Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zero Energy "Factory-Built" Homes for the California Bay Area

A new a new San Francisco company, Zeta Communities is setting out to construct factory-built homes that create as much energy as they use - reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating buildings.  Read the San Francisco Chronicle article Startup's prefab homes aim for zero energy bills.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dwell House

In discussing this project with friends, I always find myself trying to explain what "modular" housing actually is.  For many I can simply say it's a “Dwell House” as they are avid readers of the magazine.  For others the term modular or prefab is reminiscent of trailer homes (sometime referred to as double wides) or something (god forbid) like the famous FEMA trailers circa Hurricane Katrina.

Modular building has been around for sometime time and trace it back to Buckminster Fuller over 80 years ago. They can take on many forms including traditional looking housing. The home to the left was built in a factory by Clayton Homes, a company corporate visionary Warren Buffet recently acquired. But in this case, I will be referring to modern modular construction.

From my perspective a modern modular home is constructed using three-dimensional boxes or “modules”, and generally start with either wood or steel framing. These 'prefab' homes are built to the same code as that of an on-site construction project, but these are created in a manufacturing facility.   The interior and exterior, walls, electrical, plumbing, floors, kitchens, bathroom, roofs and stairs are all completed in the factory. The modules are typically 90-95% complete when they come off the assembly line and then prepped for transportation to the site.

After completion, the modular home is shipped in sections to the site via truck, train or barge, and then attached to a permanent foundation at the building site. Several modules can be connected side-by-side or creatively stacked to create a finished home.  The end product is a home that is typically stronger than traditional construction.  Once the home is attached, it is considered real estate and appraised against other custom site-built homes.

Some of the many benefits of modular construction include (many of which I will discuss many in future posts):
  • Factory/Assembly line construction means higher quality
  • Worker repetition means worker process specialization with reduced defects
  • Super Energy Efficient
  • “Zero Energy” consumption from the power grid and in turn a zero carbon footprint
  • Lower building cost
  • Shorter overall project time
  • Improved time and cost predictability
  • Reduced maintenance
  • Exceed typical structural requirements, creating a stronger, solid home.
  • Less risk of time lost to weather

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Place to Be Happy!

I currently live in a place referred to as “Triburbia” a nickname coined after 9/11 , but better known as Tribeca in downtown NYC.  I am not sure what I was thinking when I purchased my 10th floor apartment in a 35 story luxury building, but it turns out, at least to me, to be more like living in a “vertical gated community”.   It was time for a change, but what, where, was it time to sell again?  This is my fourth major real estate buy/sell in less than 10 years?  Where have I gone wrong?   What can I learn from those projects that would insure I construct a place from scratch that would serve as my home for a long time to come?

Build a house, now that’s scary.  I have lived through contractor hell, during many gut renovations over the years, all kinds of quality problems, cost overruns and missed deadlines and did I mention the LIES?

How could I build a cool green flexible house and minimize the cost, insure quality and address the time concerns? Could I do something to reduce the carbon footprint of this home by utilizing new designs, materials, and processes?  But wouldn’t that further exacerbate the contractor issues?   Round and round I went and then I remembered an issue of Dwell magazine called the “Prefab Issue”.  That was were it all started.

Going Green

How do you live a more ‘green-ish’ existence, while being practical about it? That’s a good question.   My name is Jay, I have been thinking about that and some other interesting life-style questions lately.  I decided to share my thoughts and experiences leading to my objective of building a green, sustainable, home in Redhook on the Southwest shore of Brooklyn. I will attempt to step, you the reader through the daily challenges and rewards of this project  I call “Redhook Green”.

So how did I get here?  Read on.