Project 9504: Colchester, VT

This week we start construction of a house for Outer Bay at Marble Island, Colchester VT. Outer Bay at Marble Island is a waterfront community consisting of 40 home sites, twenty-one townhomes, 3 beaches, an adjacent marina, tennis courts, and a community pool.

The home sits on a 1/2 acre lot with views of Malletts Bay and the Green Mountains. The house is 2016sf with 3beds, 2 1/2 baths, wrap around porch, second floor deck off the master bedroom, an attached 26′ x 32′ garage, and 648sf unfinished bonus space.

This house is for sale and will be ready for occupancy in March, 2012.

Contact Doug Boardman at 802.846.9538 for more information.

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Set Day. NEK, Vermont

Last week we set the NEK, Vermont house. Set Day turned into a reunion of sorts. In total, we had 11 guys onsite that day. Four of those guys have been working with us since the beginning. All of them have sons in the business today.

Total that day, there was 182 years worth of modular experience on that jobsite. The four alone have 130 YEARS worth of modular experience. I don’t think you’d find a more experienced crew setting a home, anywhere.

The day started PERFECT.

Busy Site. There’s a lot to do today.

First Module.

Second Module.

Third.

Fourth.

Kitchen Module.

Last Module.

Lift the Hinged Roofs

End of Set Day.

The guys are going to focus on getting the main house water tight / roof complete. Next week we’ll set garage walls. Balance of garage plus porch / screen porch will be built onsite.

A sneak peak at the interior finish. The plywood walls to the left are temporary. The guys will site build a bumpout / window seat here.

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March

March is a slow month in the building business in Vermont. Earlier this week we got 2 feet of snow. Tomorrow they’re forecasting 1 1/2″ of rain. And the cherry on top is mud season is around the corner. (where local Road Commissioners post their roads to ALL overweight vehicles including excavation equipment). Most builders are spending more time shoveling snow and pulling trucks out of ditches then they are building.

Lucky for us, we build inside. But that doesn’t mean the production schedule is full. Most of our Builders and Owners are pushing their delivery dates out until the weather gets better. We’ll pre-build some of these orders, but it leaves us with a production hole.

What do we do?

We generally use March for special projects. This may include spec houses. Or, we’ll use this slow time for houses that take extra time. Last year we built the Gypsy Meadow and Blush Hill houses where we installed faux timberframes inside the traditionally framed first floor.

This years “skunkworks” project is a 2952sf house destined for the Northeast Kingdom in VT.

This house will feature: a wood beamed ceiling, custom built-ins, Andersen A-Series windows, custom hemlock exterior trim, radiant heating, dense pack cellulose insulation, and an HRV system.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can get the foundation in the ground and set these modules mid May.


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The Shoreham


We’ve decided to build ourselves a new model home. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we’ll set it early next week. The model will be located at our Main Shop in East Montpelier, VT.

The Shoreham. 28′ x 40′. 3 bed. 2 1/2 baths.

First Floor Front Module. Siding is CVG Hemlock (primed). Trim is MiraTEC (primed). Windows are Andersen 400 Series w/ SDL grills. Front door is Simpson Fir. We’ll paint the exterior sometime this spring.

Second Floor Front Module. The module is lifted into the air so we can run plumbing to access panel locations.

Kitchen Cabinets are Merillat Portrait Cherry w/ Amaretto Glaze. Main countertop is Formica. Island is John Boos Butcher Block. We’ll install hardwood flooring once the modules are set and sealed.

Interior Trim is simple 1×4 pine (painted). We’ve also added a simple chair rail detail.

Stay tuned for more photos of the set.

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High Performance Walls

We’re asked a lot about “high performance” or “super insulated” wall systems.

I’ll save you the 25 minute rant, but I will tell you where we are and where we’re not.

Where we’re NOT. Foam Wraps.

I’m a big fan of Fine Homebuilding Magazine and the Journal of Light Construction. They’re both a good source of building information. However it seems that every issue they’re changing their details on how / where / what type foam / flashing details. Further they tell you that if you screw it up, you’ll rot the walls from the inside out. . . you will, in fact, build a composting wall.

However this lack of consensus is not my biggest problem. My biggest problem with Foam Wraps is the execution (or lack there of) of the flashing details. This is where the “rubber meets the road”.

I have no doubt that most Architects, Energy Raters, etc understand the science and details that go along with foam wraps, but in the field I’ve seen atrocious execution. See below for a picture I recently took of a house using an exterior polyiso foam wrap.

I’m not singling out a particular builder, but I see this all the time. The reality is that the Building Scientist nor Architect are the person installing the flashing. . . . It’s the low bidder. While I don’t think that all flashing details look like this, seeing just this one scares the heck out of me. What good is an R60 wall if water can pour around the window openings.

Where we ARE. Double Wall Systems.

There are many versions / degrees of a double wall system. Taken to it’s extreme (no thermal bridging) is the Larson Truss (see picture below). This particular house was built by Vermont builder Robert Riversong. See here for a description of the details of his Larson Truss.

Scaled back to a simpler form a double wall system can be built using 2×8 plates and 2×4 studs both inside and outside the wall. See below. This picture was taken in our shop today. We’ll install dense pack cellulose into the wall cavities making sure we “stuff” it between the 2×4’s.

Our simple version of the system allows for an R28 wall and reduces significantly the thermal bridging that happens in the field of the wall. The wall R-value can be increased simply by increasing the plate depth. A 2×12 plate would yield an R43 wall.

This system isn’t perfect (there is still thermal bridging at the top / bottom plates, window / doors RO’s, and floor assemblies), but it’s better then a sharp stick in the eye. While the plates do thermal bridge to the exterior, that thermal bridge (roughly an R6) is less then the 15sf R4 window hole you have next to it.

BEST PART about our version of the double wall system is that flashing details are STRAIGHT FORWARD. You’re using conventional methods against conventional materials.

And, I sleep well knowing that your window isn’t leaking water.

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A different bird

For the past year or so I’ve been reading the ‘Modular Home Builder‘ blog. The blog is written by Gary Fleisher, aka Mod Coach. His blog has been a great source of information for what’s happening in our industry, but it’s also made me realize something. We’re a different bird.

Lets start with some basics. Modular Manufacturers come in all shapes and sizes. There are only 6 major manufacturers in New England (we’re one of them). There are a whole bunch in Pennsylvania. Some companies (like us) are relatively small (50 – 100 houses a year). Some are big (500 houses a year). Some are family owned and operated (like us). Some are owned by Warren Buffet.

Below is a list of why we’re “strange”.

1) Builder / Dealer Networks:

Them: Most modular manufacturers sell only through their builder networks (ie, won’t sell directly to customers). You call the manufacturer, they ask you where you’re building, they give you the name and number of their builder / dealer in your area, end of the conversation with the folks that are building your house.

Huntington Homes: We have a couple of (fantastic) builders that we refer folks too. However, most of our sales are direct to customer. While we recognize the importance of the local builder, we also recognize that the customer relationship is more important. There is nobody that knows what we do better then “we”. Why wouldn’t you talk to us direct?

2) Sales Staff.

Them: See here for a recent post by ModCoach re: Sales Truths Facing Factory Management
What on earth is he talking about? Sales Reports? Recruitment? YTD Percent of Close to Quote ratio? Outside Sales Training? Prospecting Database? Territories? Sales Contests?

Huntington Homes: Last time I checked we were building houses. Customer wants one. Talks to builder. Builder builds one. . . . . Our Process is SIMPLE. You talk to Duane, Jason, Adam, or Larry. We build you a house.

3) Turnkey Projects

Them: They are owned by an investment group and run by hired guns. They couldn’t possibly be bothered with all the miscellaneous details needed to build you a house. . . . they run a factory.

Huntington Homes: If you’re located near us, we’ll General Contract your project (site improvements, foundation, modules, onsite contracting, heating, plumbing, etc). . . . . As far as I know, we’re the ONLY major manufacturer that does this.

4. Dealing with a down market

Them: Most of the other manufacturers are 1) shutting their doors, 2) being bought by bigger companies, or 3) changing their product lines (going commercial, or going “green”).

Huntington Homes. Down markets are nothing new. This one is bad, but we’ve been here before. Rather then throw out 33 years of experience, we’re focusing on what we do best. Build well built homes for normal people.

While the others are chasing multi-family and commercial structures, our experience tells us to continue focusing on our core / long-term residential customers. . . . . we’d rather “plant” 10 high quality residential seeds then 200 low cost / high volume apartment units. These “seeds” are a long term strategy.

Mark my words friends. 10 years from know you’ll still be able to call and talk to Jason, Adam, or Larry and we’ll build you a house. . . It’s that simple.

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Lighting Retrofit

We’ve decided that it’s time to do something nice for ourselves. So we’re going to replace our shop lights.

We currently have 109 400w Metal Halide high bay lights lighting our shop. Running 9hrs a day these fixtures consume roughly 98,000 kWh of electricity a year.

With help from Efficiency Vermont (Vermont’s Energy Efficiency Utility) we’re going to replace these old fixtures with new T5 Fluorescent High Bay Fixtures.

It’s estimated that these new fixtures will save 58,000 kWh / year.

It’s also estimated that over the lifetime of the fixtures we will reduce our Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 460 tons.

While the economics of the retrofit certainly stand on their own, incentives from Efficiency Vermont make this a “no-brainer”.

 

 

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Project 9336: Richmond, VT

So it’s been a while since we’ve posted. Here’s an update on the Richmond, VT house.

First, the house sold. And the new owners are loving it. So much that we got an invite to their Holiday Party.

Testing is complete on the house, and we received a SILVER rating from the NAHBGreen National Green Building Program.

Here are the Stats for your Energy Dorks.

– Blower Door: 540cfm at 50pa for 26,880 ft^3 of interior space
– 1.2 ACH (50pa). This is 83% Better then IECC.
– HERS Index Rating: 56

We are pleased with these results. The HERS Rating was achieved mostly by the building envelope alone (ie the mechanical / heating system was a typical hydronic boiler and lighting was mostly standard incandescent). No doubt the score would have been lower had we looked at some alternative systems.

The building envelope was basically our standard air sealing details coupled with a (small) upgrade to dense pack cellulose walls and loose fill cellulose (R50) attic. I have no doubt that if builders pay attention to the module-to-module air sealing details most of our construction should test out with a similar HERS Rating.

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Project 9336: Richmond VT

 

This house is under construction and will be ready for occupancy late March.

This house will have certifications from both ENERGY STAR and the NAHB National GREEN Building Program.

Features Include:

– Private 3.89 acres with southern exposure and nice views west.
– Property is 1 mile to Richmond Village.
– 3 bedrooms / 2 ½ baths. 2240 sf with 646 sf unfinished bonus over garage
– 26’ x 28’ attached garage
– Big Mudroom with Vermont Slate floors and built-in bench seat
– Open Living / Kitchen / Dining Rooms with wood floors
– Hardwood Stairs
– Exposed Hemlock Beams in the first floor ceiling
– Upgraded Kitchen Cabinets with Granite tops
– Kitchen Island with Brown Maple countertop.
– Tile floors at Bathrooms
– Custom Tile shower in Master Bath
– Marble vanity tops.
– CVG Hemlock Clapboard with MiraTEC exterior trim
– 30 year Architectural Shingles

Energy Features include:

– 95% Efficient Boiler
– Fantech AEV Air Exchange System
– Panasonic Bath Fans
– Dense Pack Cellulose wall insulation
– Cellulose Roof Insulation: R39 at slopes and R50 at attic
– Andersen 400 Series Windows (ENERGY STAR)

For more information call Huntington Homes at 802.479.3625

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Project 9328: Sheffield Federated Church

In July 2008 the Sheffield Federated Church in Sheffield, VT was lost to a fire. The fire started by a lighting strike to the bell tower. The parishioners had tried (unsuccessfully) to rebuild the church in its same location in the Village of Sheffield. However due to some lot restrictions were unable to bring the new building up to code.

See here for the Local News story about the fire.

In June of 2009 the Church contacted us about rebuilding the Church on a piece of land outside of the Village. Through the months of July and August we worked with the Church on design of the building, and started actual construction in September.

See here for a Video interview with Pastor Tim Pittman regarding the construction of the new Church. As explained by Pastor Pittman, Huntington Homes was able to supply the modules for the project at roughly the same cost as materials ONLY for site built construction.

This was truly a community effort. It was a satisfying project for us.

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