As construction costs soar, modular housing is an increasingly attractive option for developers and homeowners. The emergence of zero energy modular (ZEM) homes presents an opportunity to combine the cost-savings of modular construction with the benefits of zero energy. Affordable housing developers in particular face staggering challenges. Rising construction costs, labor shortages, hurdles with land acquisition and fluctuating federal and state grant and capital pools can make it costly and slow to add new, affordable units to the nation’s housing stock. First cost and minimum code compliance often dominate decision-making priorities. The ZEM Factory Initiative proposes a new business model to address the shortage of affordable housing units: growth of ZEM factories to manufacture energy-efficient, affordable units, and sell them directly to affordable housing developers. In addition to providing high quality and healthy homes to those who need them most, ZEM factories can create living wage manufacturing jobs. The ZEM Factory Initiative will bring the clean energy economy to rural areas, serving as catalyst for transformation of the affordable housing market.
Zero energy modular homes are built to meet a stringent zero energy standard. A ZEM home can be built at a lower cost and a higher quality than a similar site-built home. The ZEM home model uses construction principles that result in comfortable homes, with excellent indoor air quality, durability, and low energy use. ZEM homes are generally all-electric and paired with solar panels to offset the home’s energy use. ZEM homes can also include grid-connected batteries. In partnership with local utilities, these homes can be part of a grid modernization and battery storage efforts.
This document is a how-to manual that provides open source information about the ZEM Factory Initiative concept. The manual provides guidance for developing a ZEM factory, including factory plan options (size, labor requirements, costs for start-up). The manual, written as the companion piece to Volume 1: Market Analysis for Zero Energy Modular Homes in New York State
, provides a template that could be used in New York State and nationally.