Skender Launches Modular Building Production

Skender, a vertically integrated design, construction and manufacturing firm, today launched production at its advanced manufacturing facility on Chicago’s Southwest Side at 3348 S. Pulaski. The facility will use Skender’s unique, fully-integrated process that takes modular building projects from concept to technical design to advanced fabrication to onsite completion – all with Skender, a 64-year-old legacy builder, skillfully engineering and managing the turnkey sequence. The highly efficient modular building process, completed almost entirely in a climate-controlled environment, increases quality and safety, reduces price, eliminates weather risk and significantly reduces delivery schedule.

“Our production launch is an important milestone in our radical new approach to building. By bringing design, manufacturing and construction under one brand and one integrated team, we can dramatically improve productivity and build more efficiently while increasing the quality of materials and finishes, as well as the energy performance,” said Mark Skender, CEO, Skender. “We are proud to open our facility with a premier workforce and a project that demonstrates a new housing delivery model capable of changing how we fight the affordable housing crisis. This is a true gamechanger.”

Also today, Skender held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot; Mark Skender; Gary Perinar, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters’ executive secretary-treasurer; and multiple City of Chicagoofficials.

“The new Skender advanced manufacturing facility is a win-win for Chicago: generating job growth on the Southwest side while advancing a creative solution to address the affordable housing shortage,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “We will work with residents, community leaders and developers across the city to ensure every Chicagoan has a safe and affordable place to live. The addition of new modular units will improve access to sustainable housing, prevent homelessness, and ensure that as Chicago grows all of our neighbors can afford to grow too.”

The first modular building project will be an order of 10 affordable-rate, three-flat apartment buildings from Chicago developer Sterling Bay that will help address the city’s critical affordable housing shortage.

The steel-frame three-flats for Sterling Bay will be completed and ready for occupancy in a nine-week production schedule – 80% faster than conventional construction methods – and at a 5% to 20% lower project cost, depending on the comparable delivery method.

“We believe all Chicagoans should have the opportunity to live in well-designed homes that are affordable and enhance the surrounding neighborhood,” said Andy Gloor, CEO of Sterling Bay. “Skender has thoughtfully addressed how to deliver affordable housing in a way that is effective and scalable and can make a real difference across the city of Chicago.”

Other projects in the design stages include modular building for affordable and market-rate multifamily, healthcare and hospitality.

In conjunction with the new factory, Skender has reached a new, unique union agreement with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters that allows Skender’s manufacturing employees to organize and become bargaining members.

“The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters was integral in the development of this revolutionary partnership with Skender,” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer Gary Perinar. “This puts the City of Chicago at the forefront of a new, innovative and efficient method of constructing multifamily, healthcare and hospitality projects through modular manufacturing. Our highly trained and skilled carpenters will ensure high-quality products and projects that will improve and enhance communities across the city.”

At full capacity in about 18 months, Skender’s facility will employ 150 people. To help source, train and prepare the workforce for specialized careers in manufacturing, Skender has partnered with Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Cara Chicago, Heartland Alliance, Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT), Central States SER and the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC).

The First Project: Chicago’s Iconic Three-Flats, Reimagined 
Sterling Bay’s first order of 10 three-flat multifamily buildings will be assembled on lots that are currently vacant in the city’s 27th Ward. Each three-flat consists of 12 modules, totaling approximately 3,750 square feet per building, featuring three two-bedroom, one-bathroom units with modern finishes.

“The city needs more affordable housing and I am thrilled to have these initial units from Sterling Bay and Skender in the 27th Ward,” said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett. “The units produced at this factory will not only create jobs for Chicagoans, but also help address our affordable housing shortage by bringing more housing stock into the market. This is a win for all Chicagoans.”

Sterling Bay’s commitment to build affordable housing extends well beyond the first order of three-flats; the firm is fully committed to Skender’s advanced manufacturing facility as a minority equity investor. As the facility grows to full capacity, Sterling Bay is planning to build affordable housing on more than 100 lots throughout the city, partnering with affordable housing nonprofit organizations to lease and manage the units. In addition, the firm is planning a 7-story, 83-unit, 92,000-SF modular apartment building at 1100 W. Grand Ave. to start during the first quarter of 2020. 

Skender’s One-of-A-Kind Approach to Modular
Skender’s modular construction approach combines Lean manufacturing practices with the latest integrated building information modeling and manufacturing technology to reduce cost and time to market – two of the biggest challenges in conventional construction. At its factory, skilled union employees will assemble 95% of the modular components, including fixtures, finishes and most appliances.

“By having our architecture, manufacturing and construction leaders all working together from a single source of truth, we’ve developed a hyper-efficient process that eliminates waste and dramatically cuts the time it takes to bring a building to market,” said Pete Murray, president, Skender Manufacturing. “The learnings from each project inform the next to create even greater time and cost savings.”

After building modules are completed at the factory, they are shipped to destination sites and assembled and finished by Skender construction teams. Skender’s end products are steel modular buildings that are more attractive, more durable and of higher quality and higher energy performance than previous iterations of modular construction.