Courtesy Unity Homes
Timberframer Rick Whitcomb hand details part of the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home roofing structure, at Unity’s Walpole, N.H., factory.
Chris Volpe Timberframer Rick Whitcomb hand details part of the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home roofing structure, at Unity’s Walpole, N.H., factory.

Anyone searching for an example of integrated residential design and construction need look no further than Walpole, N.H.–based Unity Homes, which created the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home for display at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. The home is a collaboration among BUILDER, Unity Homes, and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, along with support from 30 advisers, sponsors, and product contributors. The project's mission is to reveal how high-quality architectural design, engineering, and construction can be combined with affordable features and state-of-the-art products and systems to maximize a home's performance while enhancing the comfort, health, and security of those who live there.

From Unity Homes' in-house design and engineering teams to its energy and sustainability specialists to its production craftsmen and innovative fabrication technologies, the company is the embodiment of creativity, collaboration, performance, productivity, and control. Every stage of construction, every product spec and installation, and almost every skilled trade that touches each home is contained in Unity's offices and production facilities. This means that every home—at every stage—undergoes precise planning, detailing, scheduling, and assembly.

Unity Homes woodworker Tristan Pozo readies timber beams for assembly at Unity Homes’ Walpole, N.H., factory. Below, a rendering of the Greenbuild Unity Home exterior.
Chris Volpe Unity Homes woodworker Tristan Pozo readies timber beams for assembly at Unity Homes’ Walpole, N.H., factory. Below, a rendering of the Greenbuild Unity Home exterior.

At the heart of each home is a method company founder Tedd Benson calls "montage"—a term used in several languages to describe the process of aggregating multiple parts into a whole. At the core of Unity's system is its library of modular elements: replicable design patterns and parts, pre-vetted product selections, and pre-engineered construction assemblies.

A Better Way To Build

Unity took montage to a new level in guiding this year's demonstration home. The 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home, based on Unity's contemporary Zūm model, has been built to reach the air-tightness standard used by the Passive House program of 0.6 ACH50, and achieve a HERS Index of 45 (without photovoltaics), making net-zero energy a reasonable target.

Courtesy Unity Homes

The 1,620-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home is expected to achieve net-zero energy, LEED v4 Platinum, Energy Star version 3, and EPA WaterSense and Indoor AirPlus certifications when assembled and tested on its permanent site in New Hampshire. It also will include the largest collection of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified building products and furnishings ever assembled for a residential project. But there's another critical filter through which this project had to pass: affordability.

Unity Home employees Brett Ramsay (foreground) and Chris Smith work on the assembly of flooring at the company’s Walpole, N.H., factory.
Chris Volpe Unity Home employees Brett Ramsay (foreground) and Chris Smith work on the assembly of flooring at the company’s Walpole, N.H., factory.

"As dedicated as we are to sustainability and environmental building, and surrounding our homeowners with beauty and craftsmanship, our long-term mission is to drive costs downward without compromising these qualities," Benson says. "It's a hard path, but I can already see that our latest research on building assemblies, systems, and materials pricing is leading us in the right direction." Current pricing for the typical Unity Home is about $150 per square foot for the cold climate package (from concrete slab up); Benson predicts that price will drop below $140 per square foot in 2016.

This article was originally featured on our sister site, BUILDER. Read on to see featured products in the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home, meet the sustainability team, and learn about the home's assembly. Read more >>