Last fall, Dartmouth College realized that it needed to build four new single-family homes, pronto. Beginning this summer, the homes will be occupied by the “house professors” assigned to new “house communities” — the term that Dartmouth uses to describe the college’s dormitory clusters.
To build the four needed houses, Dartmouth hired Unity Homes, a company in Walpole, New Hampshire, that assembles homes from panelized walls and modular components. Founded by Tedd Benson, Unity Homes specializes in superinsulated buildings with very low rates of air leakage. (For more information on Unity Homes, see the links in the “Related Articles” box below.)
My son Noah, who’s a junior at Dartmouth, noticed the new homes under construction and tipped me off. So I drove to Hanover, New Hampshire, to check out the new buildings. Tim McNamara, Dartmouth’s associate director of Campus Services, graciously met me at one of the job sites. I was given a tour of the sites by three representatives from Unity Homes: Ryan Lawler, Justin Pouliot, and Brad Moore.
Panelized walls and modular bathrooms
Although Unity Homes is expanding, it only sold 12 homes last year, so it’s still a relatively small company. At its indoor manufacturing plant in Walpole, Unity Homes assembles building components into wall panels and bathroom modules. (Bathroom modules are shipped to the job site with the tub, vanity, sink, and wall-hung toilet already installed. Once these modules arrive on site, they are moved from the truck to their final location by crane.)
Unity Homes is convinced that its German-made CNC (computer numerically controlled) cutting machine and its focus on indoor assembly helps the company achieve a higher standard of construction quality.
Unity has developed a panelized wall system using 9½-inch I-joists…