For years the term “modular home” was a thinly disguised marketing
euphemism for a double-wide trailer with the wheels pried off.

The modular home has both grown
up and cleaned up.

The whole reason and attraction behind the regular trailer home was
always that it was a significantly more economical way to create a
shelter than standard “stick frame” construction. By constructing
primary components of a home in a factory setting where material waste,
weather conditions, and quality could all be tightly controlled, then
transporting the components to the final building site for assembly, a
structure can be completed faster and more economically.

Problems associated with this building approach were almost always
associated with poor design, substandard materials, poor site assembly
which made the homes susceptible to severe weather, and the limitations
of creating plans based on a standard highway lane width. Often the
lower-end building materials used in trailer homes were also associated
with unhealthful off-gassing of volatile organic compounds as well.

Newer sustainability-oriented modular homes have addressed each of the
shortcomings associated with the industry, while taking full advantage
of the positive aspects of creating homes in a factory
setting.  It’s now possible to get modular built homes
designed by some of the most talented architects in the nation, built
of green materials, and with fit and finish that would rival the finest
luxury automobile.

Look at this recent video segment by the Sundance Channel on modular
homes company Living Homes. Living Homes creates some truly remarkable
structures at a fraction of the cost of a like stick-built home.

Advantages of a modular home over
conventional “stick-built” construction:

  • Speed
    A modular home can be built very quickly in a factory setting since
    workers do not need to contend with weather delays. In addition, the
    all tools and materials are readily at hand, the lighting is always
    good, and site safety can be controlled to some extent. Site assembly
    of the resulting building components can take place in as little as a
    couple of days.
  • Material
    – When a building is being constructed in a
    factory, waste is greatly reduced as material excess can easily be used
    in other buildings.
  • Quality
    – A modular home factory can control the level of
    workmanship that goes into their products more effectively than a
    typical general contractor who may have multiple construction sites
    spread over a wide geographic area.
  • Energy
    – The factory construction process can take
    advantage of energy efficient practices that are not possible on site
    built construction projects.

The downsides of a modular home:

  • Some Design
    – The remarkable architectural talents
    associated with the modular industry have greatly reduced the problem
    of limited design choices, though there are still some building design
    elements that simply do not fit into the modular construction model.
  • Probably Not
    For the Do-It-Yourselfer
    – For the home owner that wants
    to be integrally involved in building their own home, modular
    construction probably would not be the best choice. Most of the heavy
    lifting of construction occurs in a plant. Final assembly is apt to be
    completed by a tight crew of building professionals with a crane. There
    might be some opportunity for a homeowner to be involved in the final
    finish work, depending on the design and the amount of finish work
    required after component assembly.
  • Site
    – While a modular home design can be adapted
    to most building sites, access still may be a problem. Any modular home
    building site will need to be accessible to the large transport trucks
    required to move building components.

Green business opportunities in
modular homes:

  • Real estate developers who are willing to take a chance on green modular home projects
  • Architects who specialize in this growing construction arena
  • Moving companies who specialize in relocating and
    assembling completed home modules
  • Local contractors who represent and sell the services of
    larger modular building companies
  • Modular component factories
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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

2 Responses to Green Modular Homes–Inexpensive and Efficient

  1. Hubert Rauber says:

    HTML code is visible in the text of this article. Very informative article, however, the visible HTML code shows a lack of professionalism by the web designer. That needs to be corrected as it diminishes the credibility factor.

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