At Unity Homes, we use the word montage (a French word meaning “assembly”) to describe three main processes: 1) how our designs are assembled on-screen in 3D using pre-designed and pre-engineered components, 2) how those components are actually manufactured in our shop, and, finally, 3) how our homes are assembled/built on-site from those pre-fabricated components. We have completed the montage design process for the Zūm model home that will be featured at this year’s Greenbuild Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C.and the montage pre-fabrication process is now underway in our shop. However, for this project we’re taking our in-shop work a step further.
After manufacturing the components of a typical Unity Home, we don’t put them together—actually build the home—inside our shop. However, this particular project is not typical Unity. With just two days to assemble the home in the Convention Hall, we knew there would be little if any margin for error—that it would be crazy to attempt this, without first pre-fitting as many of the parts and pieces as possible in our shop.
Because of the unusually high level of in-shop pre-fabrication, the Greenbuild Unity Home is an aspirational prototype — like a concept car that won’t be available to the public for two or three years.
Our project planning team made a number of tactical decisions aimed at reducing the assembly time in the D.C. Washington Expo Center. One was this decision to pre-fit large sections of the house together in our shop. Once the finishes, fixtures and systems are installed, we will completely dis-assemble the panels and pods, and carefully pack them for delivery to D.C.
The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will also be preinstalled in the panels and pods before we ship them to the conference. The plumbing has already been roughed in to the
bathroom and kitchen pods. Our electricians have begun to prewire the panels, utilizing materials and methods that will allow these elements to be disassembled and then re-assembled without the need for a licensed electrician to make the connections.
Another tactical decision was to eliminate the need for any “wet” finishes during the final assembly. A two-day construction schedule leaves no time for joint compound or paint to dry. We could have incorporated such finishes into the schedule if we had planned to work on the assembly for 48 hours straight, but we’d rather work smarter than harder. And we are using this project as an opportunity to test solutions that will eventually find their way — typically improved by experience — into the standard Unity construction process. For example, how do you join two sheetrock walls to each other without requiring that the resulting inside corner is finished with joint tape and three coats of joint compound? Visit the Unity Home at this year’s Greenbuild Conference to find out!