The following is an excerpt from our April 2015 newsletter Force of Nature.
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Malvina Reynolds, "Little Boxes"
Not all prefabricated houses are created equal, especially nowadays. More and more high quality super-energy efficient buildings are being done using prefabricated modules. This isn't your grandmother's track housing.
The prefabrication or modular approach allows builders to purchase materials in bulk, control the environment for a lot of the construction, do computer controlled wood cutting and more. This means that costs come down and buildings times are reduced.
The Evolve Builders in Ontario has developed straw bale prefabricated "eco-portables" for schools and other organizations. Evolve has "has recently signed a contract with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation to provide six mobEE units for the aboriginal group."In Bristol England the company BaleHaus has built super energy efficient homes using strawbales in a prefabricated wall system. The walls by ModCell® "allows super-insulated, high-performance, low energy ‘passive’ buildings to be built using renewable, locally sourced, carbon sequestering materials that include straw bale and hemp to create a less than zero carbon construction system." In fact the UK's first straw bale homes used this system (see "news" above). Chris Magwood (from Endeavour Centre in Ontario) worked with students from the Sustainable Building program at Flemming College to build a Habitat for Humanity Home using pre-fab straw bale. The video below provides an overview of their work.
The prefab approach to green building has many approaches. One way is to create wall systems that can be used in a design. For example BC Passive House have developed a prefab Passive House wall system that "that is superinsulated and airtight while still being diffusion open to the exterior, ensuring the prevention of mold or failures that can occur in airtight homes." The French Architectural firm MultiPod Studio has developed a prototype for a "pop-up" house that meets Passive House Standards. It works by "assembling insulating blocks with wooden panels" with just a drill and is "assembled like Legos." Alternatively, Benswood Homes of New Hampshire now offer four flat-packed prefabed homes that meet the rigorous Passive House standards.
From prefab straw, to Lego-like Passive House construction, module homes have come a long way and will likely play an increasingly large role in green, natural and Passive House construction.