Smart Green Home

Jun 11, 2010

The Green Science Behind Modular Homes

Home builders are taking a page from the automotive industry and starting to build homes in factories rather than on the job site. Pre-built components make construction more efficient and affordable and homes built in factories save time, money and materials.

What is a modular home?

A modular home is comprised of complex “modules,” built off-site in a climate controlled environment. These highly engineered components are built in a factory and transported to the building site where they are set onto a permanent foundation. Like traditional homes, modular homes must pass the same code requirements. Modular homes can be fully customized to meet the homeowner’s preferences and needs.

Why choose prefab over site built?

Typical onsite construction jobs do not have provisions for materials storage and most materials have to be cut to length in the field, so “cut offs” are often trashed. Modular, factory construction saves time and materials. Wood is delivered pre-cut for many components and computerized saws do the rest. Cut offs from framing are used for blocking or to heat the factory or employees’ homes. Drywall, wiring, sawdust, vinyl and other scraps are also collected and recycled.

Modular Homes Save Time and Energy

A home can be completed in several weeks in the factory, and finished on site in three-to-eight weeks. A site-built home of similar size could take four months or longer. Modular homes are constructed from the inside out. That means electricians and plumbers have easy access into the walls during construction. Homes built in the factory are not subject to Mother Nature’s whims. Production continues despite snow, rain, sleet and heat.

Smart Green Home Resources

About the Smart Home Architect Michelle Kaufmann

Inspired by her own search for a green home, nationally recognized architect Michelle Kaufmann began designing environmentally responsible high quality modular homes.

The home built for the Smart Home Green + Wired Exhibit is an MKD design called mkSolaire, a three-story loft style home, suitable for an urban environment. The Museum’s home is the first mkSolaire to be constructed.

All American Homes®

Smart Home: Green + Wired is a modular home built indoors by All American Homes of Decatur, Indiana. In this precision engineered and climate-controlled environment, All American is able to build homes 60 percent faster and in a more environmentally friendly way than traditional site-built construction.

Waste is reduced because much of the lumber arrives precut, reducing the need to dispose of “cut offs” in the field. Drywall scrap is trucked to local farmers to use in preparing soil for planting keeping it out of landfills. Sawdust is made available for use as livestock bedding. These and other efficiencies in time and materials can yield significant cost savings making homes more affordable.

Clopay Avante Collection Glass Garage Doors

 Clopay Contemporary Garage Door

Smart Green Home

Other Smart Green Homes We Love – The Dwell NextHouse

A Clopay® Avante Collection garage door completes the look of this Dwell Magazine NextHouse built in Hillsborough, North Carolina, near Chapel Hill. In 2004, San Francisco-based Dwell magazine teamed up with residential builder Empyrean International LLC to create an exclusive line of affordable, modern prefabricated homes. The NextHouse features 4,800 square feet of living space on a thirteen-acre lot.

Though prefab, Empyrean's mass production is actually mass customization. Each home is composed of standard parts, and then tweaked to satisfy clients’ tastes. Prices range from $500,000 to $700,000, depending on options and location. To see photos of the finished home, go to

Other Smart Green Homes We Love - The Builder Concept Home 2010

The premise of the 2010 Builder Concept Home is liveable, sustainable and adaptable. Designed by architect Marianne Cusato (the Katrina cottages) and building scientist Mark LaLiberté, the home exemplifies a dramatic shift in how homes are designed, built, maintained and lived in. The 1,700-square-foot home with 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms adapts to homeowners’ personal budgets and changing lifestyle needs.

“Our goal is to respect and reflect what’s going on in the housing industry right now and present what we believe is the model for the future,” says BUILDER’s editorial director Boyce Thompson. 

The house is open exclusively as an online virtual tour using photo-realistic renderings and state-of-the-art movie software that enables a customizable experience for each visitor.

Clopay is showcasing three distinct garage door options on the tour: A Reserve® Collection natural wood carriage house style door, a Coachman® Collection steel and composite carriage house style door, and a steel grooved panel vintage style Gallery® Collection door with Clopay’s Ultra-Grain™ stained woodgrain paint finish. 

Each design complements the home’s traditional four-square architectural style but varies in price and construction material based on the homeowners’ preference and price point.

Builder Concept Home Garage Doors Close-Up

Clopay is showcasing three distinct garage door options on the BUILDER Concept Home 2010.

Option 1: The Beauty of Natural Wood Carriage House Doors

The beauty, warmth and distinction of a Clopay Reserve Collection wood carriage house garage door makes it an instant focal point on any home. Reserve Collection doors are built with exacting detail and craftsmanship by skilled artisans in the Pacific Northwest, utilizing our proven construction method for exceptional beauty, durability and energy efficiency. 

Homeowners can choose to create just about any door they can imagine, using the wood of their choice, or select from our semi-custom portfolio, which  features a choice of six historically accurate carriage house designs in three wood species (hemlock, cedar or redwood) and three window designs (arched, square or rectangular). The doors can be factory painted or stained. A center groove and optional decorative antique iron hardware give the appearance of a swing-out door. Standard and non-standard sizes are available.

Option 2: The Ease and Durability of Insulated Steel Carriage House Doors

The Coachman Collection mixes old world charm with modern technology to provide a low-maintenance alternative to wood carriage house style garage doors. 

The doors replicate traditional, swing out carriage house door styles but open overhead like other modern garage doors. Three series with optional windows and decorative hardware are available to complement many architectural styles including mission, Shaker, traditional, French Country and Victorian.


Steel carriage house doors are a popular alternative to traditional wood doors because they are durable, insulated and won’t rot, warp or crack, meaning they won’t need to be refurbished or replaced as frequently as doors constructed from natural material. 

They provide a great solution for homeowners looking for products to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of their home – two important criteria in green building design – as well as its curb appeal.

Constructed using a four-layer “sandwich” steel method (steel + insulation + steel + composite overlay) the Coachman features optional 1- 3/8” or 2” thick insulation with a thermal break and R-values ranging from 6.5 to 9. 

The heavy duty steel exterior creates a resilient, dent-resistant surface -- a key benefit to homeowners with children. A 5/8-inch coped composite overlay creates the classic carriage house design.

Coachman Collection doors are also available with built-in WindCode® reinforcement for homes located in coastal and high wind areas.

Option 3: Vintage Style Steel with Updated Appeal

It’s a problem garage door manufacturers have grappled with for years: how to combine the beauty of a stained, natural wood door with the benefits of a durable and affordable steel door

Clopay’s Ultra-Grain™ paint finish provides builders and homeowners an affordable, natural-looking “stained steel” garage door solution in cases where an actual wood garage door isn’t the best option. The printed grain runs in two directions, both horizontally and vertically, following the stiles and rails. This detailing, along with the stucco surface texture on the door, provides a more authentic looking wood appearance.

The Ultra-Grain multilayered paint system requires no special maintenance to preserve the finish, beyond standard garage door manufacturer recommendations to wash and rinse the surface periodically. 

The Gallery Collection’s signature look consists of both long and short grooved panels constructed from heavy gauge steel embossed with a woodgrain texture. 

Multiple design combinations are available featuring square, rectangular and arched windows, with or without decorative grilles, and the popular wrought iron designs.  Decorative black spade handles, a step plate and outside, keyed lock enhance the vintage appearance. 

Additional Resources

About Marianne Cusato
Marianne Cusato is well known for her design work on the Katrina Cottages, now sold in kit form at Lowe’s home centers nationwide. In 2006, her 308 s.f. Katrina Cottage won the Smithsonian Institute’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s “People’s Design Award.” In June 2006, Congress appropriated $400 million for an alternative emergency housing program, based on the idea of the Katrina Cottage. Cusato is the author of two books: Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid, with Ben Pentreath, Richard Sammons and Leon Krier, foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales (January 2008, Sterling Publishing) and The Value of Design (February 2008, James Hardie).

About Mark LaLiberte 
One of the nation’s foremost building scientists, Mark LaLiberté has devoted two decades to educating the homebuilding industry about the benefits of constructing durable, energy-efficient and healthier homes. He cocreated the program curriculum for the Energy and Environmental Building Association (EEBA) Houses That Work™ program which is based on the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America Program, served in an advisory capacity on the EPA's ENERGY STAR® Program and the Minnesota Energy Code Advancement Project. In 2002, LaLiberté received a lifetime achievement award from the EEBA for his long-standing commitment to helping the home construction industry embrace building science. LaLiberté has also served as spokesperson for the Ad Council's Energy Hog Campaign, TLC's “Home Pro” and “Home Savvy” series and the PBS “Hometime” series. He is the principal of Building Knowledge, Inc., based in Minneapolis and Denver.


Read more about smart technology and garage doors:

Affordable Smart Home Controls

Smart Green Home 

Take A Tour Of The Cool Energy House

Manually Opening Your Garage Door

How To Clean Garage Door Windows 



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