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The folks below appear to be fairly mainline Vassar, Yale, and MIT grads, but Oaktree Development's Gwen Noyes, Art Klipfel, and Ling Yi Liu are actually housing revolutionaries. They've developed the technology and supply chain for mass customization of multifamily housing. Huh? Read on.
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We snapped Oaktree?s Ling Yi, Kin Lau, and Betty Stump at 277 Broadway in Cambridge, a nine-unit prototype building of apartments that adjust to the resident?s lifestyle. Now under construction, residents will be able to change the interior layout without renovating. They just have a crew move the walls, plug them into the mechanicals, and the living room is bigger, a bedroom converts into a smaller study, and the kitchen pantry transforms into a Jacuzzi for the master bath. The wall, built with the sheetrock and studs, is a self-contained panel that sits on risers so it's stable but easily relocated in dozens of other spots. Ling Yi, a PhD engineer says ?we're re-engineering every facet of housing development.?
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We somehow wound up in front of the camera, left, listening to Ling Yi explain that one apartment has about three dozen possible layouts. (Those are the floor plans on the wall.) He created software that designs the component parts with mechanicals to support them. With a supply chain that has links in China, all in, total development cost is about 5% less than traditional construction, and rents are market rate, i.e. $1,900 for a 1-B. But Ling Yi says Oaktree offers residents higher quality for a unit that can change as they change. That extends the holding period for a condo owner.
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We snapped Lauren Donahue and Art at the firm's Harvard office. He's developing the Greenline Design System, which has patents pending in the US, EU, China, and India. For Green, Revit-designed, MF housing, Oaktree has developed panels in pods that can be manufactured in factories and put together to make a building. On small, urban infill sites without much room for staging, lowering a kitchen into place with a crane simplifies everything. Art says the more work done in a factory, the fewer errors during construction,whichcan be faster, cheaper, and higher quality.
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Here, Pradip Tandon and Gwen are looking over plans for St. James Place at Porter Square, one of five conventional MF projects in development. Gwen says they've been fortunate to have an investor fronting seed capital ?to precede cost effectively and be ready when the market returns.? As with much housing development now, Pradip says construction financing has come mostly from small community banks. With a ?very hungry? construction industry, Gwen says pricing is good, down about 15%. The pair are a married couple, who assure us they'd retire if not for the excitement of creating new delivery systems.