PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

PATH Case Study

Modular Builder Finds His Niche


Continued from Page 1

[IMAGE: Workers guide a second-story module into place with the help of a crane.]


"The challenge for us came when we tried to get the factory to either revise its process or raise its standards for specific green requirements," Bennert says. "When you have a company that is putting out two or four homes a day, and you tell them that you want your home built with finger-jointed studs or an alternative to OSB, it's difficult for them to bring in material for that specific home. Sometimes it can be impossible because they are often locked in with specific products' distributors. Even when it is possible, the administrative, handling, storage, and transportation issues are difficult to handle in a production environment."


Modular homes are built in a factory and trucked to the job site, where the different modules are fastened to the foundation and each other. Modular homes can be built with significant cost savings over stick-built homes.

"Even though the modular factory couldn't provide us with all the green options we wanted, we learned that we can still build a very green home," says Bennert's partner Tanya Williams. "A lot of the materials that the modular manufacturer is already using are green, even though they aren't necessarily marketed or promoted as green. Things like gypsum, OSB, and fiberglass batt insulation provided us points toward green certification. We also earned points because the gypsum was made from recycled content materials, the OSB came from fast-growth forests, and the fiberglass insulation was formaldehyde free. That was a pleasant surprise."

"But there remain a lot of opportunities that the modular companies could bring to the market and to general contractors like me without a whole lot of effort," Bennert says. "Simple changes include using insulated headers, engineered lumber, additional air sealing, and improved insulating practices. Once they realize that there is a market for these upgrades, I think they will be more receptive because it will allow them to differentiate their product in the market."


"This first time around, it cost us about $10,000 in administrative costs to make the modular home green, including all the time we spent on research, documentation, and certification. This was our up-front investment in going green."

"We expect that the basic green certification in the future will cost only $2,000 to $3,000. This would include upgrades that really focus on getting the house up to ENERGY STAR standards--things like additional insulation and low-flow aerators."

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Content updated on 9/13/2006

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