When one thinks of prefabricated homes, or prefab homes as they are sometimes called, visions of cheap construction, shoddy materials, bad taste design and other negatives often come to mind. Prefab homes, however, still fill a necessary market segment for inexpensive housing across the country, especially in times of economic downturn.
One could argue that, using cheap materials as some of these types of homes often are made from, prefab homes are not the most environmentally friendly. One particular manufacturer in this category however, Blu Homes, has worked hard to make itself stand out as a builder of more green focused prefab designs. We’ve found a number of their designs, including the Element, Evolution and Origin, to be appealing and green at the same time. To learn more about the ideas behind a Blu Homes prefab build, we turned to co-founder Maura McCarthy with our questions.
EarthTechling (ET): What is the background behind Blu Homes? How did it become a company?
Maura McCarthy: I grew up in a one-bedroom house built for $2,000 using locally-sourced and recycled materials, so green building has always been a part of my life. I was deeply interested in and motivated to contribute to the greening of American homes, while also making home buying a more fun and less stressful ordeal. Coming out of the venture capital world with experience in the prefab homes industry, I teamed up with Bill Haney, who has founded a number of environmentally-focused companies, the first when he was 18. The outcome was Blu Homes, which is working to put the joy back in the home buying process and to create homes people can feel really good about building and living in.
ET: What exactly goes into making a Blu Home green?
McCarthy: Blu Homes’ greenness begins with maximizing the use of open space and high ceilings to make smaller spaces feel bigger. We focus on being strategic about window placement and wise site placement to make the best use of Passive Haus principles, and to maximize natural ventilation and sunlight. In addition, we focus on incredible energy efficiency – our homes use a combination of eco-friendly batt and foam insulation, with all joints sealed tightly. The result is a home that is truly airtight and energy efficient.
Our use of steel makes our homes greener too, as our structural and light steel is 77% recycled and our steel frame has the highest strength to weight ratio, produces far less waste (around 2% vs. 20% for lumber) and is totally recyclable. Plus, because we build in a controlled factory setting we are able to keep our construction standards extraordinarily high, and our homes are far less susceptible to mold compared with homes built out in the elements. So our focus on being environmentally conscious has helped make our homes far healthier to live in, as well.
Everything that goes into the home, inside and out, is painstakingly chosen by our team for its eco-friendliness. Non-toxic primers, FSC certified wood and bamboo flooring, water-saving fixtures, Paperstone counter tops, and many other green features go into our homes to make them clean and beautiful. We like to think of our houses like hybrid cars – energy efficient, quiet, and comfortable. The result of our thoughtful construction and green fixtures and features is that operating a Blu Home typically costs less than half of what it costs to run an average home, with up to 60% fewer carbon emissions than other homes (according to HERS or “blower door” testing). And each day we are working to get greener!