Ultra-Efficient Prefab Homes Offer a Solution to Inventory Shortage
Turnkey, modular net-zero homes offer millennials the housing lifeline they’ve been seeking.
Millennials, who are approximately half of all home buyers today, view homeownership as a path to financial security and independence. For them, buying a home is meant to be an investment in an appreciable asset that contributes to generational wealth and stability.
Transcend, a new line of prefabricated modular homes and communities designed by California-based prefab home builder Dvele and Green Builder Media, has been developed to meet the demand for homes with long-term value, rather than the lowest price per square foot.
Buyers, builders, and developers can order the modular homes online. A demonstration Transcend house will be built in Lake City, Colorado, near Telluride.
“Transcend is a net zero, all-electric house designed to be resilient, intelligent and healthy,” says Sara Gutterman, CEO of Green Builder Media. “Every feature is there to prevent these homes from becoming tomorrow’s slums, which is what happens when you build without quality. Homes that aren’t built with high standards will either be repaired, remodeled, or torn down by the next owner.”
Instead of thinking about homes in terms of their initial cost and their resale value, home buyers may want to evaluate properties based on the cost of operating the home, the impact of the home on their health and wellbeing, and how it affects their community and the environment.
Millennials and Housing Preferences
Green Builder Media has studied millennial housing preferences for years, developing a unique and comprehensive understanding of the generation’s wants and needs. Transcend has been carefully developed to address millennial priorities, including:
- Low total cost of ownership rather than the lowest upfront cost.
- Compact floor plans.
- Healthy home with good indoor air quality.
- Resiliency and self-sufficiency, including onsite power and food production.
- Smart house features such as streamlined connectivity, whole-home automation, and self-learning functionality.
- Solar power and storage to reduce carbon footprint, decrease energy bills and increase self-sufficiency.
- Sanctuary spaces for emotional well being.
- Security and surveillance features such as video doorbells, remote-control locks and garage doors connected with whole-house intercom systems.
- Low maintenance needs.
- Water conservation features.
Low cost of ownership and energy efficiency are enhanced in Transcend by building science and the quality control provided by precision engineering in Dvele’s factory environment. Each modular home has a tight envelope that optimizes energy performance for comfort and manages air and moisture infiltration.
The use of heat pumps for air conditioning, heat and water heating–along with induction cooking, solar power with storage, high performance lighting and other systems–creates a self-powered house designed for long-term value.
Operating and Construction Costs
One of the biggest regrets that many millennial homebuyers express is that they didn’t fully understand the costs of homeownership, particularly utility bills, repairs and maintenance, when they buy a resale property.
“Buying a newly built net zero house with solar power and solar storage may cost more upfront than buying an older resale home,” says Gutterman. “But when it comes to long-term operating costs, a homeowner with zero energy bills and a reduced water bill will find it easier to handle their mortgage payment and other expenses.”
A newly built home, particularly if it is constructed in a carefully monitored factory setting, is less likely to require repairs than an older home, too.
“While some modular homes cost more upfront than new stick-built homes, in some markets Dvele’s prefab houses have reached price parity with other newly built homes,” says Gutterman. “Buyers of prefab homes also have greater price security because scheduling and construction delays due to weather and labor shortages are greatly reduced.”
New construction costs have been rising in recent years due to labor and materials shortages that lead to higher wages and costs for materials. A prefab home can mitigate some of those issues.
“Prefabricated homes address the labor shortage since the modules are built in a factory with a high degree of automation,” says Gutterman. “The number of workers needed on site is reduced, too, which streamlines the onsite construction process for builders and developers.”
Homes built in a factory waste less material because of the precision building techniques and the lack of exposure to weather issues. That too, can contribute to a lower overall price compared to other newly built homes. Prefab costs are anticipated to come down as automation increases and factories scale up to meet increasing demand.
Resilient, High-Performance Homes
Prefab homes can be more resistant to weather issues even after they leave the factory, too. Increased incidents of intense storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures generate concern about the resilience of homes in the face of climate change. Numerous building techniques and materials raise the survivability chances of the home and provide additional safety for residents.
Prefab homes provide a level of precision engineering that isn’t possible with onsite building. In addition, Transcend homes are built with light gauge steel and cladding and sheathing materials that will help them withstand extreme weather events including high winds, wildfires, floods, extreme temperatures, and intense storms.
“Every product and part that goes into the Transcend modules is designed to contribute to the overall performance of the house,” says Gutterman.
Investing in homes that are well-designed and built to be resilient from the beginning provides greater long-term value than homes built for speed and low upfront costs.
Flexibility of Modular Construction
Of course, as most homeowners recognize, the house that meets their needs at one stage of life may not work at another. One of the benefits of prefab modular construction is that it offers a variety of flexible floor plans now and can be adapted in the future.
“There are about many different floor plans that are possible based on the Transcend demonstration house,” says Gutterman. “Buyers can go online and choose what works for their lifestyle.”
A myth about prefabricated and modular homes is that buyers are limited to a specific floor plan. In reality, each home can be configured for individual buyers to meet their location and lifestyle needs.
“Transcend buyers will be able to add modules later if their family grows,” says Gutterman. “This also works well if they’re budget constrained in the beginning but want to increase their living space in the future.”
Desirability of All-Electric Prefab Homes
While trends adjust over time, a recent Green Builder survey of homebuyers found that 59% would buy an all-electric home, primarily because of the environmental benefit of ending reliance on fossil fuels. Buyers in the survey said they would invest in a heat pump and solar power to convert their home to run entirely on electricity if the home they buy isn’t already an all-electric property.
Prefab homes are less common than all-electric homes, with just 6% of those surveyed living in one. However, 28% want to live in a prefab home if possible. Among the benefits of prefab homes that those surveyed mentioned are that they can be built faster, can combat rising construction and utility costs, offer quality control and are higher performance homes. Other benefits cited include health benefits and addressing labor and material shortages.
Investing in a home for long-term appreciation depends on buying a property that will provide a healthy, intelligent, energy-efficient home now, and will stand the test of time for ongoing resilience and high performance.