Green Built Home Tour 2018

Modular Prefab Modern Farmhouse at 634 N. Taylor St. in Oak Park will be certified as a Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home.

Modular Prefab Modern Farmhouse at 634 N. Taylor St. in Oak Park will be certified as a Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home.

By Lisa Biehle Files

Two Oak Park buildings will be featured among 16 Illinois residences in the Green Built Home Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29: the District House condominiums at 702 Lake St. and the Modular Prefab Modern Farmhouse at 634 N. Taylor St.

The District House, with green roof terraces, should receive its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Home certification soon.

The Modular Prefab Modern Farmhouse will be a DOE (Department of Energy) Zero Energy Ready Home (pending). As a prefab, it was built in an Indiana factory by Hi-Tech Housing, and assembled at 634 N. Taylor St. on August 23, 2017.

“It took 3 trucks and one large crane to place the six modules together, and after six hours, there stood a fully enclosed and roofed house ready for finishes,” writes architect Tom Bassett-Dilley, who guided the process.

In this case, "prefab" meant working with modules, but Bassett-Dilley designed the layout, siting, HVAC, and thermal enclosure foundation in coordination with the modular factory.

In his blog from July 2, Bassett-Dilley lists the benefits of factory-building instead of site-building homes, a process architects have dabbled with since the Industrial Revolution:

  • It’s better to build in the controlled environment of a factory instead of a wet, windy, cold, muddy field;

  • Quality control tends to be more consistent in a manufacturing setting than a field setting;

  • Cost control is more reliable in a factory due to bulk purchasing, consistently trained labor, predictable work flow and methods, and the parameters of module sizes;

  • It can be way faster than site-building: the foundation can go in while the modules are being built, and the modules can get set in a day, taking months out of the overall build time;

  • There can be a lot less waste, and/or better control of waste, in the factory.

In a telephone conversation about the Modular Prefab Modern Farmhouse, Bassett-Dilley said, "We tend to spend most of our time indoors now, so the big question in my mind as a designer is how do we try to offset that separation from the natural world in the way we design buildings? A view outdoors is a start, but we have to think about natural materials, patterns and forms, natural light and plantings."

Energy efficiency and occupant health are foremost on his agenda. He starts with an energy-efficient "thermal envelope design," and then offsets energy use with renewables, such as the PV (photovoltaic) solar array on the roof of the Farmhouse. Regarding occupant health, Bassett-Dilley became passionate: "It is really distressing how poisonous much of our construction world is. There are petrochemicals and formaldehyde and a lot of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) just strewn all over the construction industry. It is possible to avoid it, but it takes diligence, and fortunately the prefab company was on board with that regarding caulks, sealants, adhesives etc."

See all 16 Green Built Home Tour residences for $20 by purchasing a passport ticket in advance, or tour individual homes for $5 each by paying at the door on July 28 or 29. To see photos of all 16 homes featured on the Green Built Home Tour, go here.