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Unity Homes are one of the best companies out there making eco-friendly prefabricated homes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and specifications. This company is run by folks who know their stuff and really seem to care that you get the home you want at an affordable price.
What makes them green?
Combining tradition and technology, Unity Homes create precision engineered homes that are air-tight, well-insulated, quiet, and free from toxic chemicals. They strive to use green materials where available, and they avoid using paints, finishes, and other materials that contain known toxic ingredients, such as volatile oil compounds (VOCs).
Thanks to advanced CNC (computer numerical control) machinery, Unity Homes use the minimum amount of wood necessary to make, as they say, “the maximum amount of house”. Up to 60% of the homes they create are made in their factory, meaning they can maintain tight quality controls regardless of site conditions.
Unity Homes designs are all based on wood, and they use cellulose made from recycled newspaper stock as an eco-friendly insulating material in both the roof and the walls of their homes. They are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for using wood from responsibly managed forests and materials from post-consumer recycled sources.
Typically, they use R-33 insulation in walls and R-38 in ceilings, along with triple-glazed windows and insulated doors. This insulation is, as noted, eco-friendly cellulose rather than the typical foam insulation used in most home builds. This level of insulation not only controls drafts, it also helps provide soundproofing between rooms, so your house is peaceful and quiet.
Unity Homes are rightly particular about the air-tightness of their homes. They know that the seal of a home has a significant effect on energy efficiency and indoor air quality by helping control moisture. Walls are engineered to allow drying from the inside and out, which eliminates the potential for water damage in the walls themselves. The company uses the OB+ Wall®, an R-35 wall panel that is designed to minimize thermal bridging, is gasketed at all joints to ensure a tight thermal envelope and uses low- or no-VOC materials to guarantee indoor air quality.
To achieve a good seal, they carefully tape seams and use gaskets to prevent air leaking into and out of the home. Energy Star rated homes typically have three or so air changes per hour (3.0 ACH50), while Unity Homes perform three times better with less than one air change per hour (less than 1.0 ACH50).
All of this insulation and attention to the seal means that the home is super energy efficient and can easily produce more energy than it uses if you hook up a moderately sized solar array, wind turbine, or microhydro system. Unity Homes are close to Net Zero as standard, with rooftop solar helping the home feed power back into the grid in many cases.
The one downside of some of the Unity Homes designs is the apparent inclusion of XPS insulation in the foundation. Given all the other benefits of the Unity Homes models, however, this seems like something worth forgiving in the pursuit of an otherwise incredibly eco-friendly and affordable prefabricated home from a company that cares if you love where you live.
What else is great about Unity Homes?
Similar to FabCab, Unity Homes take a Universal Design approach, with their Open-Built® technology creating a flexible home that adapts to the needs of whoever lives there. This gets to the heart of sustainability by avoiding the need to renovate or relocate, which saves time, money, and stress.
Unity Homes aren’t just interested in selling you a home and leaving you to figure out all the tricky stuff that goes along with that. Instead, they actively look for ways to keep costs low and help you figure out financing, and they offer guidance on obtaining permits and a construction loan.
The actual construction process is also simplified with Unity Homes as they deliver your home in around 50 precision engineered pieces, making the build incredibly efficient and straightforward. Most conventional builds have some 50,000 or so parts to put together over several months, rain or shine. Unity Homes create optimally engineered components that are fabricated under controlled conditions and are small enough to be transported on a truck wherever you need. Some modular homes are difficult or impossible to deliver to some sites because of their pre-built size. This isn’t an issue with Unity Homes designs.
What kind of eco-friendly prefab homes do they build?
Unity Homes offer several design options, all of which are customizable. Their standard models include:
- Tradd – a two story, tall New England cape timber frame design with 2-5 bedrooms, 1.5 to 3.5 bathrooms, ranging from 2,064-2,770 sq. ft. Prices start at $345,000
- Xyla – a one story bungalow with 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms, ranging from 1,032-1,823 sq. ft.. Prices start from $215,000.
- Värm – a two story colonial style home with 3-4 bedrooms, 2-3.5 bathrooms, ranging from 1,518-2,938 sq/ ft. Prices start from $300,000.
- Zūm – a one story contemporary design with 1-4 bedrooms, 1-2.5 bathrooms, ranging from 1,085-1,967 sq. ft. Prices start from $255,000.
- Nano – the Unity “Cottage” or tiny home, measuring 477-965 sq. ft. (including a loft space). The shell package starts at $50,000.
Homes typically have a 5-star rating from Star-Plus. Models like the Xyla can be customized to include connectors, a laundry room, garage, writer’s studio or art space, and other rooms as needed. Xyla was first built in Vermont and received a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score of 44, as well as 5-Star Plus certification, making it 86% more energy efficient than the average home in the U.S. It also had an CH50 rating of just 0.51, which is 20% or so better than the strict standards required of Passive Houses.
Who are Unity Homes and why should you trust them?
Unity Homes offer a comprehensive service, taking care to assess your build site so they can determine the best possible orientation to take advantage of natural heating and cooling from the sun and wind. They also look for the best place to position windows and shading, so you can maximize natural light but keep your house at a comfortable temperature. This is all part of how to design a truly eco-friendly home.
Unity Homes extend this attention to detail to the choice of insulation, factoring in the location of your house and the style. This way, they can work out the optimal thickness and positioning of insulation in the walls and roof of your home design. Insulation is carefully and continuously placed to reduce thermal bridging, i.e. the transfer of heat from the warm side of a wall to the cold side.
Because Unity Homes are invested in your home build as a project, rather than just as the sale of a ‘kit’, they have an experienced team on site who know the design inside and out, literally. This helps the process go smoothly, with no on-site surprises as often happens with conventional construction. The shell of your home may be up and weather tight within days, and your home could be turnkey ready in 8-10 weeks.