s vice president of factory operations.

Revolutionize it they did. The Colorado Sun newspaper described Fading West as “a solution to the housing crisis.” Time Magazine even recognized Fading West as one of the 100 Most Influential Companies of 2022—ranking it alongside Amazon and Pfizer.

AeroGo air casters for modular building manufacturing

Typical load module for the modular industry allows for quick bolting to the structure through the pre-drilled holes.

What accounts for its stellar success? Efficiency. “By manufacturing houses and doing it in a repetitive fashion, we can keep costs down and we can get the number of houses out quicker,” Eric Schaefer, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships, told the Sun. The result is the company can build a modular three-bedroom home up to five times faster than a traditional stick-built house, with construction costs 15-30 percent lower and market costs at least 25 percent less expensive than comparable stick-built homes.

But what drives that efficiency? The answer might be surprising.

Turning Housing Structures into Hovercraft

The main obstacle for Fading West was designing a manufacturing facility that could turn around hundreds of these modular units, sometimes called “boxes,” quickly and efficiently. Since the company built its 110,000-square-foot factory in Buena Vista in 2021, it had an opportunity to design the perfect manufacturing process from the ground up.

Unfortunately, traditional material handling methods proved intractable in meeting its desired goals. Either they wouldn’t work in the way Fading West wanted, or they wouldn’t work at all. For example, cranes and forklifts lacked the capacity for larger modules, while rail systems were too inflexible and immobile. Fading West didn’t want a straight-line manufacturing process because that would require too large a facility and place incoming and outgoing areas on opposite ends of the facility, necessitating two staging areas. It also would force unnecessary travel for workers to monitor the process or move equipment or resources.

The breakthrough came with the adoption of air casters, a low-profile material handling system inspired by hovercraft technology. By inflating a series of donut-shaped bags with compressed air, the massive modules can hover above the ground, allowing for easy, nearly frictionless maneuverability. “In a 38-foot-long-house, we use six air casters,” says Brown. “With 40 psi, we lift the house up and, with four people, one at every corner, we just push the house across the stages. It is not difficult to move entire houses very smoothly.”


Fading West’s production line can be moved safely and efficiently while floating on air.

U-shaped? You Bet

Better yet, the air casters made it possible to create an unconventional U-shaped production line with nine stations down one row, one in the middle, and nine more stations up the other row. That way, Fading West could double throughput, minimize travel and other forms of waste, and move structures in and out through the same opening. “We can move the entire factory through all 19 stations in the line in under 30 minutes,” says Brown. It enabled Fading West to build the assembly process around a central mezzanine holding tooling and other resources, with elevated offices offering complete visibility over the whole manufacturing line, all at once.

Notably, air casters also mean flexibility, not just in terms of movement but also in terms of change. For example, one structure might be 56-feet-long and another 76-feet-long. Air casters allow the company to easily accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes of boxes and then make changes on the fly. Even better, if Fading West needs to pause production on one unit to handle one-off issues, it can simply float the box to the side and allow the remainder of the production line to continue moving uninterrupted. When ready, employees can seamlessly float the unit back into production.

Solving Real-world Problems While Floating on Air


The team at Fading West discusses their efficient production line.

Tackling housing affordability is an ambitious goal, but with its ingenious manufacturing setup, Fading West has found the formula to produce high-quality housing quickly and affordably. Air casters play a quiet but critical role in this formula for success. With their ease of use, low cost, and unbeatable flexibility, Fading West designed a factory from the ground up that could maximize output and adaptability without disruption while minimizing waste. Ultimately, using air casters means Fading West can produce over 700 modular homes and apartments annually.


Moving building materials across the shop floor with air bearings.

It’s not just air casters themselves that matter; it’s also the company that provides them. “AeroGo was the only partner that could meet all of our needs,” says Brown. “I wish they could have provided everything in this plant. AeroGo is the only one who delivered what was promised and on time.”

AeroGo has made an impression—and not just on factory workers. “The AeroGo product is so nice, so unique, it’s commented on by every single person that walks through the factory,” says Brown. Playing a part in making housing affordable again and impressing passers-by? That’s just the everyday reality of AeroGo air casters making otherwise impossible moves happen.

Facilitating Growth with Air Caster Technology

Competition in the construction industry is fierce. Historically, two out of these three customer demands—economy, speed, and quality—were adequate. In today’s world, everyone wants all three and then some. Using modern air caster technology in the modular building sector is one way to help meet the fast-moving, high-demand expectations of the industry and its expected growth through 2024 and beyond.

More from Modular Advantage

A Huge Win for the Modular Construction Industry in Massachusetts

In early February, 2024, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) released its proposed 10th Edition building codes. This draft included several amendments targeting modular construction that would have created an extremely difficult environment for the entire modular industry and could have eliminated the industry entirely in the state.

FEMA Announces Hawaii Housing Plan Using Modular Construction

Utah becomes the second state in the country, following Virginia, to fully adopt ICC/MBI standards 1200 and 1205. MBI will continue to work with leadership in Utah to implement the new program.

Supply and Demand: Solving Canada’s Housing Crisis One Relocatable Housing Unit at a Time

Not only do Moda Modular’s repurposed employee housing solutions cut the emissions related to construction down to nearly zero, but they also keep building materials that are often not biodegradable from slowly decaying in storage facilities.
It’s the classic environmental mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle, scaled up and applied to building after building.

ICC/MBI Standards 1200 & 1205 Provide Foundation for Utah’s First-Ever State Modular Program

Utah becomes the second state in the country, following Virginia, to fully adopt ICC/MBI standards 1200 and 1205. MBI will continue to work with leadership in Utah to implement the new program.

Repetition, Communication, and Coordination: A QSR Case Study

This modular QSR project seemed like any another modular building on the surface. Inside, it was anything but. The rhythm, the desire to iterate and repeat, and the constant communication between all parties made it stand out.

Modular Architecture: Thinking Outside of the Box with Sara.Ann Logan

At a time when modular buildings were still seen as less than by many in the architecture and construction world, Sara.Ann Logan took the plunge and partnered to launch a design-build firm that designed, built, and constructed modular high-end single-family homes. But even though she could see the value of this kind of construction, it wasn’t universally accepted.

Colorado Developer ‘Attacks’ Attainable Housing Crisis

City, county, and state government bodies are reaching out to Fading West Development, a modular manufacturer and developer in Buena Vista, CO, to learn more about how they are using modular construction to solve the affordable housing crisis in Colorado. Governments are eager to learn how they’ve made modular development successful and profitable while meeting the growing need for affordable housing.

CES Group’s Stuart Cameron Will Convince You the Moon Is Achievable with Modularized MEP

While most people think of construction as a gradually layered process, MEP assemblies—such as the modular ones—tend to provide all-in-one installs, like a car factory. A modular MEP product helps developers, architects, and fellow modular manufacturers reach their goals through early integration and planning. MEP assemblies address all the unseen things like electrical, heating, and plumbing when looking at a finalized building. The very nature of MEP assemblies are crucial to any initial prospectus.

Automation: The Future for Offsite Modular Construction

Offsite modular construction lags far behind other industries in embracing and adopting automation. Some people believe it will decrease jobs. Others feel they’ve done okay without it, so why change? In reality, conventional construction methods simply cannot keep up. Cooper Lane of Brave Control Solutions points to the labor shortage and the housing crisis that’s rampant in Canada, the U.S., and globally.

Seizing the Modular Construction Opportunity

The CSA Public Policy Centre’s new report, Seizing the Modular Construction Opportunity, highlights how innovative modular methods can help to bring various building forms—from single unit housing to complex high-rises—online more quickly. Owing to efficient manufacturing practices and controlled factory environments, modular can achieve completion rates that are 25% to 50% faster than conventional construction approaches.