Unity Blog

Reflections on Greenbuild 2015

Greenbuild 2015 timelapse

CLICK HERE TO SEE TIMELAPSE VIDEO of the Greenbuild Unity Home being assembled in less than 3 days!

The dust has settled (literally and figuratively) on Unity Homes’ participation in Greenbuild 2015.  The Zūm show home that we erected in three days on the trade show floor has now been reassembled (in two days!) on its permanent foundation up the road from our Walpole, NH headquarters. We are responding to the large number of inquiries that resulted from Unity’s participation in Greenbuild. And we are reviewing and evaluating all that we accomplished, learned and saw.

We had envisioned the Greenbuild Conference and Expo as the national launch of Unity Homes, and as such, it could not have gone better. We pulled off the installation of a beautiful, high-performance show home at the conference in a remarkably short period of time. As job captain John McElroy said when someone complimented him on the achievement, “I know, right?  I can’t believe what we can do!” A record number of visitors toured the home, we received high praise from many quarters, and we hosted a national launch party for Unity that was enthusiastically attended by some of the brightest stars in green building.

The 1200+ visitors who toured the home included builders, developers, architects, potential homeowners, and people who simply care about the latest in green building — and they gave the home uniformly positive reviews. The comments of an architect practicing in the D.C. area was typical:

“I’ve seen a lot of these homes over the years, and this is by far the nicest.  I love that when you walk inside and take a deep breath, all you smell is wood!”

The press and online media also gave Unity and the show home very high marks. Inhabitat termed the home a “beacon for sustainable design.” Green Building Law called the home “very impressive,” and a “highlight” of the trade show. The widely-read blog Treehugger gave the Greenbuild Unity Home it’s “Best of Show” award. And BuildingGreen, the influential and highly-respected publisher of Environmental Building News, recognized Unity Homes as one of its “Top Ten Green Building Products” of the year.

The people with whom we spoke liked what they saw and experienced in the show home, but they did not always immediately understand the Unity process. Some wanted to pigeon-hole Unity as a modular home builder or a company that only panelizes its homes.  

Explaining the uniqueness of Unity’s montage process can take some time and effort, because what we are doing is new and different. But with the help of props such as the time-lapse video showing the home’s construction, we were able to convey the essential elements that set Unity apart:

1. We think in terms of prefabricated assemblies, not necessarily modules or panels.

2. Our design system consists of pre-engineered components created on a 3D grid.

3. We build virtually before we build actually, and information flows seamlessly from the building production model into our computer-controlled machinery.

4. We assemble large, complex, prefabricated assemblies on site to become the finished home.

5. Our process reflects decades of experience building precision elements off-site and assembling them on-site.

Once they grasped the essence, Unity’s “better way to build” resonated with a broad spectrum of people at Greenbuild.

We spoke with empty-nesters looking to downsize into a low maintenance home with predictable utility costs.  

There were couples with young kids who found the net-zero energy-ready aspect of our homes compelling, because they want their homes to reflect their deepest values.  

Developers working on pocket neighborhoods of energy-efficient homes were drawn to the rapid build cycle and quality assurance resulting from off-site construction.  

Being that we were in Washington, D.C., we had discussions with rocket scientists from NASA who wanted the inside scoop on our technology, representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs asked about housing for veterans, and an official from the Department of Defense who pointed out that by the time a tanker truck full of diesel reaches a distant military outpost, the fuel may cost $100 per gallon and — more importantly — have put the lives of our service men and women at risk.  

All of these people saw potential solutions in Unity Homes.

The wide range of support we heard for Unity’s mission was reaffirming for those of us in the trenches.  We are inspired to know that, thanks to Greenbuild, Unity now has many new ambassadors who will be championing our cause.  

The exposure we received at Greenbuild highlighted not only the tremendous opportunities available to Unity Homes, but also the challenges we are facing. The biggest challenge to Unity is not achieving high performance in our homes; every home we build is energy efficient, comfortable, durable, low maintenance and healthy.  Our major challenge is to make this level of quality more affordable.  With the strong wind of Greenbuild now at our back, we are focusing on reducing costs by working smarter and more efficiently.  We look forward to making Unity Homes available to an ever-broader segment of the market.