residential green building

Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information.

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

BlueSky MOD (based in Toronto, Canada)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Deltec Homes (based in NC)

Eco-Infill (based in CO)

EcoMod Structures (based in WV) *

FabCab

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)
C6 = their low-cost option*

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

Xtreme Green Homes (based in NC, SC, and VA)

ZETA Communities (modular multi-family developments; based in CA)

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *
(some of which are mobile)

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures:

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little Green Buildings (made w/ SIPs; based in WA)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

For a listing of many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see this Tiny House Directory.

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

Small House Society

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

Share

July 30, 2012
4 comments

In addition to writing posts for this blog (The Green Spotlight), I write articles and blog posts for MotherEarthNews.com and other publications, and I do writing and editing work for clients. I almost never mention my other work activities here on my blog, but it occurred to me that some readers might like to know a little about my other writings and my professional background.

I have been a published writer for more than two decades. I was a writer, reporter, and producer for public radio’s Living on Earth program for several years. More recently, I was a contributing author for the book Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing (2nd edition, edited by Global Green USA, published by Island Press). I wrote the chapter on Green Operations and Maintenance, as well as one of the case studies featured in the book.

I’ve written numerous articles and commentaries on green building and other environmental topics. My articles have been published by more than a dozen media outlets (e.g., magazines, newspapers, public radio, and online media), including:

  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Natural Home magazine
  • Environmental Design + Construction magazine
  • Urban Land’s GreenTech magazine
  • Living on Earth radio program
  • GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
  • GreenHomeGuide.com
  • KQED.org, and
  • Environmental News Network (ENN.com)

I’ve also written and/or edited guides, manuals, newsletters, reports, website content, marketing materials, case studies, and other types of publications on behalf of companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. My clients have included: New Leaf Community Markets, the David Brower Center, Global Green USA, Environmental Defense Fund, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Enterprise Community Partners, Simon & Associates Green Building Consultants, the National Building Museum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter, EduTracks, ICLEI, Industrial Economics, Lehrer Design, Compendia, the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Ecobanca, and the Resource Renewal Institute.

Here’s a small selection of some of my writing work in recent years:

  • Case studies on a few of the campus projects and programs that received the 2010 and 2012 University of California/CSU/CCC Best Practices Award: UC Santa Cruz Campus’ Water Efficiency and Water Management Improvements; UC Irvine’s Medical Education Building; and CSU Sacramento’s American River Courtyard residence hall. Written on behalf of the UC Berkeley Green Building Research Center / Lehrer Design, 2011-2012
  • Green Operations & Maintenance Manual for the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, along with a Healthy Home Guide for SMHA residents, December 2011
  • “Chemical cleaners can introduce poisons, health risks into the home,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2007

And the following are a few of my stories that were broadcast on public radio’s Living on Earth:

 

I invite you to visit my PUBLICATIONS page for a more comprehensive list of writings and broadcast pieces that I’ve written, edited, or produced.

For information about the editorial services that I offer, please visit my Writing and Editing page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

-Miriam

Share

May 30, 2012
[Click here to comment]

Green Building & Design is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the posts on green building-related topics that have been published on The Green Spotlight or on its sister site (M. Landman Communications & Consulting):

On green building projects:

On green products and materials:

On other green building topics:

A lot of new green building content will be added to the blog in coming months. These are some of the topics that we’ll cover in upcoming posts:

  • Green product certifications, eco-labels, standards, and lifecycle data
  • LEED ND certified projects: Update of completed neighborhood developments
  • One Planet Communities
  • Green operations & maintenance practices for households (and for building managers)
Share

February 28, 2012
1 comment

Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification program. Building projects that have attained this rating are among the greenest in the world.*

I recently added newly certified Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my online listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide, which I had last updated a year ago. The listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Developments, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail.

As of my latest review of the data (at the beginning of January 2012), it appears that there are now more than 1,045 LEED Platinum rated projects worldwide.

While the vast majority of these LEED projects—about 950 of them—are located in the United States (where LEED was created), Platinum rated projects now exist in 25 countries; a year ago only 16 countries had LEED Platinum rated projects. The nine countries that gained their first LEED Platinum projects over the past year are: France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. The other countries with LEED Platinum projects are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and of course the United States. After the U.S., India is the country with the most Platinum projects, with about 35 projects so far (up from 20 a year ago). Canada and China also have many Platinum projects.

Within the United States, 49 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except North Dakota)—plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—now have building projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating. A year ago, Alabama and West Virginia did not yet have any LEED Platinum projects, but now they do.

In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, here are the top 5 states with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects (at last count):

So California has more than 2.5 times more Platinum projects than any other state—but that’s not too surprising since it’s the most populous state in the country.  On a per capita basis (i.e., as a percentage of population size), Washington D.C. has more LEED Platinum rated projects than any of the states. And when you add in the 50 states, here are the Top 5 with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects per capita:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Mexico

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which got the Platinum rating for its upgrades under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system) and a number of high-end offices, retail spaces, and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings and many modest homes and affordable housing developments. For example, there are dozens of Habitat for Humanity-built LEED Platinum homes around the country, and more than 75 affordable Platinum homes built in New Orleans alone through various initiatives, including Make It Right.

* Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, four projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The latest project to achieve this certification (along with a LEED Platinum certification) is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab in Kamuela, Hawaii.

Share

January 19, 2012
1 comment

The following resource list provides links to organizations and websites that provide valuable information on green affordable housing. Many of these resources are focused on multi-family low-income housing developments, but some also apply to single-family affordable homes.


 

Global Green USA: Greening Affordable Housing Initiative *

Global Green USA, Holy Cross project

A few of Global Green’s projects and resources:

 

Affordable Housing Design Advisor

Architecture for Humanity

Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor (HUD / Energy Star)

Enterprise Green Communities *

Green Affordable Housing Coalition (Build It Green, CA)

Habitat for Humanity: Sustainable Building / Construction Technologies

Home Depot Foundation’s Affordable Housing Built Responsibly grant/awards program

LEED for Homes’ Initiative for Affordable Housing

LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation): Sustainable Communities programs

LISC Green Development Center

National Center for Healthy Housing

New Ecology, Inc.

Partnership for Sustainable Communities *

Tiny House Blog

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities , and
HUD Green Homes and Communities information

U.S. Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities (HUD/EPA/DOT)

*  =  I have worked on writing projects for the organizations that are marked with an asterisk. I also used to work for an architecture firm that specializes in designing green affordable housing projects in the Boston metropolitan area: Davis Square Architects.

 

If you know of other relevant resources, please mention them in the Comments below. Thanks!

Share

July 25, 2011
[Click here to comment]

One of the best ways to learn about green homes is to explore examples of real-world projects—by touring green homes or reading about them online. Completed projects can give you ideas for your own home. And we all benefit from hearing about not only the most successful aspects of model projects, but also about the lessons learned the hard way by homeowners or builders who have already “blazed the trail.”

The following websites feature free collections of case studies (or profile articles with in-depth information) on green homes around the country. Some of these sites showcase home renovations and remodels, as well as new homes.

  • High Performance Buildings Database case studies (U.S. Department of Energy / BuildingGreen): Go to “Search Options,” then select “Building Type,” and choose “Single-Family Residential,” or search by location. Most of the case studies in this database are on commercial and institutional buildings.

In addition to the LEED for Homes, Passive House, and GreenPoint Rated certifications that are mentioned above, homes can also be certified under the rigorous Living Building Challenge program. The first home to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification is the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The International Living Building Institute has posted this comprehensive case study on the Eco-Sense home.


Related Post: A previous post also lists websites that feature case studies on commercial/institutional green buildings.

Share

February 7, 2011
1 comment

UPDATE: The post below has been superceded by a newer post with updated data.
Please click here for the more recent (2012) update and analysis of LEED Platinum projects.

This is the older post:

Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED green building rating system; it’s one level higher than Gold. Building projects that have attained this rigorous level of certification are among the greenest in the world.

I recently added the latest set of Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide. This unique listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail. It is primarily compiled from the data provided in the USGBC/GBCI’s directory of LEED certified projects and the USGBC’s most recently posted list of LEED for Homes certified residences.

There are now hundreds of LEED Platinum certified projects. As of my latest review of the data (at the very beginning of 2011), it appears that projects in 47 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except Alabama, North Dakota, and West Virginia) have achieved the LEED Platinum rating to date, along with projects in Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

California has more than 130 LEED Platinum certified projects (at last count), which is more than twice as many as there are in any other state, and it’s also more than twice as many as California had only a year ago.  In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, California is followed by Oregon (with almost 60 projects), and then Texas, New York, and Massachusetts (each of which has between 30-40 projects). If you take state populations into account, Oregon clearly has the lead (for the greatest number of LEED Platinum certified projects per capita).

Worldwide, Platinum rated projects now exist in 16 countries. Outside of the U.S., there are projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates. Among these, India has the most, with 20 projects so far.

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock) and a number of high-end offices and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings (such as San Jose City Hall) and a surprising number of affordable housing projects. The following are just a few examples of the many affordable housing projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating: 51 single-family, detached homes built by Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis, MO; the General Colin L. Powell Apartments in the South Bronx, NY; Wisdom Way Solar Village homes in Greenfield, MA; Autumn Terrace mixed-use housing development in San Marcos, CA; Vista Dunes in La Quinta, CA; and a variety of affordable homes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Note: Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, three projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia.

UPDATE: Please click here for The Green Spotlight’s more recent update and analysis (from January 2012).

Share

January 10, 2011
1 comment

If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).

One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.

One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques.  CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.

Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.

Share

June 3, 2010
[Click here to comment]

I’d like to let everyone know about these important new books, which were written by a few of my esteemed colleagues. Please click on the links below for more information about each tome:

Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society, by Andres Edwards (New Society Publishers) — This book will be available in May (2010), but it can be pre-ordered now. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book: “Thriving Beyond Sustainability draws a collective map of individuals, organizations, and communities from around the world that are committed to building an alternative future—one that strives to restore ecological health; reinvent outmoded institutions; and rejuvenate our environmental, social, and economic systems. The projects and initiatives profiled are meeting the challenges of the day with optimism, hope, and results, leading the way in relocalization, green commerce, ecological design, environmental conservation, and social transformation.” Click here to read reviews of the book, the book’s Foreword (by Bill McKibben), Table of Contents, or an annotated bibliography.

Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building, by Marian Keeler and Bill Burke (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)— This book serves as an in-depth textbook for design students and a comprehensive reference for practitioners. It presents the history, issues, principles, technologies, process, and practice of sustainable building design, as well as case studies of model projects. In addition, it promotes active learning by providing design problems, research exercises, study questions, and discussion topics.

Share

February 25, 2010
[Click here to comment]