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Imported Woods Manufacture Dream
(photo courtesy of the Manufactured Housing Institute) IMPORTED WOODS
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My, How Things Change…

The manufactured housing industry is welcoming new life in a modern era. As design trends, building demands, and market influences converge, this industry is on the upswing as it evolves to meet today’s housing climate with transformed styles, options, and efficiencies. Today’s manufactured homes don’t carry the ‘assembly line’ style of eras gone by. Now these factory-built homes are being created to replicate the styles, architecture, and details found in traditional site-built homes.

“The manufactured and modular housing industry is going through major evolutions, including the addition of more high-end homes to serve growing market demand. The industry has now started branching off into multi-family housing, such as townhouses constructed in factories and assembled onsite,” reports Chris Stinebert, President of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), in Arlington, Virginia.

Imported plywood is often an unseen material in manufactured housing, selected for its high strength, light weight and smoothness which allows the manufacturer to easily laminate paper or vinyl to meet any customer's design need.

Not surprisingly, imported hardwood plywood is increasingly used in the construction of manufactured homes. Imported plywood is often an unseen material in manufactured housing, selected for its high strength, light weight, and smoothness which allow the manufacturer to easily laminate paper or vinyl to meet any customer’s design need.

Imports complement the work at hand for U.S. manufacturers of factory-built homes. The cost savings and versatility of these products are gateways to bringing in more diverse design elements and materials.

“There is a huge movement within the industry to build homes that look like traditional residential homes, with features such as pitched roofs, gabled entries, dormers, large banks of windows, etc., that make the manufactured home compatible with almost any neighborhood style,” Stinebert explains. “Interiors feature open floor plans that adapt more readily to a family’s active lifestyle. There’s a greater concentration on providing all amenities you would find in a traditional site-built home, such as state-of-the-art kitchens, home entertainment centers, and luxurious baths in master suites. Pretty much what’s happening in housing is also happening in manufactured and modular homes.”

This trend towards merging design styles of modular and traditional residential construction is expanding the use of imported woods throughout these manufactured homes. From underlayment in flooring or in solid components such as mouldings, imports are cost effective yet compromise no standards in terms of specifications. Lauan and meranti hardwood plywood are common elements of factory-built homes, as are softwood lumber and softwood panels, which are showing up more and more as designs advance.

Today, more of these homes are also using wood in the exterior. In the past, vinyl siding or other types of siding typically viewed as less aesthetically appealing were commonly used. Approximately two of every ten new home starts in the U.S. are manufactured homes, and nearly 75 percent of those factory-built homes are multi-sectioned. These designs are providing more square footage, porches, vaulted ceilings, and other details once reserved for traditional site-built homes.

Quality and design are continuously improving, making manufactured homes more structurally comparable to site-built construction. However, the affordability of manufactured homes is still superior because of the ability of U.S. manufacturers to use imported hardwood plywood and other imported wood products. These homes are many times first-homes to a demographic segment that would otherwise continue renting. In many areas of the country, exorbitant home prices and rising interest rates are beckoning even broader segments of the population to seek more affordable housing alternatives. Stinebert summarizes the connection between the imported wood industry and manufactured housing, “With more and more focus within the manufactured housing industry on providing amenities in our homes, there’s the natural synergy you would find with other forms of housing, such as counters, cabinets, entertainment centers, and so on. The industry has gone through the paradigm shift, and this opens the door to a lot more upscale amenities where this synergy comes to bear.”

Copyright© 2006 by the International Wood Products Association. Published by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. and circulated to an audience of 20,000 architects, designers, distributors, manufacturers, and users of imported wood products in North America.

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