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LEED and Modular and Infill, Oh My!

By Worldchanging Denver contributor Jenny Thomas:

A Boulder architecture firm announced last week that they have designed the first-ever factory-built and LEED-certified home in the nation. The house will be set on-site later this month, in Denver's Highlands neighborhood, and is scheduled to undergo LEED Silver certification. A great first for Colorado that hopefully will spawn more modular, eco-friendly homes.

A few excerpts from Studio H:T's press release:

Boulder architectural firm, Studio H:T has designed the first ever factory-built home in the nation that will be undergoing LEED certification. The home has been designed with prefabricated home construction company Eco-Infill. Located on a narrow (25' wide), infill site in the Highland neighborhood, this project is within walking distance of Downtown Denver...[B]uilt in a factory north of Denver, the home will arrive by flatbed truck in two pieces and be craned into place in about 4 hours providing a fast, sustainable, cost effective alternative to traditional homebuilding techniques...

...The project was conceived of as two boxes that slide above one another to create outdoor living space and a lower covered rear entry. This potential live/work residence consists of three floors – main & upper floors (live) and garden level (work). The passive solar design invites large amounts of light from the south while minimizing the openings on the east and west. The roof deck is extroverted, capitalizing on the views to the city skyline and mountain view corridors.

...Factory construction allows a significant savings in time and material waste. Because excavation and foundation construction can take place simultaneously with the building of the residence in the factory, total construction time is reduced to three months from the typical six to twelve months. Additionally, the residence is expected to be 90% complete at the time of delivery, including windows, electrical, plumbing and interior finishes,meaning less site work and reduced vulnerability to inclement weather. The factory, beyond providing a consistent construction environment, ensures a stable labor force and increased efficiency. The building's manufacturer states that the process of off-site home manufacturing yields material waste of less than 5%, a dramatic reduction from the amounts associated with traditional construction methods.

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I applaud the project and the LEED aspect, however, I was visiting a factory last month and inspected several completed boxes that were being shipped to Carbondale, Colorado for a LEED certfied townhouse project. They may, or may not be set by now and they may be "after" this project, so I definitely don't have enough information to refute anyone's claim to being first.

Whether or not this is the very first, there are none locally and it is a great time to have this dialogue and bring to light the ecological benefits of modular housing and specifically the mulititude of benefits for infill projects.

Posted by: Bill Moore on 18 Aug 07

Excellent project!

only two concerns:

A project can't be LEED certified until it is complete -- and certified.

Also, this project above is not the first LEED factory built home. The first home is from Living Homes. It is already complete and certified at the Platinum level.

In addition, I run a project at the University of Virginia -- ecoMOD -- and we have recently delivered our 'pseudo-factory' built modules to our urban infill site in Charlottesville, VA. I say pseudo because as an educational project -- design / build and evaluation of the house -- my architecture, engineering and landscape architecture students built the modules at a decommissioned airport hangar, set up as our own factory. We are registered with the LEED for Homes program (pilot phase) and expect to finish that process this fall. Check us out at (although the ecoMOD3 part of the website is not up yet -- as of this writing).

Posted by: John Quale on 20 Aug 07

The term "modular" in regards to architecture can be widely defined. Companies like Michelle Kauffman Designs and LivingHomes are providing "green" and even LEED-Platinum rated homes which are constructed in steel fabrication or proprietary factories and delivered to the site like a kit of parts to be assembled. As such, they are "modular" though very different and often significantly more expensive than this project.

This house is distinct in that it was constructed in a traditional, home-manufacturing facility alongside many examples of what could be considered typical, affordable, manufactured homes. By creating a design that works within an existing factory's standard practices and capitalizes on the manufacturing process to decrease waste and increase building performance, Studio H:T has produced an attractive, modern and sustainable housing solution that is widely accessible and affordable. In contrast to other "modular" homes, this house was delivered to the site in the form of two boxes which already contained all electrical and plumbing lines, bamboo floors, Sheetrock, cabinets and even appliances. Minimal on-site finish work including stucco, landscaping, fixture installation and painting will take place in the 3-4 weeks following placement meaning that this project will have moved from permit to occupancy in just over 10 weeks. It is the hope of Studio H:T that this project proves (or will prove, once it completes the certification process with a target of LEED-Silver) that attractive, modern and sustainable homes are not strictly the purview of the wealthy.

Prior to issuing the press release, Studio H:T made every attempt to verify the validity of their claim and the statement was approved by the USGBC. The Carbondale project mentioned above is seeking certification in the LEED Residential Multi-family category. In the interest of full disclosure, it came to the attention of Studio H:T following the release of the press statement that a manufactured home in St. Louis has already completed the LEED certification process and achieved LEED-Platinum.

Posted by: David Neiger on 22 Aug 07

Images of the project are available at

Posted by: Studio H:T on 22 Aug 07



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