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Panelization: A quick, money-saving home building method

Friday, March 30, 2012

Believe it or not, a two-story, 2,000 square-foot home in Costa Mesa is nearing completion in just one week. In another five to six weeks, it will be completely finished.

Typically building a home takes six to nine months, if not longer. RSI Development, the builder of the Costa Mesa home, says they're using a relatively new way to put up a house called panelization.

"That allows us to make things go together much quicker on the job site, which takes labor out, and taking labor out means the homebuyer can save money," said Eric Vanderheyden, the executive vice president of RSI Development.

And Vanderheyden isn't exaggerating. RSI's cost to build is about 1/3 of a custom home while still using traditional lumber and the amenities most homeowners want, all without sacrificing quality.

"The real magic for this home really happens on the engineering side," Vanderheyden said. "We have a very advanced three dimensional engineering system that makes sure everything fits in the factory, and machines that read those drawings and put the holes at exactly the right spots and chop the lumber to exactly the right length."

A lot of the walls come pre-assembled and pre-wired. Everything has got to come together like a puzzle, almost precisely. They can't be off more than 1/4 of an inch.

"Everything that's put into these houses is very efficiently engineered and calculated so that we have little waste, if at all," said RSI's vice president of construction Bob Colgan.

Colgan says it all happens at RSI's 250,000 square foot factory in Mira Loma well before going to the home site. At the factory, some of the walls and roof sections are computer built on an assembly line using specialized equipment.

"We're able to build a better house, a more energy-efficient house and better built structure, and actually save money by doing it," Colgan said.

RSI is scheduled to build 29 panelized homes in Orange County over the coming year or so.

"Is this the future? It is the future," said Vanderheyden. "It cuts the cost of building tremendously, and it makes a better home for the consumer."

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