Modular builders are known for constructing homes with a tight building envelope in an efficient timeframe, but we look into how modular stands up to traditional homes when it comes to building healthy.
TecHome Builder spoke with modular builder, Karoleena, to get its “hot takes” on this issue. Kurt Goodjohn of Karoleena says modular building is done entirely in factory, which impacts job efficiency and can significantly improve the healthiness of the home.
“With modular, everything is done in a controlled environment. None of the inside of the home ever touches the outside elements, which has a huge impact on the healthy living in that home,” says Goodjohn.
Building off-site has pushed the modular builder into two major areas of success that other builders can learn from: a significantly reduced construction schedule and the ability to market healthier homes.
Modularly Building Your Way to a Healthier Home
It’s important to first go over the inconsistencies in traditional homebuilding. “The majority of homes are built on-site, out in the rain or snow. And if you are building a home in the elements, the rain is just going to soak through the wood,” says Goodjohn.
That water that enters the home’s frame during construction can lead to mold and health issues in the future. Mold and water damage can significantly effect a home’s indoor air quality (IAQ), according to GreenGuard’s 2016 health report. Even low levels of mold and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause headaches, allergic reactions and asthma.
By building in an environmentally-controlled factory, modular builders are able to ensure that the home’s envelope is tight and water damage is avoided. But building in-factory is just one factor that impacts the home’s overall healthiness.
The use of tech also makes a significant difference, and for traditional builders, efficient tech can help you bridge the gap between regular homebuilding and modular in terms of efficiency.
For example, when a home’s envelope is extremely tight, the use of efficient HVAC tech becomes a necessity. Without it, the home’s air would become stale and full of VOCs. Modular builders rely on efficient and powerful mechanical ventilation systems to maintain the home’s IAQ.
Karoleena, in particular, uses HRVs and high-velocity air handlers to keep the air fresh. “The typical homebuilder is relying on a forced-air system with baseboard heating, which results in low air quality and a dry, stale environment,” says Goodjohn. With the high-velocity system, there is no exposed flame, which improves IAQ and reduces VOCs in the air.
A traditional homebuilder can mimic a modular builder’s use of tech by including efficient HVAC equipment as standard. Including healthy home accessories such as a HEPA filter or Radon detector can help you market an efficient, healthy HVAC system.
And when selling healthier homes, adding efficiencies can help builders strengthen their bottom line and appeal to energy-conscious homebuyers.
Lessons for Traditional Builders
Karoleena advises builders looking to build healthy homes to take a different look at the industry.
“I think that the biggest challenge in residential construction is that everyone is trying to drive down to the bottom price. But if you really want to create healthy homes from an energy perspective, it costs more money,” says Goodjohn.
Basically, Goodjohn is telling you that building healthy is bound to lead to higher-than-average constructions costs. But he also asks you to keep in mind that people interested in these types of homes are willing to pay extra.
“I think that the consumer is going to drive the need for homebuilders to think about the healthy home,” says Goodjohn.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of our Healthy Home Builder Series, coming out June 9th, which will focus on how architects can help builders build a healthier home.
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