Modern Construction of Minnesota Inc.

ModernConstructionMinnesotta1Modern Construction’s homes are packed with technology and energy efficient features.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Some companies do not live up to their namesake, but Modern Construction of Minnesota Inc. makes sure it does on every single project. “One of the biggest things for me has always been to back up what you say,” President Jesse G. Hartung says.

For the last six years, the Elk River, Minn.-based homebuilder has delivered state-of-the-art homes that are packed with technology and amenities, while also meeting efficiency codes. “That’s where the ‘Modern’ comes from,” he says.

Hartung founded Modern Construction in 2012, but previously gained homebuilding experience after serving in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He built homes with two partners, but the trio parted ways after the market crashed during the Great Recession.

“They wanted to go a different way,” Hartung recalls, adding that he started Modern Construction with the premise of building homes for the modern age. While he had integrated efficient features with his previous partners, Hartung aimed to double down and build homes that stood out. This included having the efficiency of its homes verified by independent companies, even before it was required by building codes.

“We had independent companies doing thermal imaging on the housing and actually giving us scores,” he recalls. “We could actually prove it to our clients [and say], ‘Here’s the proof.’ That’s what set us apart.”ModernConstMinnBOX

Truly Custom

Modern Construction also distinguishes itself by building truly custom homes for its clients. Many custom builders, Hartung notes, will use a set of stock plans that they have customers choose from. “Rarely are they truly sitting down and drawing a plan,” he says, noting that he has sessions with clients to discuss what they want and determine the building feasibility.

“We also will draw for each of our customers a full elevation blueprint at no charge.” After Modern Construction gives them a price, it encourages the customers to take the plans and get bids from other builders before going forward. “We’re pretty different in that respect,” Hartung says. But they usually decide to use Modern Construction after seeing its previous work.

“If you’re building a modern home, it’s not about meeting code minimum,” Hartung says. “We’ve always taken an approach of giving you the best lasting, most durable house.”

A Home of His Own

Hartung has such a strong belief in efficient features that he incorporated them into his own home, built by Modern Construction. This included the use of the Tstud, a thermally broken, insulated wall stud assembly that is used in exterior walls and in party walls. “It allows you to get a 99 percent thermal break from your inside to your outside,” he says, noting that the product also minimizes sound vibrations through walls.

“That’s important if you are by freeways or by trains.” The Tstud also is very strong, with the ability to hold up to 8,600 pounds. “Dade County, Fla., has the toughest building requirements in the nation, but this product passes all of those tests,” he says. “It’s virtually fireproof as well.” The home also incorporates a geothermal, radiant floor heating system, as well as a garden on a deck. Hartung also created a 1,200-square-foot rooftop oasis for the home, since it did not have a backyard.

“We wanted it feel like it was a backyard,” he says, adding that it has grass for kids to play in, as well as a firepit and an irrigation system that provides a dripline feed to all the plants and grass. “Everything’s real up there.”

ModernConstructionMinnesotta2Staying True

Hartung is proud of Modern Construction and how he has grown the company while staying true to his values. “Other builders are having to catch up to what we’re doing,” he says, but notes that the company has earned a strong reception from clients. “All the time, people walk in the door and say, ‘We’ve walked through four Parade models and we walked through your house, and you’re our builder,’” Hartung continues.

“We’ve refined the process, we’ve got the products that we know are good, and we know we are at the right price point.” But Hartung plans to scale down Modern Construction’s operations going forward. “When I started, I was one-on-one with my customers,” he recalls, noting that the company expanded to the point where it had 20 clients at a time. “That took me away from being able to work directly with the customers.”

Now, he says, Modern Construction will lower its number of projects so he can work more closely with clients again. “That’s going to be anywhere from 12 to 18 houses a year,” he predicts. “That’s the direction we’re heading for the next couple years.” This also will give Hartung the ability to show customers how he can deliver high quality, better projects with less money. “You don’t have to spend a million dollars to get these things,” he asserts. “We’ve been able to show people it’s been possible to do this without breaking their backs.”

He also will continue with a venture that has taken him outside the homebuilding market: Tipsy Chicken, a restaurant in Elk River that features a menu that is more than 80 percent organic. “We’ve taken a lot of those ethics from homebuilding and we’re transferring that over into our restaurant,” Hartung says.

A Perfect Product

The Tstud has become a standard feature for Modern Construction, but this would not have been possible without the work of its creator, Brian Iverson. “It’s always been a concern of mine and the people around me on being able to make housing and buildings more energy efficient,” he says. Iverson, who serves as director of Tstud, plans to soon set up operations in Michigan, Minnesota and Maine.

“We’re the No.1 sustainable product in the construction industry right now,” he says, adding that he will continue working with Hartung, who has become a friend and a shareholder in the product. “It’s been a fun run.”

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