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We've Been Framed
By George Porter
Just when we thought we were getting somewhere with manufactured
housing HUD tells us we have to make trailers. Recently, Manufactured
Housing Institute asked Housing and Urban Development to modify
their rule making to allow manufactured housing to be made without
a permanent chassis. A chassis is really only used for transportation
anyway and 95% of all our housing stays put once it are set up
at its first location. Therefore, having transportation equipment
located under it should be of very little concern to the homeowner
or anyone else. It could also make HUD code housing more affordable
because the homeowner would not be buying the steel frame he really
doesn't need anymore once he is living in the manufactured home.
HUD's reply basically boiled down to the fact that HUD code housing
must have a permanent chassis so you can tell it apart from modular
My copy of the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards
Act is 104 pages of very fine print C it is the HUD building code.
The term chassis is mentioned under specific requirements for
designing the transportation system. Under the definition of manufactured
homes, it discusses the length, width and square feet which are
to be built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used as
a dwelling. The other 103.9 pages address the building standards
for a HUD code home. Interestingly, about half a page concerns
itself with the definition of a modular home. Basically it means
it is built to another building code, the BOCA Code. How can HUD
confuse a HUD code home with a BOCA code home simply because it
doesn't have a frame, when they are clearly defined in the regulations?
If we took a BOCA code modular home and left the frame under it,
would it automatically become a HUD code home? I seriously doubt
it. There's more here than meets the eye and I sincerely hope
the industry does not let this slide.
What does all this have to do with installation? Plenty. But
it has even more to do with the stability and possibly the safety
of the home itself. There have been ads on TV recently for the
new Chrysler car. One of the ads features a chair where the legs
are close together beneath it. The spokesperson says Chrysler
moved its legs farther out to create a much more stable car. If
our homes only had one I-beam straight down the middle of them,
it would be extremely easy to roll the home over. But, if it was
tied down adequately, it could conceivably become stable. Now
instead of one I-beam, consider placing two I-beams side by side
down the center and imagine gradually moving these beams out toward
the edges of the home. The farther away from center each I-beam
gets, the more stable the home becomes until finally the ultimate
stability can be achieved by blocking the home at its very edge.
The more stable the home is through the positioning of its piers,
the less work the anchors have to do.
It is reasonable to assume that the more inherently stable
a structure is, the safer the occupants are during adverse conditions
such as wind storms and earthquakes. I hope that HUD is not knowingly
placing its need for a clean definition ahead of the safety and
welfare of the American public.
The case can be made that a home can be blocked on its perimeter
even if it does have a frame. However, it is still necessary to
block the frame complete with footings and whatever else is required
by the factory. A home cannot rest only on its perimeter and allow
the frame to hang beneath the home unsupported. Therefore, if
an installer is to incorporate the best of both worlds he is required
to install two separate foundations, one beneath the frame to
hold it up and one beneath the home to create additional stability.
This is certainly an added expense that must be born by the customer,
95% of which never have a use for the transportation frame again.
Having reusable frames under our homes could result in a thousand
dollar savings to the customer per floor, not to mention the added
stability of a perimeter supported home. It's good for us and
it's good for our customers. Let's continue to see what we can
do about not being framed.