Low Impact Living: Green Prefab — Everyone’s into Modular Homes

Editor’s note: Modular (or prefabricated) housing is hot, and our friends at Low Impact Living have the lowdown on some of the companies driving this trend. This post was originally published on Thursday, June 12, 2008.

It seems everyone is “going modular” these days with the rapid growth in the movement of green prefab design and construction. The buzz in modular construction is causing a rush of new designs, innovative products, and advanced modular systems being introduced. The goal of prefab is still the same as minimizing waste while maximizing efficiency. To learn more about prefab design and what makes it a compelling form of green building, please click here.

No longer are the days when just calling yourself a prefab company is considered environmentally progressive. Homes are now being made from materials like reused shipping containers, recycled steel, and certified sustainably-harvested wood. The new challenge for prefab companies is balancing the economics of innovative sustainable design with the realities of construction and raw material costs.

We want to highlight some companies doing some very interesting work in the prefab space.

Envision Prefab shows their commitment to the environment by attempting to maintain a zero carbon footprint in both manufacturing and production of their models. Their e-House reuses shipping containers transformed into seamless interior spaces, while including a laundry list of green systems such as tankless water heaters, solar panels, and LED lighting.

Eco-Steel Homes focuses on streamlined design and their homes use 76% recycled steel sourced from recycled vehicles, appliances and industrial scrap metal. They encourage us all to “start dreaming in steel.” Their models use no wood, making them mold and insect resistant, and come pre-engineered and pre-insulated making them ultra-efficient. You can combine different modules to create your dream (metal) home.

In sharp contrast to these visions of ultra-modern prefab, look at these warm, rustic homes from International Homes of Cedar. Their homes carry an impressive insulative value using interlocking layers of construction lumber from sustained yield second growth forests. Cedar is an extremely durable wood and one of the best choices for construction due to its moisture resistance, pest resistance, and thermal resistance.

Prefab structures don’t always have to be an entire home. With gas prices soaring, why drive to the office when you can set up a modern working space right in your backyard? Start small and own a prefab home office or even a prefab garage. Modern Shed designs are colorful, fun, and utilize green materials in both the interior and exterior finishes and options for their prefab structures. For example you can choose insulation made from recycled denim, cork flooring, recycled decking and more. Modules start as small as 8’ x 10’ sheds for under $5,000 and go up to 1,200sf dwellings. The sheds are ideal for home office space, artist’s gallery, machinery work space, or even a child’s playhouse.

Envision Solar sees the garage as an opportunity to have not only a prefab structure, but having it powered by energy from the sun! The Lifeport garage (23’ x 23’) or its smaller counterpart the LifePod solar structure (10’ x 12’) allow homeowners to own cost-effective and attractive shade structures to protect their cars or serve as a pool house that will pay for itself over time. The entire roof structure is covered in solar panels and will not only power your garage, charge your vehicles, and can also contribute to offsetting the electricity use for your house. The modules are easy to construct and actually give back to the environment rather than taking away.

Lastly, maybe you just can’t get to the gym but would rather have a workout room like the Nomad Yurt by EcoShack? This yurt can be used as an outdoor luxurious portable room for yoga class or as an office. Kids would love it as a play-space as well. Think “outside the house” and maybe you will come up with a use of your own.

Click here to see still more examples of top-notch companies doing work in the green prefab sector.

We hope you have enjoyed our modular outburst of new ideas. Personally I am still waiting for someone to come up with a Biomimicry-inspired prefab structure. Until that happens, we can all feel good about the progress that prefab is making and will look forward to new innovations and technologies.

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