Sunbelt Modular

Quality Modular Building Manufacturer for over 30 years!

The History of Modular Building

The modular building industry is generally thought to have begun in 1895 when Sears Roebuck and Company started selling building materials kits(in addition to all the other items in their catalog).

By 1908 Sears’ customers were invited to write in and request a copy of their “Book of Modern Homes” which featured various house plans and building materials.

From 1910 to the 1940’s it is estimated that Sears sold more than 500,000 prefabricated homes. Their initial catalog was 68 pages long and offered the selection of more than 44 “modular home” designs which ranged in price from under $700 to over $4,000. Once customers had selected their home design they were asked to send in $1 which would subsequently be credited against their purchase.

Next the customers received an itemized invoice for their materials accompanied by complete blueprints. As soon as the order was placed and paid for, two box cars would arrive by train containing:

  • Approximately 30,000 pieces for their home
  • A 75 page instruction manual on how to assemble the 30,000 pieces

The 30,000 piece kit did not include masonry and plaster but did include a recommendation to purchase 1,100 cement blocks for the basement and foundation.

By 1932, during The Great Depression, Sears Roebuck and Company’s Modern Homes Department operated at a loss, with sales declining 40% in one year. This marked the beginning of the end for the modular homes catalog and in 1939 Sears closed the doors on this segment of their business.

After World War II, the soldiers returning to the States were looking to start a family and purchase a home. The demand for new housing far exceeded what the traditional on site home building market could supply which led people to look for opportunities to increase efficiency and lower the cost of new construction.

The modular building process answered both of these needs and resulted in an increase in modular homes. Many of the modular homes built after WW II are still occupied today. In 1958, the first two section modular home was produced which conformed to building codes….and the Modular Homes Industry, as we know it today, was “officially” born. During the next decades modular housing manufacturers improved their technologies by building homes to meet ALL building codes and to be erected on permanent foundations.

The commercial modular manufacturing business began in the 1930’s in New England to supply small office trailers to commercial and residential jobsites. The business accelerated in the 1970’s and 1980’s as production homebuilders and large general contractors became the norm. Leveraged finance and an influx of leasing companies further propelled this expansion.

By the early 1990’s there were commercial and residential modular building manufacturers in every region of The United States.

In the last twenty years, the sophistication of modular buildings greatly increased due to computer assisted designs and the ability of overhead cranes to make modular buildings as wide and as high as desired. The fact that modular buildings can be moved and relocated has added to their appeal, particularly among companies that move from one site to another or have multiple location needs.

Today, the manufacturing of modular buildings offers several advantages compared with on site construction:

  • Greater Quality Control during construction.
  • Faster and more efficient construction which isn’t adversely affected by inclement weather.
  • More cost effective
  • Portability

To demonstrate how well accepted modular units have become is the fact that they were utilized in the construction of the cruise liner Queen Mary 2 (modular passenger cabins and VIP Suites). Modular buildings have also been used to construct McDonald’s fast food restaurants.