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State's 1st Modular Construction Project

February 27, 1996

It sounds more like factory assembly than actual construction. But a new technique could change the way prisons, hotels, hospitals and condominiums are built in California.

Under the "multiroom modular construction" concept, identical concrete or steel units are built on-site at a temporary factory, then stacked with a crane and welded together. Thousands of units in Korea and hundreds of units in Hawaii have been assembled using this method.

Aliso Viejo builder Kathryn Thompson is using the technique for the first time in California, putting up a condo project in Los Angeles with the city's blessing. She contends the modular buildings are faster and cheaper.

"The biggest benefit is time. It's at least 30% faster than conventional construction," said Thompson, who heads DKS Construction Inc. "And we can cut 20% from construction costs."

Thompson said the use of concrete helps avoid construction defects and meets earthquake codes. She is bidding on several state prisons and hopes to build hotels, hospitals and other projects.

"At first, it will be just a minor part of our business, but we think it will grow," she said. "Within five to six years, this could be a billion-dollar business."

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