Durability and safety
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Rain during outdoors construction, trapped moisture, mold . . . and chemicals.

Severe wind events. 

Noise pollution within a home.

Building your home with modules can help deal with all of the above.

According to Storm Ready, sponsored by the U.S. Government’s National Weather Service, “Americans live in the most severe weather-prone country on Earth.”  (Comment by CMHUSA: Once a severe weather event is on the way, living in a house structure that has withstood a level of violent, manmade testing may suddenly seem to be a brilliant decision, even though there can be no guarantee of survival when it comes to the random violence of Mother Nature.

Although there may be an occasion when CMHUSA might build a home the ordinary way (outdoors, no modules), the CMHUSA preference is to re-engineer the house plan and build a more durable home–this time with modules–in a manner acceptable to CMHUSA.  The reasons are many . . .

Several examples not to overlook . . .

Durability of a home’s structure is a function of how the home is built.  Do your homework.  Consider what CMHUSA refers to as “defense by modules.”

  • Wind.  Have your heard homeowners grumbling after windy days about their new home quivering, wobbling and shaking?  If so, that may logically be a reflection of how well (or not so well) the house was built.  To get a different quality level would require building the home differently.  For example, most so-called wind events should arguably not be noticeable in a home that is well built.  But then there are the more severe events referred to above (U.S. Government’s National Weather Service).  For a homebuyer who has the option to have a home built, study this website regarding heavyweight modules, and their being subjected to Test One and Test Two (described in this educational website).
  • Seismic forces.  Not usually discussed is that the floor system of a CMHUSA-acceptable modular (or equivalent) is built in a manner better able to distribute seismic loads from earthquakes by transferring those forces through the module framing of the whole house.
  • Here is an exercise you may find helpful:
    • If you see a house being built the ordinary way (outdoors), thus without the benefits of what CMHUSA refers to as true modular, stop by the outdoors construction site.  Ask if you can walk through before sheetrock is installed.  Look to see if thin, galvanized metal “stiffener” strips have been nailed diagonally across some of the wall studs.  (If so, the idea is to stiffen the house in case the wind blows.)  To see how builders hide the bulge that might appear once the sheetrock is installed over the metal strips, ask if you can come back.  If so, ask the sheetrock finishers how much sheetrock compound (often referred to as “mud”) they had to apply to conceal the bulged out areas. 
    • During the visit, look for signs of “OVE,” (Google “optimal value engineering”), a technique employed to use as little wood as possible and still manage to pass the building inspection.  (Imagine what would happen to such house if exposed to Tests One and Two.)  Another “fix” to stiffen up a house that skimps on structural material is to use thicker sheetrock in strategic locations–helps on a windy day.
    • Also note whether or not there are building materials (such as roof trusses, floor trusses and stacks of lumber) lying on the ground exposed to dampness, moisture and rain.
  • Water and moisture.  Structurally, enemies of wood building materials are water and moisture.  Water and moisture can cause warping and structural deterioration.  The idea is to never let wood get wet.  Wood that gets wet can swell.  Then, as it dries and shrinks, connectors may fit less securely.  Warranties can be compromised.  Although most of the damage may be out of sight, clues may be squeaks and even nail pops.  On the other hand, inside a factory, keeping wood dry is easy.  Wet, damp, or warped lumber and even cheaper lumber that has not yet cured is unacceptable for a properly run factory as it could create havoc during a precision process with precision equipment and precision subassembly operations.

Durability of human health.  This, too, can be a function of how a home is built, and includes the process.  Have you heard the term “sick home”? 

  • Water and moisture (precursors of mold):  Moderately wet, damp or saturated wood materials may lead to mold–an issue in Virginia when building a house outdoors.  Mold’s impact on human health may quietly continue for years, perhaps undetected–perhaps unsuspected.  After all, even though health may be at risk, not everyone is affected the same way.  If a child is “always sick,” for instance, but others in a family are not, why would anyone suspect that the culprit is mold?
    • Mold spores:  The problem is that mold spores are everywhere.
    • Therefore, in building a house the ordinary way (outdoors in the open), where rain may soak into exposed wood, the resulting moisture in the various building materials can lead to mildew and mold, whether in plain sight or hidden.
    • Further, there is the issue of air leaks.  In a finished home, air leaking through unseen cracks in a wall cavity can carry both moisture and mold spores into those wall cavities.  This can happen whether the air is leaking into the home or leaking out.  A factory is uniquely suited to deal with this.
  • Chemicals to protect wood during construction (outdoors) may or may not affect humans.  For example, applying chemicals to building materials exposed to rain and snow during construction may curtail water damage to building materials.  Such chemicals may help prevent/kill mold growth as well.  However, the chemicals may subsequently off-gas into the finished home.
    • Homeowners concerned about off-gassing may not want chemicals sprayed on the wood structure of their new home.
    • Thus the dilemma:  Chemicals may help stabilize wet wood during construction, and may help kill and prevent mold, but those same chemicals may later off-gas into the finished living quarters of the home.
    • If there is a container on the construction site, pick it up and read the label.  Ask what the chemical was used for.  For more information, the material safety data sheet lists the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of a chemical.  Look to see if there is a State that does not allow the chemical.
  • Noise pollution as a human health issue.  This may be subjective, but to those of you who would prefer less sound transmission, you know noise when you here it.  To the  extent ambient noise within a living space may have a negative impact on human health and well-being, the less noise (to the extent of it being noise pollution), the better.
    • Consider this:  Floor systems and wall systems vary in their structural detail, thus in how they transmit or attenuate sound.  Logically, all else being equal (such as price), the heavyweight structure of the modules in a true modular home can noticeably dampen sound and enhance a homeowner’s everyday comfort.  That is, the difference in sound transmission can be stark for a home built outdoors (hence, no modules) versus building the home indoors (with modules).
    • “Seasoned” homeowners who have lived in both true modular homes and homes built the ordinary way have plenty of anecdotes.  It can seem like a hundred little things.  Even the sudden sound of a book dropped on the floor above instantaneously says something about the quality of the home.
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