At a Glance
Spanish Fork, UT
Custom modular homebuilding
When a modular-home business is owned by someone such as Irontown Homes’ Richard Valgardson, who has been in the trade for more than 50 years, that someone tends to learn a couple of things he or she feels potential homeowners should learn as well. One is this: structurally sound, factory-built homes, including Irontown’s, are increasingly coming into favor in earthquake-prone regions such as California’s Bay area because of their stability and energy efficiency.
“What my father has found is that a lot of buildings have inherent weaknesses if they are built on-site,” says Richard’s son Kam Valgardson, who is also an Irontown vice president. “They’re built to be on the foundation, and that’s it. But he’s worked very hard to build sections of homes that are stand-alone structures; they don’t disintegrate [in an earthquake].”
In an industry that often brings to mind terms such as “low-end” and “high-volume,” Irontown is careful to emphasize a different term that happens to be its specialty: “customization.” And with the help of its newest 66,000-square-foot facility, opened just a few years ago, Irontown is more capable than ever of serving what the Valgardsons consider to be a long-neglected niche. “The new facility allows customers to have just about anything they want,” executive vice president Jason Valgardson says. “Limitations are greatly reduced, so customers can have that dream.”
Those customer dreams are fostered largely by Irontown’s turnkey approach, which involves a veritable network of businesses within the business within the firm itself, including an in-house design team, an in-house production team, a project manager, a production manager, a steel company, an excavation company, a concrete company, and a transport company. The “transport” part refers, of course, to the drivers, trucks, and trailers that carry each customized creation from Irontown’s Utah facility to a long-distance client. “We’re very comfortable moving these houses down the road and getting them where they need to go for a very good price,” Richard says.
California has proven to be a frequent destination for Irontown. One recently completed project, for a 3,000-square-foot home near the shores of Half Moon Bay (approximately 25 miles south of San Francisco), came with a client eager to embrace the firm’s concept of total customization head-on. “He wanted to have the flexibility, as a homeowner, to pick out every single item in his home,” marketing director Amanda Poulson says. “We even sent him samples of the textured finish on the walls so he could pick the perfect one. The level of customization that we do is a lot more flexible than what other factories are willing to do.”
And this ability is exemplified even further in a six-module, two-story home completed for a client in Santa Barbara who came upon Irontown when searching for alternatives to the expensive on-site builders in the region. Working with the client’s preexisting Spanish Revival style took a bit of extra work as Irontown adapted the home to something executable in its facility. “But it was already pretty modular-friendly,” Kam says. “We only had to make a few adjustments. It worked out great.”
So long as the art of collaboration remains a priority for the people behind Irontown Homes, Jason believes the firm will remain the gold standard for custom modular housing. “It just creates a solution for the customer that’s beyond imaginable,” he says. ABQ