LOS ANGELES–BASED DEVELOPER LivingHomes has introduced the first line of standardized, pre-fabricated houses certified in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building rating program.
Modeled after the widely known LEED standards for commercial construction, the pilot phase of LEED for Homes started in 2006 and evaluated roughly 4,500 homes, says Michelle Moore, vice president for community and communications at the U.S. Green Building Council. The rating system for homes should be available to home builders nationwide this summer. The designation has four possible levels—LEED Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. In 2006, LivingHomes' model home was the nation's first house to achieve Platinum status. All of LivingHomes' pre-fab houses meet at least LEED Silver standards.
LEED certification gave the developer a quantifiable measure for sustainability in a pre-fab house, LivingHomes president Steve Glenn says. “We use LEED as a way to keep ourselves honest about what we're doing and why,” he adds.
The line includes two models from Pacific Palisades, Calif.–architect Ray Kappe and one from David Hertz of Santa Monica, Calif. Kappe says he had wanted to design a modular house for at least 10 years, but could never find anyone interested in building it.
“One of my goals is that you don't feel like you're in a box,” says Kappe. “You're in an architecturally designed box. ... When I couldn't get modular done, I used many of my custom homes as experiments to see if I could get that kind of feel. It's nice to finally get [a modular house] done.”
The goal of standardizing the houses is to achieve enough volume to make them more cost-effective to build, Kappe explains. Currently, costs are $215 to $250 per square foot, excluding transportation, foundation, and installation.
“Right now, they're less expensive than custom, but the idea is to get them to the place where they're affordable. It's very difficult unless you get quantity,” Kappe says. “Then, you have enough repetition to drive the price down.”
STANDARDIZED SUSTAINABILITY: The Ray Kappe 1 plan in LivingHomes' line of pre-fab houses is based on its Santa Monica model home, which is the nation's first house to achieve LEED Platinum status. It features an open main living space divided into a series of platforms.