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Saturday, February 18, 2012
Forbes Riley is helping Brad Pitt with Affordable Housing!
Since actor Brad Pitt founded the non-profit Make It Right in 2007 to build low-cost, sustainable homes for New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina victims, green building has exploded nationwide. On Friday, two builders are announcing plans to offer affordable homes designed to produce as much energy as they use -- one of which is a stylish modern prefab to benefit Pitt's charity.
California-based LivingHomes, a developer of high-end, ultra-green, factory-built homes, is debuting its lowest-cost model ever -- the C6 -- that will be available in most states. The 1,232 square-foot. $179,000 prefab, which is about half the size of the average new U.S. home, has three bedrooms and two baths as well as a courtyard that blends indoor and outdoor living. Part of the proceeds from each home's sale will be donated to Make It Right.
"This is by far the most energy-efficient home we've built," says LivingHomes' CEO Steve Glenn, noting it's designed to earn the top or platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. He says it's also the easiest and fastest one to build, since it's fully constructed by Cavco -- a manufactured housing company with factories nationwide -- in less than two months and installed on-site in one day.
Also late this week, Scottsdale-based Shea Homes, the developer of Trilogy resort communities and a builder in eight states, is announcing the launch of its "no-electric bill" home aimed at the age 55-plus, Baby Boomer set. The "SheaXero" will combine energy efficiency with solar panels to produce all the power the house is expected to need.
FOLLOW: Green House on Twitt
Other production builders have also debuted affordable, zero-energy homes as green building appears to be gaining market share in a still sluggish housing industry. Green homes, which comprised 17% of new residential construction last year, are expected to increase to 29% to 38% of the market by 2016, according to a report last week by McGraw-Hill Construction, a part of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
By value, the McGraw Hill report said this growth equates to a five-fold increase -- $17 billion in 2011 to $87-$114 billion in 2016. It attributes the hike to consumers' interest in "higher quality" and lower utility bills as well as the decreasing costs of building green -- down from an extra 11% in 2006 to 7% today.
At LivingHomes, Steve Glenn says the new C6 is "less than half the costs of our lowest cost home." He says his company has learned from its own experience and from its partnerships with both Cavco and Make It Right on how to get the most bang for the buck.
The model's average price of $179,000 does not include the solar panels needed to make the homes zero-energy nor does it include the costs of transportation, assembly, permitting and site preparation. Those items could add another $50,000. Land is also not included.
Glenn says the homes are not only energy-efficient but also sustainable because they use Cradle-to-Cradle inspired products such as cork flooring and natural wood millwork.
"Many of the products are available at The Home Depot," Glenn said, citing their affordability and accessibility should replacements be needed.
The C6 was inspired by the modern homes built by developer Joe Eichler throughout California in the 1950s and 1960s that were organized around a courtyard accessed through multiple sliding glass doors. It has floor-to-ceiling glass, clerestory windows, light tubes and transom windows, as well as a lighting control system accessible from an iPhone.
Glenn says there are much cheaper prefab homes available, but they're not nearly as stylish.
"We're targeting people who really value design and sustainability," Glenn says, adding his customers are likely to shop at Whole Foods, drive a Toyota Prius and practice yoga.
Two C6 show homes, sponsored by The Home Depot, are now on display in California. One appears Feb. 18 to Feb. 25 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, which is the site of the upcoming TED 2012 Conference, and the other as part of Modernism Week in Palm Springs from Feb. 17 to Feb. 26.