October 26th, 2009
One of our favorite prefab home designers, Blu Homes, just completed a home in Colorado at the beginning of the October. The Fischer Chalet, a modern green prefab home in Breckenridge, Colorado, is a perfect example of what Blu Homes is capable of. While designed as a custom home built with the Colorado climate in mind, the plans for this home will be standard Blu design by mid 2010. The Blu Chalet combines a simple and practical floor plan, with sustainable materials, lots of natural lighting and energy efficient design.
Popularity: 37% [?]
September 29th, 2009
Blu Homes, a LIL favorite in the green prefab sector, announced today that they have purchased the assets of mkDesigns, the pioneering prefab company founded by architect Michelle Kaufmann that has been one of the most visible leaders in modular sustainable design. The plan is to bring some of mkDesigns’ leading models (Glidehouse TM, mkLotus TM, Sunset Breezehouse) to customers around the country via Blu’s proprietary manufacturing and building system innovations.
This could be an intriguing combination, for mkDesigns and Blu were targeting different segments of the market and didn’t overlap much. The combined entity should be able to target a much broader swath of the market, achieving economies of scale in manufacturing, design and sales. mkDesigns offered high-end homes that were often the stars of trade shows and green architecture exhibits around the country, while Blu homes combine eco-friendly features with more reasonable prices.
We won’t know for some time whether this will all work as planned. The assets of mkDesigns were bought out of bankruptcy, so there were clearly some issues with their original approach that must be worked out. And although Blu is building its first homes in locations across the country, we haven’t heard much from them yet about finished projects and future plans. And, all good intentions could be for naught if the economy doesn’t turn around soon. Let’s hope, though, that this combination is the first sign of a maturing and consolidating prefab market, and that Blu can deliver on the original promise of prefab - high quality, eco-friendly homes at mainstream prices.
Here are some pictures of the mkDesigns’ designs acquired by Blu:
Popularity: 35% [?]
May 6th, 2009
Warren Buffett isn’t the world’s second richest man for nothing. He has an unsurpassed knack for picking good companies in strong industries at the right price. Most things he’s touched have turned into gold. So it’s exciting to see that a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary called Clayton Homes has just launched a line of green prefab homes (called the i-house) that start at under $75,000 (or about $105 / square foot) excluding site costs and shipping. Clayton Homes is one of the largest manufactured housing companies in the world, having produced over 1.5 million units since 1934. They’ll clearly get the manufacturing, financing and logistics right, but can they deliver the amenities, materials and compelling designs that prospective green homeowners have come to expect from green prefab?
The first models are quite promising. Even the base version comes with a lengthy list of standard green features, including:
- Well insulated exterior walls, floor and roof (R-21, R-30 and R-30 respectively)
- Andersen low-e windows
- Metal roof designed for rainwater collection
- No-VOC paint
- High efficiency heat pump
- Dual-flush toilets
If that’s not green enough for you, then you can pick from a long list of sustainable options that includes:
- Two to four kilowatts of solar PV panels;
- Bamboo flooring;
- Tankless water heaters
- Energy Star appliances
You obviously won’t get a LEED Platinum rating on your new i-house, but you will get a very low-energy and reasonably green home at a great price point.
The i-house website has an easy-to-use configurator that allows you to create a customized home and view pricing for options and delivery in your area.
Via Jetson Green
Popularity: 10% [?]
March 13th, 2009
Our journeys through the green modular landscape often take us to the big cities of America. That’s not surprising, for that’s where you find the high densities of green architects / builders, green consumers and manufacturing plants that really make a prefab company sing. Recently, though, we came across a prefab company from rural West Virginia that will give any of its urban counterparts a real run for their money: Eco Structures, out of Maidsville, West Virginia.
Eco Structures is the brainchild of John Garlow, who has been building timber frame homes and using structural insulated panels (SIPS) out of his own workshop since the late 1970s. Several years ago, when it became clear that the green prefab housing market was ripe for liftoff, he decided to put his many years of prefabrication expertise to use with a new “green” twist. He designed and built a prototype modular Eco Structure on his own property and a new company was born.
The Eco Structure homes are targeted for LEED Platinum certification by the USGBC (process under way), and they come in 450 square foot modules that can be assembled in various configurations according to a client’s needs. Some of the more innovative elements of the Eco Structure system:
- Passive Solar and Ventilation Design. Almost all of the home’s heating, cooling and hot water is provided via smart use of passive solar design. The south side is primarily glass, and awnings and decks provide shade in the summer but allow sunlight in during the winter. Exterior air is drawn in through large pipes buried in the ground, which warms it in the winter and cools it in the summer.
- High Efficiency Building Envelope. The home’s exterior walls and roof are all made out of SIPS that attain insulation levels of R-36 to R-46 and meet the latest in energy codes across the country. Windows are all quad-paned - energy-efficient dual-pane windows are combined to surround a layer of inert gas, offering maximum efficiency.
- Rainwater Harvesting and Water Efficiency. In John’s prototype, rainwater is filtered to drinking water standards and stored in a 2,400 gallon cistern. The system provides nearly 100% of the home’s fresh water demand. The prototype also employs graywater recycling and composting toilets (although these might not be to code in all jurisdictions).
- Advanced Home Automation System. A home automation system made by Home Automation, Inc. controls all of the energy, security, smoke detection and home entertainment systems in the house, and can be configured and monitored over the Internet.
- Solar Thermal and Radiant Heating System. Water is heated via two separate solar thermal systems (one on the roof, one embedded in a vertical wall) and then stored in an in-home tank. Hot water goes to both fixtures and an in-floor radiant heating system. In the prototype, the radiant system is also connected to a backup wood-fired boiler.
(Click here for more information on other green building components and systems.)
Clearly, some of these elements aren’t appropriate for all settings. Each base module can be configured with any of the various options above, depending on client needs and local permitting standards. The 450 square foot modules are easy to transport, so Eco Structures can serve most of the Eastern and Southern US. And, they are compatible with pier foundation systems, so you don’t necessarily need a crane to move them into place. The target price (confirmed in the prototype) for an Eco Structure home is approximately $150 - $175 per square foot.
Popularity: 7% [?]