• American Sustainability Initiative homes are modestly sized and are designed to offer significant energy savings without an inflated purchase price.
    American Sustainability Initiative homes are modestly sized and are designed to offer significant energy savings without an inflated purchase price.
On Jan. 15 the American Sustainability Initiative (AmeriSus) will take its first steps toward the goal of building 12,000 market-rate, energy-efficient homes in two years. The prefabricated home manufacturer, which is seeking builders in 14 states and Washington D.C. to erect its affordable green houses, already has commitments for 300 homes, officials say.

The company is offering modest-sized homes, with energy-efficient qualities that promise to keep utility costs down, at a price that is slightly above the typical median-priced dwelling.
 
“This is a means to help the middle class and help get people back on track,” AmeriSus managing director Charlie Kamps says.
 
Beginning in 2007 as a group of design and development professionals concerned about housing economics, AmeriSus evolved into an umbrella company that designs and manufactures prefab homes. It has teamed up with more than 25 manufacturers to create lower-cost, energy-efficient dwellings.

AmeriSus homes will not be certified green by any organization because of the expense, but, according to Kamps, residents are expected to save 70% on monthly utility bills versus traditionally built homes.

The houses’ eco-friendly features will include Energy Star-rated Whirlpool appliances, windows with U-values of 0.28, and front and rear vestibules to that serve as buffers between the inside and outside. The carpeting, which is manufactured by Shaw and contains 50% recycled content, is guaranteed to be accepted back by the manufacturer to be 100% recycled into new carpet.

AmeriSus wants its prefab houses to be built in 14 states less prone to weather issues (such as fires and hurricanes)--Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts—and Washington D.C. So far builders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, and D.C. have committed to building 300 homes in the first six months of the program. According to Kamps, the builder names are not available for release because of negotiations for long-term agreements that go beyond the initial projects.

BUILDER INCENTIVES 
Kamps says utility bill savings, as well AmeriSus’ Ready Build System, are enticing builders to sign on. With the Ready Build System, all pieces of the home are pre-cut at the factory and shipped to the site in sequences.
 
“So it’s more of an assembly process than carpentry,” explains Kamps, who adds that the prefab process reduces risk and mistakes, and “allows builders to create a product with a higher level of quality.”

“With Ready Build, builders don’t have to be gophers, running around looking for that missing piece,” he said.

Homes will be priced from $200,000 to $270,000 and range from 1,200 square feet to 1,800 square feet. The modest sizes, Kamps says, also contributes to efficiencies:  “Smaller homes use less energy.”

Optional technologies to make AmeriSus component homes net-zero-energy will be available to all buyers, but will drive up costs. Kamps says making all of them net-zero “simply isn’t practical at this time when one is trying to also achieve high value and energy efficiency at an affordable price.”

“We wanted to create a balance,” he said. “Anyone can build the world’s most efficient home, but you probably wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Maggy Baccinelli is a contributor to EcoHome.