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Danbury, CT

Demonstration Site: Danbury, CT

NextGen Final Report (PDF) June 2000

Manufactured housing might not be the first construction place to find examples of technological innovation and process improvement, but PATH is out to raise your expectations by introducing substantive changes in the design and construction of this affordable--and highly adaptable--form of housing.

Image: Also known as HUD-Code housing, these homes are built off site in manufacturing facilities, where the constraints imposed by adverse weather don't come into play. The homes are assembled in sections or 'modules', then trucked to the site for final assembly. This process takes advantage of the cost savings afforded by volume production, continuous quality control, and the prevention of vandalism and theft of materials and tools. In areas where construction labor costs are high, manufactured housing can often be the "make or break" solution to the demand for affordable housing.

Recently, the market has been expanding in response to the scarcity of quality, low-cost urban infill, Native American housing, and resort area housing for those in the service industries. PATH has been leading the way in these and other emerging manufactured housing markets, and is now moving forward with a new demonstration project known as NextGen (shorthand for the Next Generation of Manufactured Housing), which had its premier installation this past December in Danbury, CT.

Construction of NextGen House, Danbury CT From the beginning, NextGen was envisioned as infill housing (housing that can be inserted into existing urban lots). In keeping with manufactured housing's ongoing evolution toward larger, sturdier, safer housing that looks and feels more like a conventional home, NextGen features entries at the streetfront, side, and rear of the house. A poured concrete stem wall foundation supports load-bearing perimeter walls. Homebuyers who want more storage space can opt for a full basement, but either way, the concrete foundation offers improved earthquake and wind resistance, as well as better protection from vermin and insects.

PATH teamed with building systems consulting firm Steven Winter Associates, Inc. of Norwalk, CT to provide design and technical assistance. The firm worked closely with the manufacturer, New Era Building Systems of Strattanville, PA to develop a completely new concept in energy- and resource-efficient manufactured housing. The three bedroom, two bath NextGen house is comprised of two factory-built sections joined in the field to form a 28' wide by 48' long home. The upstairs floor plan includes the third bedroom and unfinished attic space, which can be remodeled as another bath and fourth bedroom. Downstairs, the open, flowing spaces of the kitchen, dining room and living room are separated only by a balustered stairway. High efficiency appliances, light fixtures, and windows are complemented by enhanced insulation, earning NextGen an Energy Star designation, which means that the home's energy performance will improve on the requirements of the Model Energy Code by 30% or better. To learn more about the assembly process, click here for pictures and descriptions of the assembly and installation. To learn more about the project and to see a floor plan of NextGen home read the NextGen final report.

Report from the field: NextGen house process and performance

During the blower door test, as the house was depressurized, enough air leaked in through the floor to cause the vinyl floor to balloon up. This suggests that the underside of the units could be a place where more attention to attachment and seal could pay off in home energy performance improvements. Despite this flaw, the house recorded .35 air changes per hour which is right about what was expected. This test was done with the ducts sealed off to be sure only the house was tested. When the ducts were opened, the results were identical, indicating that duct performance would have little effect on the heating (or cooling) consumption in the house. The developer decided to finish the second floor after completing the HUD-approved lower floor and roof erection. This was treated as a remodel except that the local permit to complete the additions was applied for with the original building permit. HUD-Code regulations do not acknowledge second floor occupancy or use. The rooms created at front and back of the house had wiring, insulation, flooring and drywall added to match the finishes in the lower house. One room was designed for in-building heating calculations. The supply air duct, which had been left coiled in the ceiling during transport, was brought through the floor and booted up into the room.

Since completion last Spring, there have been many queries of interest but no additional units have been built. This surprising fact is due to HUD's Standards Division which has required special approval documents that the manufacturer has not yet submitted. This submittal is now under way, and barring the unexpected, the special approvals should be granted to permit installations anywhere within the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. As of December, the house was performing well, according to the tenant, who indicated that it was more than warm enough. During a high wind storm in June, two panels of vinyl siding were blown off the back of the building. This did not appear to be caused by problems with workmanship as many other buildings and trees in the area suffered major damage during that storm.

Status Updates:

This project has been completed

Content updated on 7/17/2006

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