Factory built show home demonstrates the best in building technology

Dec. 31, 2015

The 2015 Greenbuild Unity home, erected in just a few days on the expo floor, was designed to show case the state of the art of affordable high performance home building.

A product of world-renowned builder Tedd Benson and Unity Homes the home was planned, designed, constructed, inspected, and tested according to LEED for Homes version 4 program requirements and is anticipated to achieve Platinum Certification when moved to its permanent site in New Hampshire after Greenbuild.

The 1,620 square-foot home features a modern, light-filled open-plan aesthetic and is one of four customizable platforms being made available for sale to the public by Unity Homes. Also known as

Photo by John Jack.

the Zum home, plans originated in part from a collaboration with MIT’s Open Source Building Alliance, which focused on providing cost-effective energy efficiency and extending the flexibility and useful lifespan of buildings.

Constructed at Unity’s production facilities in Walpole, New Hampshire, pods containing the kitchens, bathrooms, laundry room and mechanical systems have been laid out, assembled and prepared for shipment, including cabinets, appliances, fixtures and finishes, placing the most costly square footage within the controlled environment of Unity’s shop and labor force.  The rest of the home, including floors, walls, and roof are being built and shipped as complete panels with framing, sheathing, subflooring, wiring, insulation, windows/doors, and interior and exterior finishes in place.

A typical on-site assembly of the shell takes one to three days.  The 2016 Greenbuild Unity Home arrived six days prior to opening of Greenbuild for the crew to enclose, finish and furnish the show home prior to tours of the home during the show in November 2015.

Tedd Benson, CEO of Unity Homes said “As we prepare to expand to other regions, we are thrilled to have the honor and opportunity to bring one of our homes to Greenbuild.  Together with Hanley Wood and our world-class material and equipment manufacturer partners, we’re anxious to demonstrate to the discerning Greenbuild participants the Unity way of building.”

Photo by John Jack.

“The Greenbuild Unity Home is an ideal way to introduce architects, builders and consumers to the power of transparency in the specification of healthy, sustainable products,” said Stacy Glass, Vice President, Built Environment for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. As a partner in the show home, the Institute will be featuring nearly two dozen products with Cradle to Cradle Certification or Material Health Certificates -- which provides manufacturers with a trusted way to communicate their work toward chemically optimized products.

“Visitors will be able to observe a range of everyday products—from tile to window coverings to mattresses to soap—that offer third-party verification on five attributes: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness.”

  • The home is 1,620 square feet, aiming for LEED v4 Platinum certification
  • Partners are BUILDER magazine, Unity Homes and Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2C)
  • Unity Homes is based in Walpole, NH and was founded in 2012 by Tedd Benson, founder of Bensonwood Homes, the highly regarded 40-year old custom timber frame design and build company
  • Home was built using Unity’s Montage process, which involves using 3D modeling software to virtually build the structure, then constructing the components in a controlled environment and assembling them on-site, integrating planning, design, engineering, project management and construction, in-house, from start to finish.  This leverages the power of computer design and Compute Numerical Control (CNC) to maximize the company’s precision and efficiencies during construction.
  • The construction system is based on prefab panels and three-dimensional modules or “pods.” Two preconstructed pods containing the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, entry and mechanical room were erected, with all finishes and fixtures in place and made ready for shipment at Unity’s fabrication facility. This puts the most intense and costly square footage within the controlled environment of Unity’s shop and labor force.
  • All wood in the home was harvested using responsible and sustainable forestry practices, and the abundance of wood will continue to sequester carbon for years to come.
  • Opposing roof lines maximize ceiling height and views while also providing a south-sloping roof for photovoltaic panels and privacy in the bedrooms.
  • The home is designed to be easily renovated -- repeatedly.  To that end, there are no load-bearing interior walls -- the structure lives in the exterior walls and in minimal timber framework.
  • The home was designed to maximize natural light using triple-glazed, argon filled low-E windows and doors from Intus.
  • The windows are equipped with MechoSystems Cradle-to-cradle certified Urban Shade systems, which allow the homeowner to regulate the amount of light.
  • The ceiling is Eastern White Pine softwood
  • Paint in the home was provided by ROMA Bio, the only paint in the world with a C2C certification of 3.0
  • In the kitchen, the timber running across the ceiling above the island is Nordic Structures engineered Glue Lam which provide structural integrity in tandem with the outer-wall framing, also from Nordic structures
  • The kitchen peninsula and dining bar are comprised of Advanta Studio full access new frameless cabinetry line, which was awarded a Silver material health certificate from C2C.
  • The countertops in the kitchen, laundry and bedrooms are IceStone, the color is Amber Pearl, which is made up of Amber an clear glass with mother of pearl in an off-white background.  IceStone is manufactured in Brooklyn, NY using just three core ingredients:  100% recycled glass, Portland cement and nontoxic pigments.  It is C2C certified silver as well as NSF51 certified.
  • All appliances are GE and Energy Star certified. 
  • The kitchen has a Kohler stainless steel under-mounted sink and Sensate faucet, which as its name suggests, is touch-less.
  • The home's mechanical room, which will help this home achieve LEED v4 Platinum certification, is managed by Steven Winter Associates.  In it is the GE Geospring Hyprid Heat Pump water heater, which heats water by capturing the ambient air in the home, which translates to savings of approximately $300 per year for the average family.
  • Above the water heater is the energy-recovery, whole-house ventilation system from Zehnder America. The system uses a heat-recovery core to extract heat from the air being removed from the house and applies it to the fresh incoming air.
  • The third key system in the utility room comes together in the electrical panel.  Connected to that panel is the X21 photovoltaic solar power generation system from Sun Power, which is C2C certified Silver.
  • The Mitsubishi Hyper Heat MXZ two-zone airsource heat pump delivers 100% heat capacity down to 5 degrees Farenheit and continues to generate heat down to 5 degrees Farenheit.
  • Wardrobe cabinets are provided by Advanta with a Silver Material Health Certificate from C2C.
  • The Advantech subflooring from Huber Engineered Woods runs throughout the house. They are the only engineered wood panels manufactured to exceed PS-2-code-minimum design standards. Structural framing consists of 9 1/4-inch Nordic Systems I-joists in the walls and 11-7/8 inch I-joists in the roof panels instead of 2-by framing, which allows rapid and accurate assembly of the panel systems.
  • Insulation filling the wall cavity is GreenFiber dense-packed cellulose, noted for its superior fire safety rating. It is made from daily newspapers that went un-purchased.
  • The laundry room uses Advanta cabinetry with a Silver Material Health Certificate from C2C; GE provided the front-load washer and dryer.
  • In the guest bath, there is a Kohler Veil wall-hung toilet, which seems to float in the air and saves up to 12-inches of space. The tub shower combination is a Kohler Sterling Ensemble Medley series with a Kohler Honesty trim set featuring a 2 gallon-per-minute Watersense certified shower head. The wall sconces are from the Kohler Purist line and medicine cabinet is a Kohler Verdera slow-close with a magnifying mirror.
  • Master bedroom suite furniture selected by Smith Group, JJR.  There are no conventional closets in the home. This is part of the "open built” philosophy so that cabinets can be moved vs. demolished. Like in all the living spaces, the windows are triple-glazed low E glass from Intus, although the bedroom windows are UPVC, not wood and metal as in the main living space. The windows are fitted with MechoSystems C2C certified shades.
  • The master bath is furnished entirely by Kohler. The tub is Kohler Archer Alcove Vibracoustic, which calms and soothes with sound vibration technology and six concealed speakers that send sound waves through the water to provide a gentle massage, and can connect to mobile devices.
  • The exterior wall is made by the Huber Zip System, an exterior wall and roof solution created to streamline the weatherization process and protect structures during construction and throughout the life of the home. Because the water-resistant barrier is integrated into the Structural 1-rated sheathing panel, it eliminates the risk of water getting trapped between the barrier and the sheathing, which can cause costly rework during construction or moisture-related issues over time.
  • On the roof Zip System panels are also used, where they are covered with GAF EverGuard Extreme 60 mil TPO, a rubber membrane roofing material formulated for the most severe applications and engineered with solar installations in mind. GAF EverGuard Extreme has a Silver Material Health Certificate from C2C.
  • The photovoltaic installation on the roof uses SunPower's InvisiMount system, which was specifically designed to work with the company's solar panels to combine faster installation, design flexibility, and superior aesthetics.

Read more about high performance home building.


Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Energy Recovery & Heat Recovery, Healthy Homes, Paint | Low VOC and No VOC, Solar Power, Thermal Envelope

Companies: Kohler, Mitsubishi Electric USA, GAF Materials Corporation, SunPower Corporation, General Electric, Zehnder America, Huber Engineered Woods


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