Off-Site Manufacturing Could Play a Larger Part in the Building Renaissance

Danny Small

Danny Small

Danny Small is Manager, Building Science Development for CertainTeed Corporation

Lately I’ve been revisiting the benefits of modular or prefabricated home construction, otherwise known as off-site manufacturing (“OSM”). There are several advantages to this method of construction that could be attractive to consumers looking to build a custom home.

This isn’t your daddy’s mobile home we’re talking about here.  The traditional manufactured (“mobile “) home is built to special Housing and Urban Development (HUD) building codes.  These homes are extremely simple, lower-end homes constructed in one or two pieces on a steel frame.

Today’s modular home can be beautiful, complex, exquisitely detailed and of the highest quality.  It’s built in modules or panels, in a clean, climate-controlled facility to meet (and often exceed) standard building codes for the area where the home will be finished.   The modules or panels are then shipped to the construction site, where they are permanently assembled on a full foundation, and the final details are finished.  Once completed, these homes are indistinguishable from site-built homes.  For some examples, check out Haven Custom Homes’ gallery.

While off-site construction has been around for decades, most of the earlier homes fell into that category of mobile (HUD-code) homes.  However, the move toward more sustainable, energy-efficient, healthy homes creates compelling reasons to look at modular as a truly viable method for all construction.

Some of the advantages of offsite construction are:

  • Construction can begin while foundation work is done, reducing the overall build time by several weeks.
  • Because building is done indoors in a climate-controlled facility, there are no weather delays.  Crews can work year round with no problem.
  • The home is built dry and clean because the wood is not subjected to dampness or dirt.  This could make for a healthier house.
  • Greater accuracy in cutting is possible because precision equipment can be utilized.
  • Lower costs because of consistency with crews and minimal lost time.  An off-site built home can cost up to 15-20 percent less than the same home built on-site. (Source: NAHB)  Savings for commercial construction can be much higher.
  • Very low waste.  Just about all remnants can be re-used for other projects.  This enables contractors to purchase more wisely.
  • Off-site manufacturers can ship up to 500 miles from their factory.
  • The building envelope is fully customizable, enabling increased energy efficiency in the wall and ceiling systems, as well as design features that meet the needs of the occupants.
  • Modular building, especially in commercial, enables easy expansion to buildings when needed.

Although off-site construction currently accounts for only two percent of construction in the U.S., the industry is gaining popularity.  In Europe, especially countries like Sweden, this type of construction is on the rise and accounts for up to 40 percent of new construction. 

If you are considering building a new home, a vacation home or a small office, do a cost comparison for on-site versus off-site construction.  You may be surprised by what you find.

Social Media Mavens at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition

Twitter activity was most definitely a flutter last week at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition in Washington D.C. Using the social media-monitoring tool, UberVU, we extrapolated some interesting insight from the Twitter activity at the show. For example, a report on activity using the #AIA2012 hash tag showed that:

  • There were 5,528 tweets from May 10-21 — just prior and one day after the show.
  • 36 percent of mentions were re-tweets.
  • Nearly half of all tweets occurred on the first day of the show, May 18.
  • New York-based architect Vanesa Alicea posted the most frequently, with 141 tweets.
  • Of all of the Twitter accounts active during the show, Architectural Record magazine has the largest following, with a whopping 323,335 followers.

All in all, we enjoyed following and participating in the Twitter stream to keep a pulse on the show, however, we were most fortunate to have in-person conversations that spanned well beyond 140 characters!

New Product Snapshot from 2012 AIA Expo

For the past several years, Snap magazine has organized a “Say it in a Snap” session at the AIA Expo, offering building product manufacturers a chance to talk about their newest product innovations. Products showcased this year demonstrated a broad array of form and function:

  • Sherwin Williams announced the expansion of their environmentally conscious paint products — Emerald TM zero-VOC interior paint.
  • BluWorld of Water shared a new white paper that dispels some of the microbial concerns around water features in health care settings.
  • Construction Specialties launched two new louver products that offered very distinct design aesthetics.

Architectural Record Makes Photo-sharing Easy

Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, photo-sharing is most definitely in vogue. While all of these networks create a sense of community and connectedness in their own special way, Architectural Record magazine has launched a photo-sharing mobile app designed specifically for architects and designers. At the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exposition, the Architectural Record editorial team touted the new tool, which is available, free-of-charge via iTunes.

Google SketchUp Brings Design Inspirations to Life

Architects are known for having boundless imaginations when conceptualizing their designs. Traditionally, they have put pen to paper to bring their ideas to life. However, a growing trend is to use Google SketchUp — as evidenced by the bustling flow of traffic in their booth at the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exhibition. An inituitive, easy-to-use tool, Google SketchUp is used to create quick 3-D imagery for conceptual stages of design. It also includes a repository of 3-D building objects — the Google 3D Warehouse — that expedites the design process. Building product manufacturers, including CertainTeed, are making brand-specific building objects available through the warehouse to more closely align concepts with real-world applications. Is Google SketchUp the wave of the future? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts.

Design Inspiration at 2012 AIA Expo

Spend only a few minutes at 2012 AIA Expo and you’re sure to be inspired. Revolutionary product innovations such as the Dyson air multiplier or SAGE electrochromic glass are capturing the attention of many at the show. At the AIA/DC exhibit, Claire Conroy of Residential Architect magazine hosted a panel of seven Washington D.C.-based architects and their impressive breadth of recent work.  Philip Esocoff shared his strategy on leveraging height restrictions through pre-cast concrete ornamentation. Travis Price highlighted excerpts from his most recent book, “The Mythic Modern.” And, Mark McInturff spoke of the trials and tribulations of designing a roof top pool that weighs the equivalent of four Prius cars. All in all, it was an awe-inspiring day. Looking forward further exploration tomorrow…

AIA 2012 Off to a Busy Start

Thus far, the AIA 2012 Convention and Design Expo seems to have an exceptionally high level of traffic and energy on the exhibit floor. Is it the convenient Washington D.C. location? Renewed optimism of a rebounding economy? An expansive display of innovative new building products? Most likely, all of the above.

At the Saint-Gobain booth (#3339) there’s a wide array of technical experts on hand to talk about solar, building science, glass technology, and more. If you are unable to join us at the show, feel free to post your unsolvable problem on our trade show page.

Stay tuned for more updates from the show…

Living Building Challenge Alive and Rising in Seattle

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

In the early days of my blogging, I talked about the Living Building Challenge and the early adoption taking place in Portland, Oregon. The Challenge aims to certify green buildings around seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. It is so comprehensive that it is “whole-istic”. Sorry.

An exciting “Living Building” project is currently underway in Seattle that was highlighted in U.S News on MSNBC  on March 20, 2012. This could be a true showcase for the ultimate in sustainable office buildings. There is also a slide presentation in the link that is worth reviewing.

Denis Hayes, who co-founded Earth Day with Gaylord Nelson, now heads the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation.  He is partnering with architect Jason McLennan, who is CEO of the International Living Future Institute on this project.

With everything from harvested rainwater to geothermal wells, solar energy and lots of natural light, this building has no parking lot on the premises but is accessible by bus, bike or on foot. One day this could truly become the standard for new urban construction but in the meantime it can also provide valuable data to fuel the movement on retrofitting existing buildings.

Great project with great potential!

The 12 Months of Homebuilding by CertainTeed

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications for CertainTeed Corporation

In the first month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a piece of land overlooking a scenic ravine.

In the second month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, an awesome set of architect house plan drawings.

In the third month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a Form-A-Drain™ 3-in-1 Foundation footing system for drainage ease.

In the fourth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a high quality, two-story wood framed home built to please.

In the fifth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, CertaWrap™ weather-resistant barrier and Cedar Impressions® Polymer Shake Siding in ivy green.

In the sixth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, thermally efficient Optima® blown-in wall insulation and Air Renew™ drywall to rid me of those VOCs.

In the seventh month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, Ecophon® Focus Ds acoustic ceiling tiles for my media room and a 70-inch big screen TV.

In the eighth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a well-insulated attic filled with InsuSafe® SP.

In the ninth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a roof featuring Landmark Solaris™ solar reflective shingles complemented with Apollo Solar Roofing® to make my own energy;

In the 10th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, an EverNew® LT Deck and a yard surrounded by a Chesterfield Vinyl Fence for privacy.

In the 11th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me;  Restoration Millwork Trim® to finish our dream; an EverNew LT Deck and a yard surrounded by a Chesterfield Vinyl Fencefor privacy; a roof featuring Landmark Solaris solar reflective shingles and complemented with Apollo Solar Roofing to make my own energy; a well-insulated attic filled with InsuSafe SP; Ecophon Focus D acoustic ceiling tiles for my media room and a 70-inch big screen TV; thermally efficient Optima blown-in wall insulation and Air Renew drywall to rid me of those VOC’s; CertaWrap weather-resistant barrier and Cedar Impressions Polymer Shake Siding in ivy green; a high quality, two-story wood framed home built to please; a Form-A-Drain 3-in-1 Foundation footing system for drainage ease; an awesome set of architect house plan drawings; and a piece of land overlooking a scenic ravine.

In the 12th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me:  the keys to a brand new dream home built with CertainTeed….

Happy Holidays from all of your friends at CertainTeed!

Rainscreen Technology Featured at 2011 Solar Decathlon

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The 2011 Solar Decathlon held in Washington, DC in October featured homes designed and constructed by architecture and engineering students from universities worldwide that employ sustainable building solutions and powered by solar energy.

To my surprise, several of the designs, including Team Massachusetts, whom we partnered with, chose to include rainscreen technology in their designs. (Pictured is the fiber cement siding that was cut to accommodate the screen system designed by Team Massachusetts.

Rainscreens are a system which assumes that water will get beyond the outer surface to underlying layers and be managed and evacuated from the building.

It is not a barrier system – it is a water management system and they are great!

However, the market share in terms of the number of applications in the U.S. of rainscreen technology, the last time I checked, was approximately 10 percent. It is not a large part of the market but we are very familiar with versions of the rainscreen in our every day lives.  The brick cavity wall – the space behind the brick that drains the water out is a version of the rainscreen. This is the technique the students utilized with the siding.

Another example is the open rainscreen where panels are suspended off the building with clear passage around the panel.  There are no caulk joints, there’s nothing tight, you can see the underlying layers around the panels.

Rainscreen technology ranges from a drained assembly – to a drain and vented assembly – to a pressure equalized rainscreen which uses compartmentalization to prevent excessive positive or negative pressures from developing due to building orientation and exposure to wind and other elements.

This is an extremely durable system because the outer surface of the building repels the majority of the incident rain, deals with the majority of the solar radiation issues like ultra violet light and weathering.  It protects the underlying waterproofing and working layers of the building and enables them to hold up longer.

Rainscreens are great systems which are easier for a building owner because they are much easier to maintain. Perhaps the increased use of these systems in competitions like the Solar Decathlon will take hold as we continue to adopt new technologies for building assemblies.