Several Unity representatives recently participated in the Better Buildings by Design conference sponsored by Efficiency Vermont. By bringing together leaders in the green, high performance building industry, the conference gives us a valuable opportunity to connect with our peers. Unity Homes has a challenging mission in raising the bar while lowering costs for home building. Attending a conference like Better Buildings by Design reminds us that we are not alone in this ambitious pursuit.
Many of the conference sessions addressed topics that relate directly to our work here at Unity: enclosure details for air-tightness, mechanical systems for “low load” homes, ventilation methods to ensure healthy indoor air, and strategies for balancing cost and quality. While most of the projects featured in the case studies presented at the conference were built using conventional on-site methods, we were pleased to see several companies represented that, like Unity, are using off-site techniques to build high performance homes. While technically these companies could be considered competitors, our relationship to them is based on mutual respect and support.
When Unity’s founder Tedd Benson talks about current efforts to use off-site fabrication to build high performance homes, he often harkens back to the early days of the timber frame renaissance. In the mid-1970s, Tedd and several other visionaries, primarily in New England, had the audacious idea to marry the centuries-old craft of timber framing with modern tools, techniques and materials. The early practitioners in this timber frame revival – many of whom Tedd helped to train – were competitors, but they were also supporting one another’s success, because without multiple thriving companies, there could be no timber frame industry. Tedd drafted the first charter for the Timber Framers Guild of North America, which emphasized cooperation and support. The size and strength of today’s timber frame industry, in which Bensonwood still plays an important role, is a testament to that early vision.
The state of the off-site home building industry—at least as applied to high performance homes—is similar to the early days of timber framing, in that the industry as a whole is strengthened by the success of each individual company. Conversely, when a company runs into trouble or founders, the credibility of the entire industry may be undermined.
Here at Unity, we are pulling for the success of other off-site home building companies such as BrightBuilt, Preferred Building Systems, Vermod and Huntington Homes, all of whom had a presence at the Better Buildings conference. Although the particulars of each company vary, we have the shared goal of using off-site construction to provide high quality homes for a reasonable cost.
Attending the Better Buildings conference and reconnecting with like-minded peers reminds us that we are part of a movement that goes beyond simply building homes and providing shelter. We are at the vanguard of residential construction, where motivated and skilled workers employ the latest in technology and equipment to produce homes that perform exceptionally well, have a minimal environmental impact, and will last for generations. We salute the many people who share this vision, and we are proud to be part of the tribe.