By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Picture a house being raised by builders on site: framing, drywall, fixtures, electrical work. Then envision all the work going on in a sprawling plant.

That’s a condensed version of the differences between modular homes and stick-built houses.

Modular homes also vary from manufactured houses. But there, it’s primarily in the consumers the two industries are focusing on. Manufactured homes tend to be constructed as single units, usually without second levels, and are designed in many cases as affordable housing for lower to moderate income residents.

Modular houses, by contrast, typically are aimed at a middle to upscale buyer. They include assembly techniques for two-or-more-story houses, hoisting upper stories by crane and clipping them to ground floors, even installing attics.

According to modular backers, the homes can produce cost savings because they’re built under climate-controlled conditions — no holdups for wind and rain.

Even so, the industry has been slow to catch on in a big way in the Charleston area and elsewhere. One area neighborhood, North Charleston-based Hunley Waters, is known for its all-modular-home construction. Homes are priced in the low to mid $200,000s. The community works with Nationwide Homes in Martinsville, Va., as its manufacturer, and locally based Old Man Construction completes the work once the sections are on the ground.

A few other neighborhoods such as Jacob’s Point in Hollywood and The Bend on Johns Island, regularly raise a few modular houses or have built some in the past.

Figures are sketchy, but South Carolina as recently as fourth quarter 2004 was the ninth largest modular home state and reported a 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to the National Modular Housing Council.

Nationwide that year, modular home shipments were 42,700, up 13 percent from 37,800 the year before, according to a survey by Baltimore-based Hallahan Associates.

The top 10 in order were North Carolina, 1; New York, 2, Michigan, 3; Virginia, 4; Pennsylvania, 5; Wisconsin, 6; Ohio, 7; New Jersey, 8; and Minnesota, 10.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.