LivingHomes prefab modular homes are built to minimize the ecological footprint of the home and make it as healthy as possibly, according to CEO Steve Glenn (photo courtesy LivingHomes).
Modular and prefab homes have a rap for being cookie-cutter homes: long narrow ranches or stacked two-story homes with little about them to mark as unique.
LivingHomes has changed that, constructing prefab LEED-certified homes designed by nationally recognized architects. The homes range from $136,000 ranch-style homes to multi-million dollar custom homes, MDUs and mixed-use buildings. The company has built smart homes, energy-efficient homes, homes built with natural products that produce few and absorb VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and affordable homes.
“We try to minimize the ecological footprint and try to make our homes as healthy as possible,” says Steve Glenn, CEO of LivingHomes.
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Most of LivingHomes houses are LEED certified, and the choice of selecting products is up to the buyer. “We built the first LEED platinum home in the nation, and we have designed more LEED Platinum level homes than most any design firm in the country. To get to that level you need to have a comprehensive environmental program, sustainable and the environmental impact of the home,” Glenn says.
Multiple Choice is Never the Wrong Answer
Choice is a major part of buying a LivingHome. Potential buyers can pick and choose options and products they want on LivingHomes’ website.
“We have set prices but things such the local environment adds to the cost, for example if you live in a region where you need a roof that can handle a snow load,” Glenn says. Prices also don’t include transportation, installation or site work.
The LivingHomes website has a cost-estimate page that allows the customer to plug in costs of site surveys, permitting and construction management. Even in a simple 950-square-foot home, buyers can configure the home to their liking:
- roof (upgrade to a snow-bearing roof)
- siding (cedar or fiber cement)
- SmartSun Low-E windows or hurricane windows by Andersen or an upgrade to Western Windows (which also add LEED points)
- natural and chemical-free flooring
- drywall that absorbs VOCs
- cabinets and hardware
- SkyLink wireless security system that lets you program up to nine phone numbers to call when the alarm is tripped.
Standard products include:
- Broan Smartsense fans with moisture sensors for spot ventilation
- Velux Sun Tunnel that funnels sunlight into the closet space, saving on lightning during daylight hours
- Kohler low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets
- GE Energy Star frontload washer and super-capacity gas dryer
- GE Energy Star side-by-side refrigerator, dishwasher and range with low-maintenance GE CleanSheet finishes
- Rinnai tankless water heater
- Nest thermostat
- Current Cost EnviR energy monitor that lets the homeowner see energy usage in real-time and helps find ways to reduce energy usage. It also connects to the Internet so you can see how much energy the home uses while you’re away.
- The home is also graywater and solar ready. The plumbing is prepared to connect to a graywater system on installation or in the future for irrigation, while the electrical system is prepared for PV panels.
The buyer is responsible for purchasing the land, but LivingHomes makes recommendations about the type of land based on its proximity to environmentally sensitive areas and to roads needed for delivery of the home.
Each selection comes with a short description of the product, LEED points given for each product, and links to manufacturer websites.
Architects Ray Kappe and Kieran Timberlake have designed lines of homes for LivingHomes. The company is doing architectural design in-house as well and offers consultations for home renovations and LEED certifications, Glenn says.
Greenbuild and Make It Right
LivingHomes has had a working relationship with Make It Right, a national organization founded by actor Brad Pitt after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, for several years. LivingHomes has worked with Make It Right on its low-cost line, leveraging the organization’s lessons learned and making donations when it sells homes, Glenn says.
Glenn was approached by Hanley Wood, which runs Greenbuild for the USGBC, to construct a show home at the 2014 Greenbuild in New Orleans and decided to work again with Make It Right, selling the LEED platinum show home to a Make It Right family and delivering it to the Lower Ninth the day after Greenbuild concluded.
The home will sell for roughly $165,000 to a Lower Ninth Ward resident, according to Make It Right. Neither Glenn nor Make It Right could provide a figure for the cost to build the house, explaining that the price is difficult to calculate, because many of the construction materials and features were donated by project partners.
Tourists and locals alike stopped and watched as the modules made their way through New Orleans streets that Friday morning on their way to the new homeowners.