Manufactured Homes: Most Regulated and Inspected Housing in the United States
Manufactured homes are the only form of single family housing in the country subject to a federal construction code. Every aspect of the manufacturing process is controlled and inspected to be in compliance with this U.S. Congressional mandate. You might ask, why are manufactured homes singled out from other types of housing?
In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the mobile home burst upon the housing scene as a form of housing that most anyone could afford. The incredible demand resulted in dozens of manufacturing plants building low priced mobile homes throughout the country, in states where regulations governing construction and health and safety were virtually non-existent.
Mobile home builders produced homes as quickly and as cheaply as possible to sell these homes at a price to be competitive with other builders with little regard to the integrity of the product or the welfare of the purchaser. Most buyers of mobile homes were placed in rural areas where land was inexpensive and not subject to zoning jurisdictions.
In the meantime, there were manufacturers on the west coast that were producing quality mobile homes for homebuyers to be placed on expensive land or in modern mobile home communities. For example, the state of California regulated factory built homes to a standard that would eventually be a template for the federal regulations that were to follow.
With the support of the responsible members of the mobile home industry, the U.S. Congress passed legislation in 1976 to establish a federal building code for mobile homes. This legislation is the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act, which went into effect June 15, 1976. The federal code is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development (commonly known as the HUD CODE). The federal standards regulate manufactured housing design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency and quality. The HUD CODE also sets standards for the heating, plumbing, air conditioning, thermal, and electrical systems.
It can be generally acknowledged that a building code is only as good as the enforcement system that accompanies it. The manufactured home enforcement program required by the U.S. HUD CODE is a thorough and efficient system designed specifically for the factory production environment. Because the factory pace differs from that of the construction site, the manufactured home enforcement system is different too.
The goal in both cases are the same: to ensure the highest degree of safety in the design and construction of the home. Ideally, a building code should be backed up by uniform and consistent enforcement. The HUD enforcement system relies on a cooperative federal/state program to ensure compliance with the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards(the HUD CODE). HUD enforces the HUD CODE through its agent, the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards (NCSBCS).
Editors Note: Please refer to part 2 of this series regarding the inspection process that absolutely assures home buyers of a safe and quality constructed manufactured home.
Manufactured Homes: Regulation and Federal Inspection Assures Quality and Safety
Today’s manufactured home is the most quality consistent housing choice in the United States. It is the only form of construction that is subject to a Congressional Federal Construction Code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development (commonly known as the HUD CODE). The HUD CODE went into effect June 15, 1976
Almost 40 years after the implementation of this rigid federal code became effective, the manufactured housing industry sometimes still carries the stigma of the shoddy conceptions of the mobile home industry of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In fact, there is zero resemblance to the mobile homes of that era and the manufactured home of today. The federal enforcement and inspection system, along with technologies developed and advanced by manufactured housing producers, has resulted in a manufactured home that is equal or better built than a comparable site-built home and is 20-30% more affordable.
Enforcement and Inspection
Uniformity and consistency can be maintained in the federal government enforcement system because of two key factors. First, the inspections take place in the factory, during each phase of construction, and follow behind the manufacturer’s own in-plant inspection and quality assurance teams. This allows for more thoroughness since time is spent inspecting homes rather than travelling to inspection sites. Efficiency is increased because travel time is limited and necessary paperwork is minimized. Second, consistency is maintained because fewer people inspect more homes. The enforcement procedure is much less susceptible to individual interpretations, as would be the case with on-site inspections in every jurisdiction across the country.
Inspection Starts Before Production Begins
The federal government enforcement system begins under the watchful eye of the Design Approval Primary Inspection Agency (DAPIA). The DAPIA (a third-party inspection agency) must approve the engineering design of each home to be built, approve the manufacturer’s quality assurance manual for its plant and coordinate the other third party inspection agency, known as the Inspection Primary Inspection Agency (IPIA). The IPIA has the responsibility of making sure the production facility programs and procedures are in accordance with the DAPIA-approved quality assurance manual and it conducts inspections of homes produced in the factory to assure conformance with the approved design.
Certification Assures the Home Buyer
Before leaving the factory, each manufactured home must have a numbered certification label affixed to the exterior of each section of the home. This HUD label certifies to the home buyer that the home has been inspected in accordance with the federal government enforcement procedures, and it complies with the national building and safety code administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Only when all inspection parties are satisfied that the home complies with the code, will the certification label be affixed to the home. A consumer seeing the home for the first time will have the assurance that the home has been thoroughly tested and inspected from the design stage through final construction and found to be built according to the approved design.
Editors note: Please refer to part 3 of this three part series that details the home buyer advantages of the enforcement and related inspection system of the federal HUD code.
Manufactured Homes: Home Buyers Benefit From Federal Regulations
I have summarized the enforcement and inspections of the manufactured home construction process. This enforcement and scrutiny of the manufactured home construction process is, by far, the most thorough regulation of any other form of building construction.
As reported in part one of this series, the “mobile home” (as it was called prior to being changed by legislation to “manufactured home” in 1980) was not even similar to the manufactured home of today. Shoddy inconsistent construction techniques that existed 40 years ago were a result of the lack of state and federal oversight of the construction and in particular the health and safety aspects of a booming mobile home market. In fairness to the states, they didn’t know how to regulate the mobile home phenomenon. Most of these states classified the mobile home as being an adjunct to the automobile business with motor vehicle regulations being applied to mobile homes. After all, the word “mobile” was used to describe this product.
In 1976 Congress passed historic legislation that changed the manufactured housing industry forever — in a good way. This legislation is the Federal Home Construction and Safety Standards which was effective on June 15, 1976. This federal code is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development (commonly known as the HUD CODE).
The HUD regulates every aspect of the building and installation process through state agencies contracted to HUD. The in-plant inspection process is thorough and relentless as the home proceeds to built one step at a time. The inspection process actually begins before the home construction commences. Every floor plan and design is required to be engineered in compliance with HUD regulations and approved for production by a 3rd party design agency approved by HUD.
So you might ask, “How do these government regulations and enforcements affect me and my choice of housing?” Excellent question! All the things a homeowner would find important in a home are a result of these construction standards and the technological advancements and expertise of the manufacturers of today’s manufactured homes.
The HUD code sets standards in the following areas:
Manufactured housing design and construction - All homes must be pre-approved and certified to meet federal construction guidelines before construction commences.
Strength and durability- Each home must be manufactured with quality building materials and applications to assure that home will stand the test of time.
Transportability - Yes, this is strictly enforced, even though the only time a manufactured home is usually transported is the original transport from the factory to the home site. A manufactured home is built on a steel frame that assures the structural integrity of the home on site as well as during transport.
Fire Resistance - A manufactured home is built to a standard exceeding the flame spread retardation recommended for site built homes.
Energy efficiency- The air-tight construction aspect of the manufacturing process along with insulation completely wrapping the perimeter of the home results in lower utility costs than other types of single family housing. Combined with HUD Code requirements that manufactured homes be equipped with energy efficient heating and air conditioning increases the savings appreciably. An additional savings of 20 to 30% can be achieved by upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances and products that are available through most manufactured home builders/retailers.
Storm Safety- The HUD Code was amended in 1994 with requirements that manufactured homes meet building and installation standards to provide wind safety safeguards in pre-designated storm regions of the country. Manufactured homes produced since 1994 have been proven to be equal and, in many respects, safer than site-built homes during tornadoes and hurricanes.
It is safe to say that you cannot purchase a poorly constructed manufactured home. Yes, there are differences in prices. However, the difference is in things that you can see, such as, amenities, equipment, decor, appliances, tape and textured drywall, vaulted ceilings, etc.
Today’s manufactured home has been chosen by many homeowners as their dream home. For others who are contemplating home ownership, they may be thinking of the stereotypical “mobile home” of long ago and not realizing that the affordable, quality, American dream of homeownership today is built in a factory.
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