Are Modular Homes More Eco-Friendly? Everything You Need to Know

are modular homes more eco-friendly

Modular homes have seen a resurgence in popularity lately, with many homebuyers viewing them as affordable, eco-friendly options in a tough housing market.

Following the highest quality construction standards that require stringent third-party inspections, today’s custom-built modular homes are eco-conscious by design. From the moment you select the prefabricated house you’d like built, the homebuilder provides inherent and optional energy-efficient features at a lower cost to you, like eco-friendly lighting, for example, and superior insulation. These features can help you save money on utility bills once you’re living in your new modular home. 

Here’s a closer look at what the inherent and optional eco-friendly features are, and how they have made modular homes the quality housing option they are today.

Inherently Eco-Friendly Features of Modular Homes

Every modular home these days has several inherent, eco-friendly features. These features are built-in by default, even if you aren’t particularly eco-conscious as the homeowner. The following are some of the most common types.

Efficient Ordering and Usage of Building Materials

Modular homes are built in large, indoor spaces. Builders bulk-order the needed materials based on the template they’re using. They also build several modular house parts simultaneously, making it an eco-friendly and inexpensive building process, which produces very little waste.

Efficient Recycling of Scrap Building Materials

Traditional stick-built construction takes place on the actual home site, with around 40% of scrap accumulated there likely ending up in a landfill. If construction involves a community of stick-built homes being built simultaneously, the amount of scrap accumulates much more quickly.

By contrast, construction at a modular home site takes place only when the custom-built house is assembled — the bulk of the scrap accumulates at the facility where the house is pre-fabricated. Excess materials produced at a modular home site are generally reused, and any scrap produced is typically recycled. This leads to less scrap and higher recycling rates, keeping unnecessary construction waste out of landfills.

Easier Disassembly for Recycling at End-of-Life

Modular homes are designed to last as long as — if not longer than — traditional stick-built homes. Every home has its own lifespan, though.

When an old house is beyond repair, it’s best to knock it down and clear the land, removing the old structure. This process can be difficult if the house is stick-built, warranting the involvement of a demolition team.

By contrast, modular homes are built for quick assembly and disassembly, enabling easy land clearing and construction material recycling.

More Efficient Energy Usage

Energy efficiency is one of the more notable eco-friendly features of modular homes. From design and assembly to meeting the strictest of standards, here are several reasons why a modular home is much more energy-efficient than a traditional stick-built house.

Housing Materials Fit Together Better

Modular homes are built in a controlled environment, which protects the materials from adverse weather. When the building process eliminates changes in temperature and humidity, the chances of warpage in the materials decrease considerably. This results in a tight, sealed fit when the materials are joined together during assembly of the final product. 

A modular home also tends to have this tight, sealed fit around its windows and doors, which prevents unwanted airflow. This tight-fight sealing is essential to boosting the overall energy efficiency of a modular home, regulating power usage and the costs involved.

Home Energy Regulations Are More Likely to Be Met and Exceeded

Traditional homes are built on-site, with many of them located in rural areas. This can make building inspections difficult to complete for various reasons. There may only be a few building inspectors available in these areas, for example, or none at all due to a lack of local department resources. If no building inspectors are available nearby, they must travel over to each site to conduct the energy home regulatory inspection, which can be challenging.

With the increase in building level output, though, many building inspectors are overworked in some regions and simply can not complete all home inspections.

By contrast, because modular homes are constructed at a controlled facility, a homebuilder can typically mass produce tens of thousands of homes per year at this location. Building inspections can be carried out there, too, en masse, which is convenient and saves on resources. 

Conducting multiple inspections at the facility also forces a homebuilder to strictly adhere to all energy-related code requirements across all of its modular home projects. Otherwise, the fines and fees associated with these violations would make pose a substantial financial challenge. This is why today’s modular homes typically exceed all energy code requirements, especially in large metro areas.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has previously cooperated with modular homebuilders to increase energy efficiency in new homes.

Insulation Methods Are Superior

By default, modular home builders use a 2 × 6 exterior wall, rather than a 2 × 4 one. These two extra inches make modular home walls more resistant to settling. They also increase the overall airtightness level during the modular home’s lifespan, providing more insulation.

The 2 × 6 walls are more eco-friendly because there’s less waste associated with the broader board — that means fewer trees need to be cut for the construction process to take place.

Modular homes use R21 wall insulation rather than the variety commonly used in stick-built housing. The higher R-value means that insulation for a modular home is much more effective. The DOE recommends both R19 and R21 wall insulation for new home construction. The standard roofing insulation used for modular homes is R49, approved for use in all eight U.S. zones. This high R-value offers powerful insulation performance and energy efficiency.

Insulated heating and cooling ducts are also standard in modular homes. This helps decrease energy loss from your modular home’s ducts, indicating that your system can heat and cool your home faster and more efficiently.

Climate Control Systems Are More Efficient

Quality HVAC systems are another reason modular homes are far more energy-efficient than traditional stick-built houses.

Builders apply the highest construction standards to modular homes regarding energy usage. The HVAC system, its ductwork, and the way it’s assembled can make a significant impact on the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling system.

Default Lighting Choices of Modular Homes Have Longer Lifespans

Regarding home lighting, incandescent bulbs are standard in traditional stick-built homes. Unfortunately, they don’t have nearly as long a lifespan as the CFL and LED lighting typically found in modular homes. 

The longer lifespan of CFL and LED lighting results in fewer light bulbs needing to be produced and even fewer light bulbs ending up in landfills. This adds to the innate eco-friendly, energy-efficient nature of today’s modular homes.

Optional Eco-Friendly Aspects of Modular Homes

We’ve already discussed several of the inherent, built-in features that all modular homes include nowadays. Now, let’s look at the optional ones, which are usually available as upgrades, enabling you to make your modular home even greener. They include:

  • Choosing sustainable materials for modular home finishings, like bamboo flooring
  • Opting for features that increase your modular home’s energy efficiency, like high-efficiency, double-glazed windows
  • Upgrading to energy-saving appliances
  • Choosing geothermal heating and cooling systems
  • Integrating solar power
  • Installing a green roof

Many eco-friendly home upgrades often bring tax credits, deductions, and other incentives, available at the federal, state, and local levels. Check with your tax professional to find potential qualifying incentives.

Additional Modular Home Features

Aside from the eco-friendly, energy-efficient features of modular homes, other benefits appeal to many homeowners. These benefits include:

  • Faster completion. Modular homes are typically constructed and assembled faster than traditional stick-built houses, shortening the length of time you have to wait to move in.
  • Improved air quality. The off-site construction of modular homes leads to lower greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions.
  • Resistance to natural disasters. Modular homes are built to last, even through a natural disaster. Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992, a FEMA report indicated that modular homes withstood hurricanes better than traditional stick-built houses. Modular homes can resist earthquake damage better, too.
  • Cost-efficiency. Many of the factors that cause modular homes to be more eco-friendly also bring high cost-efficiency. On average, modular homes cost 20% to 30% less than traditional stick-built houses. 

Modular Homes: The Practical and Socially-Responsible Choice

Owning a modular home brings several benefits, environmental and otherwise. Given these benefits, it’s easy to understand why modular homes are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. With beautiful floorplans and several eco-friendly features available to prospective homeowners, modular homes are an understandably attractive option.

Designed to meet the highest construction standards, modular homes follow a more eco-friendly building process for our planet. Today’s modular homes are equipped with eco-friendly lighting, superior insulation, and enhanced ventilation systems that regulate temperature and airflow, providing improved air quality and energy efficiency.

Save time and money by choosing a modular home. Century Home Builders can answer all your questions.