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Green Building Curmudgeon

Trailer Park Trash Goes Green

This modular home under construction near Atlanta is aiming for LEED Platinum certification.

I recently had the privilege of watching modular homes be built in a factory and then installed on the job site, and I must say, I came away pretty impressed. These are two homes that when complete will be LEED certified, as well as meet the requirements for EarthCraft House and the new NAHB Green Building Program.

Modular homes, also known as “systems built,” are a far cry from the old mobile home that was rolled to the site and finished with an aluminum skirt (and a couple of pink flamingos, for good measure). While each component of a modern modular home is roughly the size of a mobile home, they are assembled onsite into medium to large homes that to all but the most knowledgeable visitor look no different than a stick built home.

While the details vary among manufacturers and specific models, the basic idea is the same: Homes are built in sections, finished between 50% and 70% inside and out, shipped to the job, installed on a foundation, and completed in the field. The homes I saw came out framed, insulated, wired, plumbed, and drywalled, with interior doors and most of the trim installed, and they were primed, too—ready for the finish coat of paint. In the field, the builders install drywall to cover the joints between boxes, install flooring, roofing, siding, and a few other details, and the house is done.

I understand the costs are similar to a site-built home, but the construction schedule is compressed by one-half to two-thirds, reducing carrying costs. The quality control is very good, due to the fact that most of the work is done in a factory setting (with no weather or temperature issues).

I have to admit that I was skeptical, and I think that there is certainly room for improvement in the process, but overall, this system has won me over. I would seriously consider building a modular home for myself.


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