Tiny Tuesday: Zero Energy Modular

Today’s topic is a confluence of two types of efficiency discussed often in this blog: construction efficiency and energy efficiency. The former involves reducing cost to build and embodied energy, either by choosing a smaller building size or by using techniques like modular construction. The latter involves reducing the building’s environmental impact over its lifetime, through improved insulation and airflow and/or producing power on-site Now Vermont has a program to champion both strategies together. Not surprisingly, the organization involved is smart-building advocate Efficiency Vermont.

The Zero Energy Modular (ZEM) Program targets mobile home owners specifically, encouraging them to replace their current home with a high-performance modular home like those built by Vermod. Efficiency Vermont provides prospective buyers with an energy consultant for one-on-one guidance, as well as financing options that take advantage of the new house’s payback period to make the price competitive with traditional manufactured homes.

Read more here or here.

Saturday, May 5 is Green Up Day. Grab a bag from your town clerk and pick up litter in your Vermont community!

Tiny Tuesday: Meet the GOhome

Lincoln Brown is an architectural illustrator in Burlington, Vermont. His firm produces lifelike renderings of houses and cityscapes, both exteriors (showing architectural elements and landscaping) and interiors (with wall finishes, furniture, and even library books shown to the last detail). Since Brown depicts visions of as-yet-unbuilt structures for his career, it’s not surprising to see his pet project depicting a future reality of his own creation. The GOhome, as illustrated in this SevenDays Nest article, is a concept of moveable microhousing.

Each module measures about 30 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet, and includes windows and built-in furnishings. It’s a single-piece house demonstrating the volumetric method of modular construction. Brown’s innovation lies in how the modules combine to form a reconfigurable condo complex.

The infrastructure required to achieve this vision is insane. Like the Kasita, the GOhome relies on skeletal frames built in a variety of cities, each designed to hold a certain number of modules in a condo configuration. Unlike the Kasita, the GOhome concept also outfits each frame with a gantry crane that can slide units in and out of any slot,then place them (this is where it really gets nutty) on a railway flatcar that rolls through the complex along an integral track. Altogether the effect is austere, a departure from the coziness of Brown’s other work.

This somewhat dystopian video (you might prefer to turn off the music) demonstrates how a module can be installed in a condo frame, removed, and transported by train to an exotic destination – where, of course, an identical condo frame is waiting to accept it.

Tiny Tuesday: Housing, Un Poco

A team of Italian architects created a small inexpensive shelter that assembles in 6-7 hours. Called the M.A.DI. (Modulo Abitativo Dispiegabile, meaning “deployable housing module”), the system is erected with the help of a crane and can be disassembled just as quickly. Compared to a tiny house on wheels, it takes a bit more logistical planning to collapse and move a M.A.DI., but it’s designed in the same spirit. Units may include electrical, plumbing, and drain connectivity.

The basic M.A.DI. is a single module that provides about 27 square meters (270 square feet) of living space on two levels. One may combine any number of modules by erecting them side-by-side. The house requires only level ground on site, no foundation, although the designers do suggest anchoring the house with screw piles if it’s a permanent installation. Stability concerns are addressed through a somewhat cryptic note that the building is “certified as seismically safe”.


Assembling a M.A.DI.

The house is an A-frame in form, so the steep pitched roof doubles as the entire structural system. No interior loadbearing walls are required – not even, it appears, to support the second floor. Thus, the homebuyer can choose any floor plan that fits the interior (M.A.DI. provides a few suggestions for each size) and any material for the end walls, even a full glass curtainwall. A module can optionally include a skylight in the roof for additional natural light.


Sample two-story floor plan for three modules.

According to this article on curbed, pricing begins at 28,000 euro or about US$33,000 for a one-module house with basic finishes. It’s not clear how utility hookups are accomplished or whether the structure comes insulated; these factors would likely add to the cost. Getting permission to actually live in one is an exercise left to the buyer.