First Unity Prefab Assembled in Three Days

A couple months ago I mentioned the launch of Unity Homes, a new brand of prefab homes by Bensonwood, and this is the first Unity home.  It’s located in Brattleboro, Vermont and the on-site assembly took just three days — with a weather-tight shell in two days.  The Xyla plan has factory-built wall and roof panels that are wrapped and shipped vertically.  The walls are guided in place with a crane and anchored, and then the roof panels are set.  After that the crew works on taping seams, installing trim, and finishing the siding.  It’s quite the process!

[+] More about the first Unity Home in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Credits: Unity Homes.

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See the original post: First Unity Prefab Assembled in Three Days

Wood Fiber Insulation Arrives in the USA

Looks like wood-fiber insulation board is coming to the USA, according to a Greenbuild update on Green Building Advisor.  Agepan THD is the name of the product and it’s used as exterior sheathing for walls and roofs.  Agepan boards connect in tongue and groove fashion and insulate to R-5.74 per panel (2″ x 74.5″ x 23-5/8″).  The material has a high permeability (18 U.S. perms) and can be used in a wall assembly to dry to the exterior.  It’s offered through Washington-based The Small Planet Workshop Store.

[+] More about Agepan THD wood-fiber insulation board.

Credits: The Small Planet Workshop Store.

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Excerpt from: Wood Fiber Insulation Arrives in the USA

Efficient Modular Duplex in Yellowknife

You may recall a practical green prefab by SMPLy Mod that we featured about a year ago.  This duplex is by the same design firm, SMPL Design Studio (Joel Tanner), with new partners 9 Dot Engineering and Mod Home Developments.  The team employed modular construction to finish the duplex at 133 Moyle, and the homes perform quite well for being so far north: they require 55% less energy for heating and power.

The 1,300 square-foot homes, each with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, received an EnerGuide rating of 82, according to Joel Tanner at SMPL Design Studio.

This was accomplished with super efficient wall and roof assemblies (2

Connect Homes Innovates in Silicon Valley

Connect:Homes is a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of prefab homes founded by Jared Levy and Gordon Stott (formerly with Marmol Radziner) on a mission to reduce the delivery costs associated with modular construction and make sustainable homes more affordable. To make that happen, Levy and Stott spent the last three years designing, prototyping, and patenting a system to cost-effectively deliver prefab homes, and they put their awesome prototype on display at Dwell on Design 2012.

In summary, a large part of the solution is to size the modules to be transported by the intermodal shipping container network. All Connect:Homes, therefore, can be delivered virtually anywhere in the world by truck, rail, or ship.

But to be clear, these aren’t container homes, these are homes shipped on a framework designed for intermodal shipping containers.

Transportation can cost nearly $100,000 cross-country or $400,000 overseas for the typical prefab home, according to Connect:Homes, so designers and builders have been forced to use regional factories that may or may not offer a high-performance build or a desirable selection of finishes or materials.

Not satisfied with the high costs or other limitations, Levy said, “We asked ourselves if you can ship a shipping container full of 64,000 lbs of goods around the world for $5,000, why should it cost you so much to ship a house?Connect:Homes ships 90% completed modules and cuts delivery costs by up to 90% to deliver a more affordable home.

Shipping innovation isn’t the only advance that Connect:Homes aims to bring to factory-built housing. To avoid the cost of renting a 240-ton crane, which Levy said could be up to $15,000 per day, the company will use giant castors to roll modules into place. This is something that only applies to the ground-level modules, but like a skateboard, the home just rolls onto a finished foundation.

The company will test this installation method when sending the Connect:2.1 prototype to the Hillview Community Center, 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos, California, for the Dwell Silicon Valley Home Tour starting on November 3, 2012. Visit this page for more detail.

In terms of pricing, Connect:Homes start at $140 per square foot out of the factory and range to $165 per square foot delivered and installed, according to a company statement.

Connect:Homes come with house-wide LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, 100% recycled content glass countertops, in-wall dual-flush Duravit toilets, an insulation package to match any climate (standard of R21 walls, R30 floors, and R45 roof), and other materials that can contribute toward credits for LEED certification.

[+] More about Connect:Homes modular prefab from California.

Credits: Connect:Homes (#1-2); Bethany Nauert, West Elm (#3-4).

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LiveScreen is a Mobile Urban Living Wall

LiveWall, LLC, a Michigan-based company that makes living wall systems, just announced a mobile version of the LiveWall product called LiveScreen (not to be confused with another Live Screen that we mentioned). LiveScreen is available in four models (Access, Patio, 4S, and XL) and made with a waterproof aluminum frame on wheels. The product helps people grow plants in small spaces like porches, patios, and decks.

LiveScreen is perfect for annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables, according to LiveWall, and can be used for easy-access gardening in any location, whether urban or suburban.

The new product uses modular planter boxes, or WallTers, of various sizes that come in six colors (beige, cool gray, wheat, cedar, sage, and salsa). With these, roots grow down and stems grow up for a healthy living wall. LiveScreen comes without irrigation, but the Plus package includes automatic irrigation components and a hose timer. Conduit tubes are hidden in the mounting tracks with built-in nozzles for mist irrigation.

Pricing is available online and depends on the options selected at checkout. Generally, LiveScreen ranges from about $1,500 – $2,900, depending on slections. That said, for a general idea, the Patio version, which is 32″ by 5 1/2′ with three tiers, sells from $1,350 or $1,895 with the Plus package.

[+] More about the LiveScreen mobile LiveWall System.

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Eco-Friendly LEDs, Expensive Prefab, Passive Solar Design, + Pierce The Envelope

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for updates, article summaries, newsworthy links, and other site news. Also, check out the latest green jobs in our list.

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Timber Frame Cabin Built on a Waterfront

It’s been a couple years since we last checked in on the work of Seattle-based FabCab, a company that makes prefab and kit-built, eco-friendly homes and accessory dwelling units.  Short for “fabulous cabin,” FabCab has several timber-frame houses under construction in Washington and recently shared photos of this two-level cabin on Camano Island.  It has a timber frame, SIP panels, and a soaring water-front wall of windows.

FabCab frames are CNC milled with douglas fir in a factory and labeled for assembly.  Once the timber frame is assembled, dual-pane windows and pre-cut structural insulated panels are installed (R24 walls, R40 roof).  The roof is a 24-gauge, standing steam metal.

Inside the home, FabCab assembles a package of Energy Star appliances, bamboo flooring, water-saving fixtures, non-slip cork tile bathroom flooring, recycled-content countertops, and telescoping pocket doors, etc.  The result is an open plan with high ceilings and ample natural light.

FabCab has home designs from about 550 square feet to 1,400 square feet, not counting custom projects, and pricing from about $95,000 through $172,000, respectively, not including delivery, permitting, site prep, foundation, or contractor assembly.  The construction phase generally takes less than three months.

[+] More photos of this timber-frame Fabcab on Camano Island.

Credits: Fabcab. 

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BioSIPs in the Greenest Home in Canada

When I mentioned a project by students aiming to build the greenest house in Canada (by means of the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum certification), I noted that students planned to use “prefabricated straw bale walls.” It turns out they finished this portion of the project using BioSIPs from NatureBuilt Wall Systems in Ontario, Canada.

These BioSIPS are 16″ thick with an insulation value of about R35. The walls consist of tightly-packed straw that’s covered in 1″ of cement and lime plaster, according to NatureBuilt.

With the high level of insulation and thermal mass of these walls, NatureBuilt indicates that a homeowner can save money on heating and cooling costs, particularly through the specification of a smaller HVAC unit.

In terms of installation, BioSIPs can be unloaded with a boom truck or crane in about one day, and the actual work to attach the walls to the foundation takes maybe a couple days. Endeavour Centre students shared the process of making BioSIPs and installing BioSIPs online, in case you’re interested in reading more detail.

[+] Follow the construction progress of Canada’s Greenest Home.

Credit: The Endeavour Centre.

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Dimmable Smart LED Bulb from Insteon

California-based Insteon just announced the new Insteon LED Bulb 8 Watt, which is the first networked, remotely controlled, dimmable LED light bulb in the world, according to the company. The bulb sells online for $29.99 and is designed to conserve a significant amount of energy over the standard 60-watt incandescent.  Nonetheless, intelligence, not efficiency, is the name of the game with this controllable screw-type light bulb.

For years, home automation has controlled light fixtures with plug-in lamp modules, wire-in switches, and keypads. But, until now, no one has controlled the bulb itself. It’s exciting to be the first to introduce a new product to the world,” said Joe Dada, CEO of Insteon.

The new bulb can be linked and controlled by any Insteon controller, such as a handheld remote, wall keypad, or Android or iOS smartphone or tablet (provided you install the $99 Insteon SmartLinc Controller).

Further, Insteon also has an entire suite of products available for those wanting more than just light bulb automation. Plug-in modules and in-wall switches allow for the wireless control of appliances, etc, without a bunch of custom wiring.

On a related note, keep in mind Google and Lighting Science Group announced a smart LED bulb more than a year ago, but that was supposed to be available by the end of 2011.  TechCrunch asked Google for comment on the status of the bulb in December 2011 and received no comment.  So for now, it seems Insteon will remain alone with the “world’s first networked dimmable light bulb.

[+] More about the Insteon LED Bulb 8 Watt.

Credits: Insteon.

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On Watering Living Walls in the Home

I’ve mentioned some of the various living walls available for home interiors — Fyto Wall, Woolly Pockets, Minigarden, Ballavaz, Urbio, etc — and most of these require a modicum of wall structure and planning for light and water.  Along these lines, The Wall Street Journal recently took on the topic of living walls and how various pockets, trays, and assemblies are being used inside for home decoration.

WSJ notes, in so many words, that the devil is in the details.

The wall garden pictured above was built with Woolly Pockets and filled with soil, ferns, and tropical plants.  It was installed for about $1,000 by designer Jason Lempieri (working with designer Peter Smith), who tends the garden to make sure it’s adequately watered and maintained, according to WSJ.

Getting the right amount of water for indoor plans can be difficult.  Automatic watering systems, if not monitored, could overwater, malfunction, or create an environment for mold growth, whereas manual watering is only as good as the person tending the overall longevity of the plants.

Nonetheless, given the risks, I think a healthy living wall is a great way to change up the design of an interior space.  Research suggests that the right plant species could also help clean indoor air, too.

[+] Don’t Forget to Water Interior Gardens by the WSJ.

Credits: Jason Lempieri. 

Read more: On Watering Living Walls in the Home