Special Video Feature: Unifying the Healthy Home Effort

The story of Unity Homes’ inception stems all the way back to 1972, when a company called Bensonwood was created, and founder Tedd Benson set forth with a clear and confident vision—creating a better quality of homebuilding in the United States.

A long path of innovative ideas focused extensively on creating better products and processes, led to the launch of Unity Homes in 2012. Unity’s mindset, driven by technology and sustainability, is simple.

“The concept in general is to use technology in the home and through off-site fabrication to develop a system in which high quality and high performance homebuilding can be normalized and affordable for everyone,” says Benson. This affordability will land around 30 to 40 dollars less per square feet than typical custom homes.

Tedd Benson, Unity Homes.
Tedd Benson, Unity Homes.

Unity’s techniques have allowed them to construct energy efficient homes that boast an extremely tight building envelope.

They also include fantastic indoor air quality with technologies such as Mitsubishi air source heat pumps, Zehnder ERVs (Energy Recovery Ventilators) and photovoltaic (PV) panels on the rooftop.

Recently, a full-scale model of a Unity Home was on display at Greenbuild. That model is now being constructed in Walpole, New Hampshire.

RELATED: Unity Home Shines at Greenbuild

Preparation

The United States aims to be fossil fuel free by the year 2030, and this is an objective that drives Unity Homes towards better business and better building.

“What we’re trying to do is look further down the road than three years,” says Rheannon DeMond, energy and sustainability specialist at Unity Homes and Bensonwood. “We’re trying to look towards 2030 and what the energy codes are going to be.”

Living up to these net zero goals is imperative to Unity Homes and made easier as state and federal energy codes continue to evolve in their favor. Embracing energy efficiency, zero fossil fuels and healthy homebuilding enhance the sustainability of the home and provide strong financial benefits for the homeowner.

“If you’re producing your own energy on-site and can go net zero, you then are really only left with a completely fixed number that you can predict for the rest of the future which, income wise, makes a lot of people feel more comfortable,” says DeMond.

A Unity Home model.
A Unity Home model.

Platform

Unity Homes has a clear platform on which it conducts business.

It begins with the building envelope, ensuring that the home has great air sealing and excellent insulation. Once this is established, the builders and specialists at Unity Homes then look into electrical and mechanical systems to boost the home’s energy efficiency even further.

“Air source heat pumps and good ventilation systems can provide the living environment with non-fossil-fuel-sourced heating and cooling and a high quality living environment including air quality that should be the best,” says Benson.

Unity Homes is constantly keeping its eyes on emerging technologies such as these. DeMond believes this practice allows Unity to offer clients something that not only lowers energy consumption, but also doesn’t require them to alter their lifestyles or habits.

Process

The building process for Unity Homes consists of constructing panels offsite beforehand.
The building process for Unity Homes consists of constructing panels offsite beforehand.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of its platform, Unity Homes executes an extremely unique process when building its homes. Tedd Benson calls it “virtual before actual.”

Unity Homes’ innovative design process embraces technology from the get-go by using powerful software to completely fabricate the home before anything tangible is constructed. These virtual designs are then sent to a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) cutting machine and produced to the exact specifications of how they were designed in the software.

After this technological process is complete, then and only then are pieces shipped to the worksite.

“By doing that, we can actually see the building; we can model the building; we can understand the building. And when we build it, we then know that its performance is going to be as we anticipated,” says Benson. “We know that the elements are going to come together to deliver a complete building that is exactly how we modeled it in the virtual world with that 3D model.”

Paul Boa, head of building systems at Unity Homes and Bensonwood, has embraced this technology-driven process and cites the chaos often found on building sites to be the inspiration.

“We really don’t want to be at the mercy of regular worksite conditions that are out there,” says Boa. “We go as far as to virtually load trucks. We go as far as to virtually raise the building. We use models to organize and synchronize everything on site.”

The Unity Home model at Greenbuild.
The Unity Home model at Greenbuild.

Digital Fabricator Keith Fiorey fulfills the role of a carpenter, but through a computer, and sees similar benefits to the technologies utilized in Unity Homes’ building process. This is especially true when considering and planning out all the tangible tech systems featured in the final product.

“I take what the architects have already designed for the house and then I put it into the house and make sure that it can work with all the other systems,” says Fiorey. “So, all the mechanicals, all the plumbing, all the HVACs, I try to make sure all of that is integrated and works together.”

Purpose

All in all, Unity Homes is a company dedicated to making the concept of the healthy, sustainable, energy efficient home something that is both feasible and affordable.

When it comes to the home, Unity strives to be the change they want to see in the world.

“One of the things that we are trying to do with Unity is demonstrate how it can be the other way,” says Benson. “How we can use technology, like software platforms, like CNC equipment, to the really high quality equipment that we put into the building, to deliver to the American consumer what they deserve.”

Plans

Unity will build models in markets all around the U.S.
Unity will build models in markets all around the U.S.

Over the next few years, Unity Homes plans to unveil homes in markets all across the country. They also are keeping their eyes peeled for the latest technologies.

It’s actively pursued the Tesla home battery and placed its name is on the waiting list. The company also looks to add more monitoring systems to their homes, in order to keep an eye on how the homes perform, efficiency-wise, in different climates.

But most of all, Unity is looking to embrace its namesake and join together suppliers, manufacturers, integrators, builders and homeowners into this virtual style of building that saves money, time and allows for the most sustainable homes hitting the market today.

With everybody involved in the process, each individual subsequently has some form of quality control.

“Of all the things we’re doing, this is the biggest,” says Benson. “And in the long run, it’s the most important.”

About The Author

Greg Vellante is a staff writer and multimedia specialist at TecHome Builder, as well as a content coordinator for AE Ventures events. He has over a decade of experience writing for various publications on topics that range from cinema to editorials to home technology. His favorite technologies fall into the A/V and home entertainment realm, and he’s keeping a close eye on the rising trends in robotics and virtual/augmented reality. Greg resides in Boston, holds a degree in Media Studies from Emerson College and pursues screenwriting/filmmaking in his free time.

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