Napa housing projects demonstrate benefits of modular construction
In four hours Wednesday, a 1,300-square-foot house in Napa went from slab to completion.
No, it wasn’t an all-hands-to-hammer benefit workbee that put up the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on Dealy Lane in hours instead of months. Instead, it was done by a California startup that’s part of a growing move into factory-built housing.
One of the firms building homes in a factory instead of onsite is Factory_OS which is ramping up this spring in a 275,000-square-foot factory on Vallejo’s Mare Island. That company already has orders for thousands of factory-built dwellings for Google and municipal housing authorities.
Napa-based Healthy Buildings USA has its much smaller factory turning out panels for installation at a 48-unit development under construction in the city.
The Napa home on Dealy Lane is the first in the North Bay for nearly 2-year-old Plant Prefab, which also last week installed over two days a custom 16-unit dormitory in Berkeley for educational farm and community center Urban Adamah. It is said to be the first prefabricated multifamily project in the East Bay city.
In the past year, Plant Prefab opened its own factory, secured $3.4 million in series A funding led by Obvious Ventures and shipped six other housing units throughout California. The 62,000-square-foot facility is located in Rialto, located midway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
The single-story Napa home was built there in three dwelling modules plus a roof unit. The sections were then shipped to a staging area near the construction site, where crews were finishing preparation of the foundation. With construction in the factory occurring concurrently with build-site preparation, the total time to get the home from dirt to dining room can be reduced by as much as half, and neighborhood disruption can be lessened, not to mention potential for less waste in construction materials, according to founder and CEO Steve Glenn.
“In that area, it’s important to consider prefab as a solution, because contractors so busy, and costs going up,” Glenn said.
The company has other North Bay projects in the pipeline, particularly for those who were among the thousands who lost homes in the North Bay’s October wildfires, according to Glenn. The company is working with four such owners to install two homes in the coming months in Santa Rosa on burned sites and two outside the scorched areas — one in Sebastopol and the other in Half Moon Bay.
The Southern California company is offering special pricing for victims of the fire, including free initial site assessments, half-off of feasibility services, $5,000 in free upgrades and 5 percent off design and administrative fees.
Plant Prefab was spun off from LivingHomes, a designer of dwellings that conform to high levels of the LEED for Homes green-building standard. The Napa home is based on the LivingHomes C6P ranch-style home with a pitched roof and targets the highest level of LEED for Homes, which is Platinum.
While the owner of the Napa home may or may not pursue the arduous certification process for LEED for Homes Platinum, the modules were built to tick off items on that checklist, Glenn said. The modules are plumbed to connect to greywater recycling systems, have roof blocking and conduits for solar panels and are finished with low- or nonvolitile-organic-compound (VOC) paints.
LEED for Homes Platinum is hard to get because it involves water usage, flyash content of the concrete, indoor air quality, according to Bob Massaro, founder of Healthy Buildings USA in Napa and a longtime member of the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which created the LEED standard.