NAPA -- Bob Massaro, long a strong advocate for green-building projects and standards in Napa Valley, has constructed a new venture to bring environmentally conscious features more affordably to homes, apartments and classrooms via factory-built building panels.

[caption id="attachment_29125" align="alignright" width="180"] Bob Massaro[/caption]

Mr. Massaro, who in 1999 started the Napa-based Healthy Buildings USA construction company, launched Healthy Buildings Technology Group Inc. to offer in a prefabricated format the principles, methods and materials that have gone into Healthy Buildings USA projects such the new LEED-certified Vineyard Lodge dormitory in St. Helena for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

"I have been working towards this throughout my career," said Mr. Massaro, who started in real estate development in 1981. "Although improvements have been made in the design and construction of green buildings, lead by the U.S. Green Building Council and others, we now have the technology to make further significant improvements in the performance, quality and levels of comfort of our buildings."

The other founder of the venture is Executive Vice President Malcolm Davies, an architect by training and former senior executive of architecture technology firms such as Autodesk and Gehry Technologies. The two met during the Vineyard Lodge project. At the time, Mr. Davies was working in sales for Rohnert Park-based light-gauge steel panel producer Codding Steel Frame Solutions, which built panels for the project.

Early last year, Mr. Davies started YardPods in San Rafael to make highly sustainable back yard offices with panels supplied by Codding Steel. A number of inquiries to YardPods have been and continue to be for quick-build highly green livable dwellings of the type Healthy Buildings Technology Group.

Meanwhile, Mr. Massaro was embarking on the OHome venture and assembling architectural and manufacturing expertise in green building and tiny homes.

A recently closed first round of equity funding led by Meyer Family Enterprises will allow Healthy Buildings Technology Group to purchase a parcel in a Napa neighborhood and build two showcase homes this year, a 1,200-square-foot main home and a 640-square-foot second unit.

"We really like investing in companies that take into account the whole system, not just a financial return but that benefits all: the manufacturers, the builders, the environment and our communities," said principal Bonny Meyer, a founder of Silver Oak Cellars. Investments include Meyer Family Cellars in Mendocino County, Charter Oak Bank in Napa, direct-to-consumer wine sales conduit Inertia also in Napa and ZepSolar in San Rafael.

Healthy Buildings Technology Group's line of panels for homes and classrooms are designed to cut construction labor and materials costs by as much as half and dramatically lower energy expenses.

The panels will be completed with exterior finishes, doors, windows and electrical conduits in a factory, stacked on a truck or in a container for shipment to the job site, and lifted into place for assembly via a Gradall or similar vehicle. A device that could be packed with the panels to place them without such a vehicle is in design.

The showcase units will be built from panels finished in a small leased facility in Napa and assembled by Healthy Buildings Construction to stamp out production problems before a manufacturing contract is put to bid.

The goal at this stage of the venture is to bring OHome construction costs to around $250 a square foot.

"We want to hit the affordable housing market," Mr. Davies said.

That's no small task when incorporating features such as thermal mass, high-performance building envelopes with 20 percent more insulation than many codes require, passive ventilation with heat-recovery exchangers and electronic monitoring equipment to bring in as much fresh air as possible, solar and wind electric, solar or tankless water heating, water-conservation measures such as rainwater harvesting.

Mr. Davies said prefabrication of highly energy-efficient homes has been done in Europe for years.

The OHome line is designed to go together in less than three weeks to create 640- to 1,500-square-foot homes or be combined for multifamily projects.

A version for schools, called C-Rooms, would have 900-square-foot hexagonal classrooms to maximize usable space.

For more information, visit www.hbusa.net or www.hbtechgroup.com.