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Modular Homes Lead Industry Green Building Efforts

Modular homes and custom modular homebuilders are quickly reinventing the homebuilding industry. Because of the focus on energy efficiency, architectural and

design communities worldwide are coming together to create innovative designs for homes of all shapes, sizes and tastes. Not only are modular homes providing

affordable housing solutions because they are constructed more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional site built homes, modular home builders are also

leading the way in sustainable new home construction and environmental preservation through green building.

Modular homes are constructed in pieces in controlled factory environments. Factory production means fewer accidents and mistakes and a more predictable product and time frame. The pieces are then shipped to the site where they are assembled. Because the pieces need to be shipped, they are built much stronger than traditional site built home structures and components, using ten to fifteen percent more construction materials than are normally used. Modular homes also offer a much higher quality control standard, with so many third-party inspectors, engineers and architects involved.

Since modular home builders provide 80 to 85 percent of the home, the buyer avoids the risk of giving money to a builder and not having the home built to their specifications, or of having their price inflated by numerous change orders. Additionally, unlike modular homes, site-built homes are exposed to unfavorable weather conditions during the construction process, making the home vulnerable to water or weather damage, and increasing the costs of the project by adding additional materials and replacement components. All of these cost savings are passed on to the consumer, giving them more home for their money, but also giving builders more leeway to incorporate energy saving building best practices and products and services into their construction processes.

For builders, most green building benefits come from then flexibility inherent in the design and engineering of modular home systems. Modular homes are built stronger that traditional homes. They produce less waste because of reduced construction time, and less time needed on a site means less damage to the home site and surrounding environment. In addition, the design flexibility and innovation combined with the use of non-traditional building materials enable homebuilders and designers to build around existing trees and wildlife, creating new homes that are less intrusive to their environments.

Modular, or systems built, components are pre-treated before they are shipped to the site. This pretreatment reduces the amount of chemical vapors that enter the home upon construction, resulting in better air quality from the beginning. In addition, the internal structure of the home is protected from mold or water damage by the tightly controlled environments within the factories. Because construction can be completed in a fraction of the time necessary for traditional homes, there is less site waste, less threat of internal air quality deterioration and reduced chance of structure damage.

Wood for home components is delivered to factories at pre-cut lengths to further reduce waste, and many modular homes factories and materials suppliers employ extensive recycling programs to reduce excess or return materials to the environment. Additionally, many builders take site selection into account to maximize natural lighting, heating and cooling capabilities, as well as other water efficiency, day lighting, ecopower, improved erosion control and environmentally friendly building materials considerations. Other green building practices include increasing slab insulation, using solvent-free foundation sealants, increasing fly-ash content in concrete, improving foundation drainage, providing ventilation for radon and other tactics.

The speed of construction reduces the cost of modular homes, making them an ideal solution both to current affordable housing needs worldwide and also to homeowners seeking relief from recent hikes in utility costs. The reduced construction loan costs and interest amounts combined with lower pricing per square foot as compared to traditional site built homes enables home buyers and builders to focus their home construction dollars on energy efficient water and power systems. These can be as simple as energy efficient water heaters and appliances, or as complex as solar panels or gray water systems.

Many modular homes today are being constructed in such a way as to maximize daylight and reduce or, in some cases, completely eliminate the need for electrical lighting during the day. For example, the Venice, California MCube, designed by Mdesigns, utilizes a Japanese shoji inspired construction with translucent light emitting walls that let in natural light without heat radiation. The house also boasts solar radiant-heated floors, solar heated water and photovoltaic roof panels. This is just one example of the innovative designs emerging from architects and engineers worldwide. Pictures of the house are available at inhabitat.com.

Custom modular homebuilders, such as Grant Smereczynsky, CEO of Building Systems Network, a custom modular homebuilder based in Atlanta, GA, are encouraging consumers who are not yet familiar with the options available in modular homes to educate themselves about the benefits of these advancements in engineering, architectural design and systems-based construction.