Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The C3 Explained

I've been asking Jeff Sommers to fill me in on his inspiration to embark upon this project and what principles went into the design of the C3. He describes the Urban-C3 as 'Green Prefabricated Housing for the Working Middle-Class, of which we surely are such. I will let him describe in his own words:

There are a rapidly growing number of existing and potential homeowners who are compelled to increase the energy efficiency of their homes as a way to reduce their expenses and negative impact on the environment. However, due to the premium costs generally associated with constructing highly energy efficient structures, the majority of these working middle-class families cannot afford to support these desires.

Our primary goal with this project is to propose a solution for this dilemma; to provide sustainable housing that is affordable for the working middle-class family through the utilization of prefabrication and the methods of the modular housing industry.

Why Prefab?

Prefabricated (also referred to as 'systems built') homes are built as modules within a factory controlled setting as opposed to conventional 'stick-built' homes that are constructed on site. There are a number of advantages to building homes this way:

  • First, there is a higher level of quality control when constructing a building in a factory setting instead of outside in the elements, so the home is generally of higher structural integrity.
  • Second, prefab homes can be constructed year-round and multiple modules can be built simultaneously, saving time and money.
  • Third, it minimizes waste. Because the manufacturer is building so many homes at once, the scraps are reused on other projects instead of going into a landfill.
  • Fourth, economies of scale reduce our labor and material costs through a repetive assembly line process and volume purchases from dedicated vendor relationships.

Due to this control over the construction process, materials, and labor costs, prefab homes can be produced at a consistently higher quality AND at a substantial savings over traditional construction.

Integrated Design Process

Together with our local energy consultant, we are collaborating with a fabrication facility in Indiana to develop construction details and pricing that will produce a highly energy efficient building shell and systems to substantially surpass the standard Energy Star rating and achieve a HERS rating that will qualify the homeowner for a Department of Energy tax credit. In addition, we intend for this project to be a certified Chicago Green Home, be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ready, qualify for the NAHB (National Assoication of Home Builders) green program, and the American Lung Association Health House program. The C3 has recently been preliminarily reviewed and enthusiastically supported by decision makers within the Chicago Building Department, Chicago Green Permit program, and Department of Planning. This integrated design process between our consultants, vendors, and city officials helps us make wise decisions early so that we can control expenses for the U-C3, and produce the most energy efficient building within a given budget.

Benefits for Chicago, the Environment, and our Residents

Providing an affordable, energy-efficient housing solution for the residents of Chicago is the primary benefit to the City, and reiterates Mayor Daley's initiatives to lead the way in energy and environmental conservation. This benefit goes hand in hand with Mayor Daley's pledge to provide a network of affordable options for not only low-income residents, but for the working middle-class.

In addition to providing affordable housing, this project addresses other key environmental issues such as (but not limited to):

  • Green roofs and the reduction of heat island effect
  • On-site renewable energy
  • Overall reduction of energy use (and expenses) through highly insulated building shell
  • Passive solar techniques and natural ventilation
  • High efficiency mechanical systems and appliances
  • Recycled/low-impact finishes
  • Water-based & no-VOC finishes for superior indoor air quality
  • On-site water management (no stormwater run-off into sewer system
  • Minimizing nonpermeable surfaces
  • Minimizing land useage
  • Superior indoor air quality
  • Minimizing water and utility useage
  • Sourcing of materials from local vendors

The C3 is designed for the middle-income budget, integrating a holistic approach to the building process by merging economy with ecology. A modern open floor plan organized around a private courtyard provides a dialogue between an urban lifestyle and the natural landscape. In addition to eco-friendly amenities, the C3 is designed with components that reduce energy and construction costs, ultimately saving the homeowner money while minimizing impact on the environment.

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