In times of conflict—specifically among issues of rising costs, slow sales, affordability, and the need for green—there’s rarely one solution. But standing two stories high in the back of the central hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (booth C5288) at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) this January, is one all-inclusive answer.
LivingHome, the 11th in a legacy of innovative show homes produced by Builder, provides a single source for the housing industry’s current ills and its future. The contemporary 2,000-square-foot home consists of two pairs of stacked, steel-wood modules that will emerge near-complete from a Southern California factory next month after a 10-week production process (followed by a half week of on-site assembly) that not only produces a high-performance home faster but also with far less waste than traditional site building practices.
Its size, meanwhile, supports green building efforts: an efficient footprint that still stands up to modern lifestyle needs while enabling higher densities in compact development models that lessen environmental impact.
It’s also flexible. In addition to a bonus room on the main level, the floor model at IBS will demonstrate panelized walls that can augment the footprint as family and lifestyle needs change—and perhaps once a buyer places the home on an actual lot after the show is over. “We describe this house in terms of what it delivers,” says Jason Smith, a senior associate with KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based design architect who has collaborated on several modular prototypes including the LivingHome with Santa Monica, Calif., builder LivingHomes. “It’s [financially] accessible housing with high-quality design and a high level of sustainability.”
The often-conflicting set of goals, says Smith, requires a delicate balance and hard-nosed dedication. “We didn’t want to dumb it down or tart it up,” he says, to push any one of those goals ahead of the others. Rather, the goal is to deliver a viable, comprehensive concept to the housing industry. “The ambition of these projects is to create a repeatable system with variances that make them intriguing and interesting.”
The home’s green value, though, doesn’t stop at its design or structural systems. A full slate of sustainable products, materials, and finishes—most of them sponsored or donated by leading industry manufacturers—demonstrates not only the breadth of the market but also its mainstream marketability. Builder editorial director Boyce Thompson says, “Builders who are dead-serious about providing sustainable housing need even more information and options,” which the LivingHome show home promises to deliver. Building industry professionals can tour it during the exhibit hours at IBS ’09 and follow its progress at BuilderOnline.com and in the pages of Builder through the April 2009 issue.
During design and production, LivingHomes evaluated the sustainability (including embodied energy) of the home’s structural components, and architect Amy Sims vetted the finishes to comply with the builder’s commitment to sustainability—including a product’s durability and affordability. “We want to show builders that green can be profitable for them,” she says. “There can be a significant upcharge to build green, but there doesn’t have to be.”
The spec list of products and materials includes engineered lumber within the modules’ structure; engineered decking; certified-wood siding and other wood finishes; a comprehensive moisture management system; high-performance windows, appliances, lighting, and HVAC equipment (including solar); and recycled-content and low-emitting finishes. “Everything has gone through some level of scrutiny to be selected and used,” says Sims. The house also is designed and finished to exceed California’s tough Title 24 standards for energy use.
Though LivingHomes will follow both the NAHB’s green building guidelines and the LEED for Homes rating system checklist, the show home will not gain any green designations until it is moved to an actual building site, where it can be fully and independently evaluated, rated, and certified.
For more information including bios of the project team, photos and video of the home’s production process, and a list of sponsors to date, go to http://builderlivinghome.com.