Friday, July 10, 2009

Green Mobile Homes


Green living hits the road

green mobile home 1Definitely not your uncle’s Winnebago! And being green with envy isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when talking about environmental-friendly mobile homes. Luxury or comfort aren’t the words that come to mind either, but words like cramped, or small, or automotive usually don’t instill satisfaction inside the hearts of potential residents who’re use to a home that can’t get up and drive off But “green” is exactly what Michael Berk, F.L. Crane Endowed Professor of Architecture at Mississippi State, wants mobile homes to be. Tossing traditional thinking about the structures of mobile homes, into the metaphorical “recycling bin”, is exactly what Berk plans to do.

Working in the Carl Small Town Center, which is a part of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art & Design, Berk created an award-winning, factory-built unit he calls the GreenMobile. Unlike other lower-end housing, Berk applies sound construction methods, as well as energy-saving concepts for lower utility costs. The GreenMobile design meets all International Residential codes for structurally sound foundations, insulation, promotes the use of energy-efficient appliances, and creates interior spaces that are better suited for natural-day lighting and ventilation. It also includes an option to install solar photo-voltaic systems, which convert energy from the sun into electricity.

Energy savings from the home make it a smart choice for people looking for affordable housing and lower utility costs. “It potentially could make money at the end of the month,” Berk said.

Energy isn’t the only thing that separates the GreenMobile from traditional mobile homes. Berk says that his next generation mobile home will actually appreciate in value, unlike current mobile homes that depreciate shortly after being bought. Given the potential to accrue value and the fact that they’re designed to last longer than traditional mobile homes, GreenMobiles could be financed through low-interest loans from lending institutions such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They’re expected to cost in the $50,000 range.

Mobile homes don’t have luxury?

The i-House is a next generation, green manufactured home. It’s from Clayton Homes, who have been building mobile homes for over 70 years (They were bought by Warren Buffet in 2003). It will sell for about $100,000, which puts it above trailer park homes but below regular houses. Clayton homes can be configured in seven different ways and includes eco-friendly and energy-saving features like low-e windows, dual-flash toilets, butterfly style rainwater-collecting roofs, tight insulation, zero-VOC paint, and more. Other amenities include IKEA fixtures, bamboo flooring, recycled content decking material, and Japanese-style climate control in each room. The i-house also features a large open kitchen and living room with contemporary cabinets and high efficiency appliances.

The layout of the long main “core” of the house and a separate box-shaped guestroom/office “flex room” resemble the letter “i” and it’s dot. Yet Clayton CEO and President Kevin Clayton said their “i-house” stands for more than it’s carbon footprint.

green mobile home 3With a nod to the iPod and iPhone, Clayton said, “We love what it represents. We are fans of Apple and all that they have done. But the “i” stands for innovation, inspiration, intelligence, and integration.” And shattering those mobile home stereo-types is a good thing, he said. “I think the “i-house” is just more proof that the industry is capable of delivering homes that are highly customizable at an affordable price.

The “i-house’s” metal, v-shaped roof, which has been inspired by a gas-station awning, combines design with function. The roof provides a rain water catchment system for recycling, supports flush-mounted solar panels and vaults interior ceilings at each end to 10 ½ feet for an added feeling of openness. The Energy Star-rated design features heavy insulation, six-inch thick exterior walls, cement board and corrugated metal siding, energy efficient appliances, and tankless water heater.

green mobile home 4

The Green RV

As more and more Americans struggle to find affordable ways to travel, the attention turned to recreational vehicles. But can eco-minded travelers reduce their carbon footprint(or tire tracks) when driving these behemoths? The good news is that the RV industry is adjusting to the demands of a more environmentally conscious public. These vehicles are offering more efficient fuel usage and improved design while providing spacious accommodations that can fit realistic budgets.

Most modern mobile RVs today use fuel-efficient diesel engines that get about 15 miles per gallon as opposed to the industry standard of 8-10 miles per gallon. Manufactures are also building RVs with lighter composites(similar to the material found in golf balls), experimenting with new design, combating wind resistance by making sleeker front ends that improve overall fuel efficiency, changing the look of trailers to a more European design, with an aerodynamic front that conserves energy.

green mobile home 5Innovations hitting the RV world include units powered by solar and wind turbines, which generate electricity, power gourmet kitchens, full bathrooms, and home enter-tainment centers. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, a coalition of nearly 500 manufacturers, suppliers, and dealers of recreational vehicles, up to 20 percent of RVers use solar panels to power on-board systems. Meanwhile, manufacturers like Winnebago and Fleetwood are introducing newer, hybrid models that are incorporating diesel engines and batteries. Like hybrid cars, these RVs rely on battery power for city and slower driving, and both the battery and diesel engine at higher speeds(which charges the battery at the same time). This means that a hybrid vehicle can travel up to 700 miles without refueling, using approximately 12 miles per gallon.

In a recent independent study by the Department of the Environment in Britain showed that, on average, RVs released 4.58 pounds of CO2 per mile verses 1.39 pounds per mile for an average car.

green mobile home 6RVs reduce our carbon footprint through conservation and efficiency. According to PKF Consulting, a research firm specializing in travel and tourism, families of four taking RV vacations generate less carbon dioxide than families traveling on a plane, renting a car and staying in a hotel. This study analyzed the CO2 emissions of vacations varying in length, and included car/folding camping trailer, SUV/travel trailer, Type C motor home, and Type A motor home(diesel). Using the carbon calculator methodology developed by Conservation International, an organization promoting biodiversity conservation. PKF found that in each case, RV vacations had a softer environmental impact than the typical airline/rental car/hotel vacation.

Related Reading

Guide to Carbon Offsets

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