Pandering, Pimping, Performance and Certification

Modular Home Construction & Government Certifications

What should a customer pay for?  What should a consumer actually buy?  How much money, how much actual value do any of these bewildering number of ordained anachronisms have (if any at all)?  How much is charged for it.  NEBS, LEEDS, HIS, HERS, Energy Star, 14 seer,  ad nauseam … All of it given Holy Sanction by our Central Government or its minions or, well shit, any little officious, authoritarian scoundrel that wants to sell a Certification.  For the most part, the government’s part in improving modular home construction and home energy consumption by tampering with the residential building codes of this country has added far more cost than value.  Codes administrators and Building Officials as well as Building officials and Codes Administrators (remember them) have found a very thick, rich, creamy, rice bowl since the beginning of the Obama reign of venality.  With no true ability to constrain the nannies, fanatics and Bolsheviks that this administration has invested in, entities like the EPA, those who create laws for THEIR OWN SAKE in THEIR OWN IMAGE are elevated.  That, during the Obama administration, the residential building code has become the International Residential Code should highlight the utter arrogance of its authors.  Why should there not be ONLY ONE way to build a house in the United States, yea in all of North America, in fact why do we not try to export our way of building all over the world – PAX AMERICANA and 2×6 wood framing!

The Cost

It is shameful and it is damage that will be hard to repair.  With costs layered on to stick built homes and modular home construction that have no value – the set of buyers’ declines. The aggregate costs of the energy codes (especially as they are computed by liberals in places like California and Maryland) are not improving the environment and life safety features of these houses to any extent that would justify the costs.  I would include in this the abominable fire suppression and septic requirements as we see applied to the rural areas in Maryland.  It is not about environmental or life safety.  It is a pandering jobs creation strategy and income redistribution scheme authored by a collection of incompetent fools who own nothing but their grossly overvalued sense of contribution to the marketplace. If you want to be a blower door guy, make sediment control devises, hustle solar panel or big ass septic tanks, codes like this help you out big time.

I would like to be the one who adds value to my modular homes.  I would like to be the one who prescribes r-30 vs. r-20 and where goes foam batt and where goes house wrap and  where goes spray foam (of ANY density!)  Why can’t I do that?  I would like to be the one who drives to the factory and has a look to see what they are foaming (shit why not!?). Why can’t I get the infra-red photo and I get the blow door test?  And I do this at my option for my customers.  I will tell you why.  Far too many people may start thinking for themselves and listening to their builders and do what performs not what certifies or officiates or generates some $3,687.00 piece of paper assuring extra inspections made by more inspectors.  Only in America do inspectors outnumber assemblers.  Don’t you get it?  Too many people are in the ‘telling other people what to do for their own good’ business!  It has become a hopelessly large corporation.  Cost!  Cost out of all proportion with value.  It is the pimping of Home Building and I will hate it till my subs take me on my last ride.

Next week I will go over what I did on a modular home that is coming out of design WITHOUT the burden of a central government’s certification.


The Historic Builders Meeting at Lewisburg PA.

Mod Coach and the Modular Home Builders Association hosted this event and 24 guys show up.  These were builders from Maryland to Maine.  Considering this event happened in the wake of the blizzard of ’16, that ain’t bad.

I was in some very good company.  I should not feel otherwise.  Trades associations are an old thing.  They grew out of a thing called guilds.  Guilds are old and have in the past been quite powerful over those within the trade they controlled.  I guess that is where the guild differs from the modern day trades association, the compulsion versus the decision to become a part of something that is at once part of you but separate from your immediate business.  Governments have replaced codes and standards set by Guilds and associations today are voluntary.  So is conformance with a code of ethics.  So is honor and honesty.  So also is partnership, tolerance, communication, analysis, diligence etc. etc.  You can run a business without these qualities: just neither very long nor very well.

The custom (or not custom) home builder who employs modular technology to build houses for his customers must acknowledge one thing every time he sets a house or big (> 750 sq. feet) modular addition: 85% of that work happened somewhere else.  He did not frame check it nor follow up the insulators work, nor check on the trim carpenters nor electricians, nor plumbers,  nor roofers, painters,  point up men, shit, he didn’t even watch the damn boxes get wrapped in visqueen.  And the modular home builder is a home builder?  Really?

14 years a construction superintendent with “those people” –  Ryan Homes, Winchester Homes, Pulte Homes, Centex Homes.  How many sticks?  How many dumpsters?  How many framing carpenters!?  How many sub divisions – because that is how you built them you see not one at a time, but by the subdivision.  I tell you, it ain’t a job for a dog or an old man.  How many booms?  How many busts?  I’ve got little bits and pieces of me all over the state of Maryland my Maryland!  Who has not driven by those jobs?  I am certain many custom home builders employing modular technology started a similar way.  Volume, site built production construction accounts for well over 50% off all single family detached homes built in the United States today.  The change in the concentration numbers for the industry over the past thirty years to from scattered lot to volume, PUD type work is staggering.  It is an economic reality that cannot tolerate argument in places like Texas or Nevada where skilled labor can be found cost effectively.  Modular housing, SFDs anyway, cannot cost effectively compete with on-site stick building in a volume environment.

When we wrap our heads around that as modular builders, the silly lamentation about market share should start to go away.  Modular, in the North East and Mid Atlantic is doing well in specific market circumstances.  New Jersey and hurricane Sandy is a specific market circumstance.  That a Yankee carpenter cannot be bought or found in all of Massachusetts and Connecticut is a specific market circumstance. That labor is outrageous in Long Island is a specific market circumstance.  These circumstances make modular home building technology viable.  Knocking down the old house in the good but old neighborhood for a quick new one or the house in the middle of Hicksville when all subs have been sucked up off the face of the earth by ABC HOMES to build places called “Puffingtonne by the Water” or “Lilly Pond Creek Station”

 We currently have a predicted annualized rate of SFD growth in the mid 600 thousands.  This, if anyone can remember, is abysmal.  Reports I’ve read in the past from the dept. of Commerce maintain 1.2 million units (house) as a good healthy ‘normal’ rate.   But I have absolutely no idea what normal means any more  – or if I do – I don’t get it as quickly.  I would suggest that the slightest serious sustainable uptick in SFD construction in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast will quickly backlog stick builders.  There is nothing wrong with modular.  There is something wrong with people choosing stick first.  Figure that one out marketing people!!

But as to this historic and epic gathering of Generals:  not much really – what was good, the best thing more than anything, was getting everyone in one room.  Would have been more were it not for the damn blizz ’16.  I don’t like naming storms any more, I don’t know why.  Piss on them!  Why do they get names?  We basically wanted a wave of a magic wand to


  • Improve image of modular home building to the consuming public.
  • Improve and, continue to define the relationship between the manufacturer and the actual home builder responsible for turning the components into a home.

There ain’t much else that cannot go in either magic wish.  When I think about it, I would not use magic, I would use prayer but I am being Judaic –Christian and that is not currently fashionable.  I would use magic for punch out or trim carpentry or maybe drywall repairs.  I would use my special ‘builder’s wand’.  We all have one.

Actual stuff to promote those two lofty ideals

Advertising kitty

I like it – it is not administered by anyone but the association.  Only the association can work for all members.  Member – factory and builder kick in per box – cool.  How do you tap free loaders?  Maybe How do you minimize the cost of free loaders?  Advertising = Promoting Image to me by the way.  Does a dot org advertise for a bunch of dot coms?  That is why we have lawyers.  I was glad to meet Steve Snyder at that historic meeting.  I am glad that an attorney is a member of this association.  However, like pests, automatic weapons, and birth, I believe in lawyer control as well.  Hell, I bet Steve feels the same way!

Increase membership

This is very important of course and I have no idea how a consistent, diligent, responsible, ongoing don’t you ever let up recruitment plan is being implemented by the association but Tom and his people are on it.  I will send a list of my recommendations of modular friendly subs – that, I would think is a responsibility of all members.  Yes that is right as well, recruitment is a member responsibility.

 Partner with local HBAs – I was real impressed by the way one of the boys from the Maryland HBA was impressed.  We did not have time to talk.  I suppose I must be better about that sort of thing.  It was really swell to finally meet Andy Gianino of the Home Store.


Random Thoughts


  • I think member manufacturers should encourage membership of non-member customers.
  • I think builders should encourage membership of other builders.
  • Having said those things – be careful – quality of membership is important.
  • I think an association also can – and should – create some exclusivity – some restriction to membership – this sounds very un-American but this is an association representing some of the finest homebuilders in the United States.
  • You get RSMs in one room. Do that Gary!  That will be substantial intel.

Sub committees no doubt are being formed to address salient issues?

At the annual conference in Philly late last year one of the speakers – the marketing guys – I forget the name – Gary, Tom?!  It should be in there and the linked thing – how do you do that?  I liked this marketing guys whose name I am forgetting and he quoted P.F. Drucker – “It cannot be assessed if it is not measured” For the record that fucked with me for 3 months – I think that was a guy named Peter Deming? Who did work with the Japanese auto industry.  Hell, I can’t remember!  But Drucker did say one thing I remember reading:  “Everything degenerates into work.”  If that does not happen … nothing does.

Shameless Self Promotion

Mariner Homes has some things cooking.  It’s nice to be cooking after so long an empty kitchen.  We’ve an addition of some size – we are increasing the size of the existing home by 150%, so it is a big addition.  I must do the link thing and pictures thing and a video thing and a YouTube thing and ongoing story thing for Gary and his blog.  I am establishing relationships with several manufacturers.  Where before I stayed with one now I am fair convinced why make one factory look good when I can make so many happy.  That is the change!  When you show open willingness and desire to work with several factories, you say something very specific to those factories about your skill as a modular home builder.  You cannot fuck up – Your reputation becomes too well known across the club.

The Blog of Mariner Homes

I have been told and re told then told again until I have been made a believer: if you run a business, if you make your living dependent wholly on your own skill, then you maintain a current log of business activity and other information relevant to the goods and services your provide. Like your web site, it is a way of keeping your presence current on the web. And when you blog – you change your own unique business billboard just a little bit. When you do this, the chances of people finding out about what you do becomes so much better because YOUR name pops up first on something called a Google Search. It is an extension of web based advertising.

I hope this does not become a tiresome pain in the ass.


I am a home builder. I am a custom home builder that employs modular construction technology to build my custom homes. I have been a custom modular home builder now these past 20 years as president of Mariner Homes LLC (this Feb ’16). I am, as of this writing, 34 years and some months in the business of residential construction. Sometimes it seems like a long time I am in this business. Sometimes I am in this business only since yesterday and I don’t know when I turned 60. Well, not really, I do not know HOW I turned 60. But I did turn 60, and, despite all sorts of silly talk someone 60 years old can talk, I am finding it an agreeable age once internalized. Experience is important in my business. It can engender a level of technical competence that newer competitors cannot rival. But, admittedly, I simply was not keeping track of the accumulated time.


Custom Home – If you find a builder to build a home on a piece of ground that you own, this is, by legal definition, a custom home. If you buy a home built on a piece of ground that your builder owns, by legal definition, this is not a custom home. No special design of the home either way changes these definitions.


My marketing people are some of the best in the history of Western Civilization. They never exaggerate and they told me this themselves. They do not like the pictures you are about to see. I must caution you that these pictures contain images of dirt, concrete, and the process of construction. They are not for the faint of heart. These are pictures of what we call in the industry of home building, poured concrete foundations. Again, Gentle Reader, caution is advised;

modular home builder arlington
that little ‘v’ cut into the footings is called a “Keyway”
custom home builders washington
Forms for the mold. They are 4’ wide and 8’ tall. They weigh 80 pounds each approximately. They are all placed and locked in place by hand.
modular construction maryland
just like jello or a bunt cake!

modular home construction frederick

custom home builder fairfax
Tag! This square hole in the ground is where you pour concrete to support a column that will support a beam that will support the house. It really does start in the dirt you see?!

custom home builder howard

custom home builder montgomery
Tag! These are called footers or footings!

Now I didn’t put these pictures of poured concrete walls being built to be deliberately troublesome to my Marketing People, the finest Marketing People in all of Western Civilization, I put these pictures up on this, the blog of Mariner Homes, to show what I do. I build houses. And my houses, like many houses built around the mid-Atlantic coast, start out this way. It would not do for you, Gentle Reader, not to know this important thing.

Now a blog is at once a private thing and a public thing. It is a business thing and a personal thing. I realize this can be tedious work – all this blogging. The intention here is to provide an ongoing perspective on how the home building (or major addition) process works. I want to encourage your interaction – especially if you know very little about the process or are somewhat intimidated by the process, because you know that knowing will help you feel better when you go to find a builder to build your own custom modular home.

5 Benefits of Choosing a Modular Home over a Traditional Home

Modular homes are defined as those homes built with prefabricated components or major, pre-built, semi complete sections of a house. These sections or components, sometimes called “boxes,” are built in a specialized manufacturing facility.  The boxes are transported by truck to the home-site where they are affixed to a permanent, field installed foundation. The home is completed on site by professional building trades under the direction of a licensed, professional modular home contractor.

A Modular Home is a Better Choice

1. Modular Homes are Stronger

Built to withstand the stresses of transportation, each individual component can stand alone structurally independent of the other. When affixed to the foundation you have a structural integrity substantially more robust than virtually any field built residential construction technology.

2. Modular Construction is cut by Half

A 4 component, two-story, colonial home of 2000 ft.² or more can be fabricated in 5 to 7 working days.  From the time the components are delivered to the site and installed on the foundation (the house set) to completion can range from 1 to 3 months. Compared to a full field built construction cycle the modular construction cycle is cut by less than half.

3. Modular Homes are Tighter and more Energy Efficient

Just as tighter factory tolerances make for a stronger house, a modular factory’s ability to build the home from the inside out versus the outside in produces one of the most energy efficient residential technologies in North America.

4. Modular Homes are Greener

Waste is reduced by half with modular construction.
If sustainability and energy efficiency are important to you, I would strongly recommend you tour a modular manufacturing facility or take a quick peep at how we build modular homes.

5. Modular Homes are Cheaper

This can often go to the size and type of home you want to build. Bigger is definitely more cost-effective in the modular world. One or two story homes in excess of 2000 ft.² can generally be built more cost-effectively than their field built counterparts.

Take a Leap into Buying Your Own Modular Home

If you need Modular Home Contractors we are your premier modular construction contractors. We build modular homes in Maryland, but also service homeowners and businesses in Washington D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania. For more information or if you would like to take advantage of our services feel free to give us a call at 240-674-1709 or submit a request over here.


If you would like to learn about our president and what we stand for then click the following link to Meet Josh Margulies.