CMHUSA feels that any inclusive "green" certification should include the actual building process, not just the finished product. Both should benefit the environment. Building with modules enables a formula for green building, whereas building a house outdoors (the ordinary way) is arguably a formula for pollution. Disclosure: CMHUSA will build the ordinary way, but strongly advocates the use of modules.
Visualize building 100 modular homes in a factory, thus all 100 on the same environmental footprint, versus building 100 homes the ordinary way, scattered on 100 footprints.
1. Building 100 houses on a single factory footprint means far less environmental impact than building 100 homes on open sites in different places. Reducing negative impact to the environment is green. Remember, 80 percent of a home can be built in the factory, so eliminated during that 80 percent are 100 gasoline generators cranking out pollutants and perhaps 100-or-more trips to fill gas cans. Eliminated are 100 trucks bringing windows, 100 bringing roofing, 100 bringing sheetrock, 100 bringing insulation, 100 bringing cabinets, and on and on. (Comment: Also reduced is disturbance to neighbors if 80 percent of all construction and truck traffic occurs somewhere else.)
2. Shipping bulk materials directly to one place (to a factory) is green. For instance, a tractor trailer or a train car delivery to a factory might come directly from a sheetrock company, skipping the wasted energy of first shipping it to a distributor who would then re-ship it. Whereas building 100 houses the ordinary way would require 100 flatbed trucks (and relatively poor miles per gallon), a factory that receives maternal by train is getting the benefit of 436 miles per gallon, if national statistics are correct.
3. Repurposing scrap is green. A giant step over recycling is what Mr. Baker likes to call "factory repurposing." Rather than carting off loads of scrap to be recycled (or more likely, to be buried in a landfill), a factory may create a process to reuse such material for some other purpose (photos in the Website show the use of scrap sheetrock for reinforcement). Less construction waste sent to a landfill is a win for the environment.
4. Waste avoidance is even greener: Better than either repurposing or recycling is to eliminate situations that create waste. Building homes in a factory avoids the issue faced by houses built outdoors the ordinary way, where material is ruined by bad weather. If subfloors are covered in rain water or dimensional lumber warps in the blistering-hot sun or the warranties of roof trusses are broken as they lie on the ground, the site-builder either has to reject such material (or use it anyway). In building 100 houses, that is a lot of potential for waste.
5. Reconfiguring scrap for some non-factory use is green: For example, some factories grind sheetrock scrap into farm-ready lime that can be spread on cropland.
6. Tighter-built homes waste less energy—that, of course, is green. Building modules in a factory allows the logical process of installing sheetrock before the siding on the house is installed, even before there is roofing. This reverse order of doing things allows direct access to the back of the sheetrock to stop air infiltration in its tracks. However, this can only be done in a factory, not outdoors on an open lot where rain and mold would spell disaster.
CMHUSA takes every opportunity to share the concepts above such as repurposing, waste avoidance and reconfiguring—and recycling, too—as well as to promote the energy certification logic of modular as a holistic, green advantage.
CMHUSA is an advocate for the Department of Energy's "Building America," and that program's findings and goals