Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Developer Aims to Have 35 Modular Housing Factories Across the Country Building Net Positive Homes

Building fast is a huge benefit in today’s housing environment. All builders are looking for that competitive edge; and this builder is not only building fast, but also is delivering net positive homes.

After more than thirty years as a general contractor in the construction industry, John Rowland decided it was time for positive change. He became president and co-founder of S2A Modular, a California-based modular building company, with the goal of making a big impact on the archaic world of construction by making it faster, less expensive and more environmentally friendly.

In 2015 and 2016, he built two prototype homes, which was exactly what he needed to understand he wasn’t going to accomplish what he needed to without doing it in a factory.

After committing to factory construction, Rowland has spent just three years creating very ambitious expansion plans.

render of modular factory

Rowland is building 35 net positive, green, carbon-neutral manufacturing facilities across the country, including facilities in Wisconsin, Texas, California and Florida, and stretching outside the US into Canada, Haiti and Puerto Rico, with the first factory going live outside San Jose, CA, late this summer. He isn’t just building any manufacturing facilities either, the plants are net zero energy, just like the homes that will come out of them. Every factory will have the same footprint and sustainability goals.

Rowland believes that in year one, each factory will be able to build 500 homes, and after that the investment in the construction of the factory is already paid off. Each factory takes six months to build with prefabricated, carbon-neutral parts from a facility in Florida. The parts are shipped to the destination and assembled in 50 days.

There are multiple lines in a factory and each line takes about 100 skilled employees to run, resulting in a finished unit coming off the line every two hours. Realistically, Rowland anticipates that in the first year, a factory running only one shift could produce 500 homes, growing to 750 homes in the second year; and to 1,000 homes in the third year.

If the factories run more than one shift, the capacity would be about 2,000 units per year from each factory. So, with 35 facilities, Rowland is ramping up to between 35,000 and 70,000 homes per year around 2025.

On top of all that, his first carbon-neutral factory is net positive and produces $178,000 in revenue from extra power. Rowland is applying that same innovative process management and engineering prowess for the homes constructed inside the factory.

headshot of John Rowland

John Rowland worked as a general contractor for three decades before founding S2A Modular to build net positive homes.

“Very little happens at the job site,” he said. “Ninety percent of the home is completed in the factory – MEP, cabinets, showers, toilets, lights are all installed. On site is the buttoning up of sections and finish work on the marriage lines. Usually, all site work is completed within four weeks. Sometimes we do flooring on site.”

The indoor construction environment protects the work from unpredictable weather elements, plus there are other efficiencies that Rowland has built into the process. For instance, in a conventional build, contractors and trades wait for inspectors to come and sign off various times in the process, creating bottlenecks. The S2A facilities have inspectors on location three days per week, keeping the line moving at the two-hour pace.

“The biggest thing that you see from a factory is time,” Rowland said. “It could take nine months to a year on site and you have to start and stop in between trades and inspections, theft, vandalism. If you take all of those indoors, you can avoid all of it, and you can build 365 days per year. We plan to keep a six-week backlog, but once a home goes into production, it’s on a truck to the job site within two weeks.”

All these efficiencies add up.

“On vertical construction, it is about 10% less than what it cost to build conventionally on the retail side,” Rowland said. “For a developer building hundreds of homes, the savings on the carrying costs also would be huge.”

The Finished Product

S2A is involved in a number of projects at the moment, from accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to tiny homes, and to 55-plus to custom luxury. Across the board, the aim is to provide homes that contribute to the grid and that use organic materials.

render of 55-plus home manufactured by S2A Modular

S2A Modular is manufacturing homes for 55-plus buyers on a more affordable scale that are net positive and carbon neutral, like this home in the Bahia Village community in California.

The company is building a community of 55-plus homes now, called Bahia Village, so focused on making the homes affordable for these buyers on a fixed income. These 1,000-square-foot homes have two bedrooms, two baths and are completely free of energy and gas bills.

On the tiny home side, S2A is building 150 homes in Patterson, CA, just outside of San Jose. The homes are about 450 square feet, have rooftop decks and outdoor space and start at $199,000 in an area where the average home list price is above $440,000 according to Stephen Smiley, senior vice president of advisory at housing research and analytics group Zonda.

S2A is decking out its custom luxury home line, GreenLuxHomes, with a single, proprietary app that will allow residents to control systems like HVAC, lighting, appliances, entertainment and more.

Finally, the company is rolling out a full line of ADUs called LuxMods, designed as small, stand-alone buildings that can be used as home offices, yoga studios, man caves, she sheds, and other types of ADUs. The ADUs will be built to the same standard as all S2A homes, but are designed to be placed on existing properties in back yards or land adjacent to an existing structure.


This article was written by Jennifer Castenson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to