(Updated January 1, 2010) Even though the market for new homes continues to struggle, some builders in the affordable green category continue to edge into the homebuilding spotlight. Among those that seems to have gotten the most attention are Clayton Homes’ i-House, Philadelphia developer Postgreen’s 100K House, and the prefab housing being developed by San Francisco-based Zeta Communities, which opened its own factory in September.
But another affordable-green rollout is said to be in the offing, this one by American Sustainability Institute, whose target market includes homebuyers just starting out and seniors and others seeking an energy efficient, relatively compact home. Based in Penns Park, Pennsylvania, American Sustainability – otherwise known as AmeriSus – offers a choice of several designs and says its homes will deliver a combination of insulation and airtightness that will lower energy costs by 70% from those attainable through conventional construction.
The company’s managing director, Charlie Kamps, told Ecohome magazine that AmeriSus has teamed up with more than 25 manufacturers to implement its Ready Build kit system. The company currently has commitments from builders to construct 300 homes using AmeriSus designs and materials, and aims to attract enough builders overall to get 12,000 such homes in the ground two years from now, Kamps said.
AmeriSus has selected sites in 14 states Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. These states were selected in part because they are rarely exposed to catastrophic weather conditions such as hurricanes and long, fire-prone dry seasons, Kamps said. Formal plans for the first projects, which are set to begin mid-February in Philadelphia, are expected to be unveiled on January 15.
Kamps told the magazine that prices will range from $200,000 to $270,000 for homes of 1,200 to 1,800 sq. ft. All buyers, he adds, will have the option of adding renewable-energy systems to their house, at extra cost, to bring its performance to net-zero-energy.
There was, however, a point of confusion in the Ecohome story — and, consequently, in GBA’s original citing of that story on Tuesday, when this blog posted: the AmeriSus construction process, Kamps says, does not include manufactured modules or panels. The idea that modular construction was part of the company’s program, and the extraordinary scope and scale of the AmeriSus plan raised questions for at least one regular observer of the modular/affordable-home industry, Gary Fleisher, whose Modular Home Builder blog site tracks the sector. We contacted AmeriSus for more details and a response to some of MHB’s questions, and Kamps replied via email.
The homes are “not built in a factory,” Kamps wrote in his email. “They are not an assemblage of pre-manufactured pieces. Our homes are built piece by piece at the jobsite. So it is quite understandable that nobody in the modular home industry knows of us or is working with us.”
The kit-construction approach
AmeriSus itself won’t be buying landing, pulling permits, or prepping sites. Those tasks are still up to the participating builders. The company’s role is to supply the design options and deliver construction materials and other components to its client builders on each of their job sites in a timely and cost-effective way. Kamps says the company is working with a range of builders, from those who build a few homes a year to those who build hundreds, and has struck agreements with several appliance and component manufacturers (a deal with Whirlpool was announced in November) to help co-market both the homes and the products.
Kamps said the thermal resistance of Ready Build exterior walls, constructed with SIPs, will exceed R-25 overall, while the roofing system will deliver R-38. All designs feature vestibules at the front and rear entries to reduce heat loss, an air-conditioning system with a SEER rating of 23, and radiant floor heating. Kamps added that the company has developed a monitoring system for both climate and security that can be controlled by the Apple computer that is included with each house or via an iPhone link to the home computer’s operating system. All houses are designed to accommodate solar panel installations in case homeowners want one them installed during construction or later on.
AmeriSus homes are designed to accommodate everything from infill lots to large-scale development configurations. So far, Kamps said, builders are preparing to break ground on AmeriSus projects in four states.