Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Maine Modular Home Builder Gets Mixed Reaction to Net Zero

When California’s 2020 Net Zero Regs for new home construction arrives, there is a possibility of what’s happening to Portland, Maine’s BrightBuilt Homes could begin creeping into other states.

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BrightBuilt, a modular home builder is offering their homes in a great looking subdivision called Village Run on the edge of Yarmouth, Maine where they intended to showcase their modular Net Zero homes.

The marketing material for a new “smart-growth” subdivision on the edge of the village business district depicts neighbors walking and biking on sidewalks flanked by New England-style homes with welcoming porches. Rooftop solar-electric panels hint at another feature: These homes are very energy efficient, potentially generating all the electricity they use on an annual basis, a concept called net-zero.

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BrightBuilt’s owners saw it as an idyllic community that could be the best way for a successful future in homebuilding.

Well, things haven’t quite turned out as they expected. So far only 6 of the 26 buyers have chosen to go modular while most of the others have turned to site built homebuilders. The reason for this is quite simple.

The BrightBuilt modular homes are just too expensive when compared to what a site builder can deliver. A BrightBuilt Home can costs $50,000 to $100,000 more than a site built home.

A BrightBuilt home has a double-studded wall crammed with dense-packed cellulose insulation. It boasts an extreme R-40 insulation value. That’s twice the state’s energy code, but it’s more expensive to build. By contrast, well insulated site built homes in Village Run have standard 2-by-6 walls with dense-packed cellulose. Foam-backed sheathing limits heat loss from the studs, creating an R-27 wall. Cheaper to build, and better than Maine’s building code.

The subdivision also has it’s share of ‘just meeting minimum code’ homes with a new site built SPEC home built to minimum codes having an asking price of $750,000.

One final thing buyers of a BrightBuilt need to consider is the resale appraised value of their homes in Village Run. Will the house appraise for more than the original price if surrounded by non-Net Zero homes in the same subdivision?

The folks at BrightBuilt build a great near Net Zero home and best of all, they found going modular the best way to achieve it. What they have also uncovered for the rest of us is the fact that many new home buyers really want to go Net Zero but few can afford to pay for everything needed to exceed current individual state building codes.

Hang in there BrightBuilt as I think the consumer will soon come to understand that what you are offering is what they need to build.


Anonymous said...

I believe Preferred Building Systems in New Hampshire builds their modular homes for that area.

Harris - Finish Werks said...

This is the reality for most developers, still. But we're finding that when the cost delta is put in terms of monthly payment (mortgages are still historically cheap) this payment is often offset by the monthly utility bill savings... plus some.

If the modular home costs the same as the site built home, apples to apples, and going to Zero Energy costs the same too, then it's no longer a matter of the modular costing more, it's a matter of explaining that the monthly investment has an immediate monthly ROI. Invest $100/mo more, and save $200/mo on utility bills... the only thing left to do is pray the Appraisal comes back such that the buyer can afford the delta on the reduced LTV.