October 2006

Volume 15, Number 10

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Modular Home Earns LEED for Homes Platinum

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LivingHomes’ LEED Platinum prototype modular home in Santa Monica, California, features wood siding certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Photo: LivingHomes, Inc.

A new home has appeared in Santa Monica, California: a prototype of the first line of modular houses from LivingHomes®, Inc., designed by Ray Kappe, FAIA. In August 2006, the home received the first Platinum rating in the U.S Green Building Council’s pilot LEED® for Homes.

The 2,500 ft2 (230 m2) prototype, assembled from 11 steel-framed modules, features a 2.4 kW photovoltaic system, solar water heating, and a graywater irrigation system. Natural ventilation provides cooling, while large walls of low-emissivity windows offer daylighting and views while minimizing solar gain. The house makes use of radiant floor heating, perhaps an odd choice for an energy-efficient home, especially in a mild climate (see EBN Vol. 11, No. 1). Adjustable walls and modular millwork allow occupants to renovate the space to meet their needs, according to LivingHomes, and the steel structure is designed to facilitate additional modules.

Although LivingHomes is currently offering only semi-custom homes, the company plans to unveil standard plans in the fall of 2006 and is also working on a second line of homes, designed by David Hertz, AIA. Founder and CEO Steve Glenn told EBN that the company has no plans to manufacture the homes but has relationships with modular home manufacturers in southern California and is exploring expansion to other parts of the country. As manufacturing expands, Glenn hopes the cost of homes will come down from the current average of $250/ft2 ($830/m2), not including the costs of sitework or transportation.

Asked how the company’s designs for its breezy, open homes would adjust to colder climates, Glenn replied, “Less glass.” Elaborating, Glenn told EBN that the homes could be manufactured to meet the needs of specific climates, with added insulation around the steel frame to minimize thermal bridging, for example.

Regardless of location, each house produced by the company is designed to achieve at least a LEED for Homes Silver rating, with higher ratings dependent on customer choices. “We believe in the logic of the LEED system,” Glenn said of the rating system’s flexibility, which allows homeowners to choose which points they will pursue. In the LEED system, homes over 2,400 ft2 (730 m2), for example, lose points as they increase in size but can gain points by having onsite renewable energy or other optional systems. The prototype, which earned 91 out of a possible 109 points, performed well in the areas of location, sitework, water conservation, and energy efficiency. Many of the systems that support these points, such as the photovoltaic array, will be optional in the coming line of homes. Glenn says that the company encourages homeowners to pursue the highest LEED rating but does not require them to do so.

In one area, LivingHomes goes beyond the bounds of LEED for Homes: the company plans to purchase carbon offsets for the manufacture, installation, and first year of life for each home it sells. According to Glenn, details for the program are still being ironed out. It remains to be seen how close the company can get to Glenn’s stated goal of “zero energy, zero water, zero waste, zero carbon, zero emissions.”

– Allyson Wendt

For more information:

LivingHomes, Inc.

Santa Monica, California

www.livinghomes.us

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September 28, 2006