It been a long time coming! And it still isn’t here!

Beautiful Design

It is beginning to dawn on me that I may have started building energy efficient housing and historical renovations 35 years too soon, but better late then never.  Somewhere in Valhalla, lucky for me, the Supreme Being ordered up a world I envisioned 40 years ago and said, “Bob, go to it!”  I believed that $5 a gallon of gas would have occurred in the late 70’s and by the end of the Century we would have been paying close to $10 per gallon.  Many people are, just not in this country.

I believed us American’s would have demanded strict energy efficient laws, designs and practices in the construction of buildings and houses back in the early 80’s.  At the very least that cars and trucks would have been required, at a minimum, to get over 30 miles to a gallon of gas.  What happened?  The great despisers of the establishment(Us Boomers), became the establishment and the most dedicated Capitalist’s and consumers the world has seen.  The sons and daughters of the “Greatest Generation,” the group that put their lives on the line for a better world for the future, sold out for luxury, consumerism and short term goals.   We gave up going to the moon for going on vacation.  We could have done both.

I did my first passive solar house in 1977, my first super-insulated house in 1979, my first solar thermal system in 1980. My reputation and building business was predicated on this belief in energy conservation.  Never in my wildest imagination did I believe it would be back-seated for 35 years.  Frankly I have never built, renovated or designed a home or older building without paying strict attention to energy, particularly insulation.  But I was certainly in the minority.

Now the demand for competent, practical and knowledgeable practitioners of Sustainable, Energy Efficient, High Performance , Green building exceeds the supply.  Actual builders and individuals who know how to apply these methods in a cost effective manner are few and far between.  This situation will only worsen over the next couple of years as individuals and business entity’s continue to jump on the Green Bandwagon.  The real caution here is that many will only have enough knowledge to get them into trouble.  In other words their mouth will exceed their ability.  There are going to be many horror story’s and litigation issues over the next few years as the industry continues to evolve.

While their are many dedicated Green Building advocates–there are minuscule amounts of individuals who can take classroom blackboard theory to applied, practical reality.  There are even fewer who recognize that in order for the “Green” movement to become main-stream, which it struggles to do even now, that practical cost vs. value added decisions have to be made.  I mean who is going to put in a building system that has an 80 year payback?  It may be the right thing to do, but the reality is not everyone can afford what is right.

Somewhere along the line, we have to accept a new standard for evaluating buildings. We have to leave behind the thought that Initial Cost is the primary consideration of judging a building or home. We have to begin to look at  “The initial cost plus the occupancy/operational  costs over the course of a buildings life” is the true cost of a building.  Investors in multi-family and commercial buildings have long looked at a building in these terms.  Let’s all join the party.

Modular Building Sense

Modular Home Construction, unfortunately, gets a bad rap.  Any house made in a controlled environment(IE a factory) is referenced all too often as a Modular Home, especially by the salespeople who don’t want to call their HUD code homes by their correct name– Trailers,  Mobile Home or Manufactured Home.  This is not a slur on HUD code, Trailers or Mobile Homes.  My first house was a mobile home, a trailer put on a foundation.  It was a great home.   It was a great place to get my feet wet in home-ownership after leaving the Army.
A Mobile Home or trailer is built to a specific code called a HUD code.  It is not built to local building codes.  It takes special zoning to allow this house to be put on a site.  Just because a mobile home is put on a foundation, doesn’t make it a modular or permanent house.  The one true way to tell if a home is built to a HUD code is it always has chassis under it, so wheels can be attached and it can be moved.  These homes have improved 1000 of % in quality and structural stability over the past 10-15 years.  They are being used in many redevelopment areas and the uninformed person could never tell it was a mobile home.  Some of them are two stories and quite stately.
“Modular Building Goes Mainstream in Storm-Ravaged Areas”

“Factory-built homes engineered for coastal conditions are taking off in towns devastated by Hurricane Sandy.”

By Jennifer Goodman

As the above article highlights, with today’s shortages of qualified tradesman, modular building is solving the problem.

What a majority of consumers don’t understand is a Modular house is built to the local building code.  It is built to the same standard as that stick built-on site-home we are all familiar with.  Instead of assembling all the parts on site, it is built in a controlled environment(no rain, no snow, no freeze).  It is built out of the same components as on-site built housing, both single and multi-family, only better and stronger.   The United States Navy builds its AirCraft Carriers, the big boys, by modular construction practices.  If it is good enough to withstand the storms of the North Atlantic and Pacific, it is strong enough to sit on a building site and last.  Modular constructed homes have been shown in Florida to sustain hurricanes substantially more intact than stick built homes.  The quality? Come on, there are multi-million dollar beach and mountain houses being constructed modularly by people who don’t have to worry about money or budgets.  See “Modular Mansions” by Sherri Koones or “Prefab Green” by Kaufma & Remick.  They have come a long way baby.


Renovation, Adaptive-ReUse and Affordable Housing Building Advisers.