Napa company sees ‘panelization’ key to future of constructionNAPA -- In a south Napa industrial park, Healthy Buildings Technology Group is putting the final design tweaks on a steel-framed panel construction system set to be assembled this summer into two prototype ultragreen homes in the city.

Building homes out light-gauge steel frame panels and fully outfitting them in the factory with plumbing, electrical and other finishes are the bones of the venture, according to Vice President Malcolm Davies, who launched the company early this year with Bob Massaro, owner of Napa-based Healthy Buildings USA.

Some companies, such as BuildPods of Hayward and HybridCore of Santa Rosa, already are factory-building fully finished portions of a home such as a kitchen or bathroom and transporting the modules to the job site for assembly.

"We think panelization is a much better way to go, because transportation is more cost-effective when trucking costs $6 a mile or more," Dr. Davies said.

Healthy Buildings Technology Group has been developing a structural insulated panel and finish system that uses light-gauge steel framing for the "backbone" and includes insulation, any electrical conduits and plumbing as well as finishes.

Structural insulated panels, or SIPs, have been in use for more than two decades. Commonly, SIPs have dense foam sandwiched between oriented strand board panels or even concrete to create walls or roofs intended to have high insulation values and quick job-site assembly.

That's why Healthy Buildings Technology Group has been repeatedly constructing and disassembling a corner of one of the prototype homes in a small leased research-and-development facility over the past few months. Potential homebuyers, investors and real estate agents have been brought in to offer feedback on the salability of construction methods and planned finishes.

"Many things we thought would work didn't, and many things we didn't think would work do," Dr. Davies said.

City building permits will be sought this month June for two prototype OHome dwellings of 640 and 1,200 square feet. Once the slabs are poured, the dwellings are targeted to be ready for final inspections in three and four weeks, respectively. That is hoped to be in late July or early August.

Autodesk expands Clean Tech Partner program

June 13, 2011

Autodesk has expanded its Clean Tech Partner program and now helps companies in North America, Europe and Japan with software, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Ha. [read more]

Meanwhile, Mr. Massaro's Health Buildings USA is gearing up to build a dozen million-dollar homes in the Vineyard Oaks development in Yountville using the sister tech company's panel system. The whole project is vying for Gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

To get the panel design right and ensure the prototype panels can be marketed to manufacturers such as Rohnert Park-based Codding SFS, Healthy Buildings Technology Group secured up to $150,000 in industrial design software through San Rafael-based Autodesk's Clean Tech Partner Program.