Zero Energy Modular Homes

Better Results, Lower Risk, and Cost Savings

Massachusetts has a chronic shortage of affordable housing, and housing and energy advocates are seeking equitable long-term decarbonization strategies for low-income and disadvantages communities.

Industrialized construction is being widely promoted as the future of the building industry because it offers multiple advantages over conventional site-built construction from speed, quality, and cost. How are you advancing industrialized construction in your building portfolio?

Are you an affordable housing developer interested in trying modular for your next project? Would you like your clients to benefit from low to no energy bills? Our team can offer the following services:

  • Explain differences between site built and modular construction timelines
  • Connect you with modular factories experienced building to stringent zero energy standards
  • Provide overview of best practices for optimizing both modular design and energy efficiency features

The Benefits of Industrialized Construction (IC)

Faster process, increased productivity

  • Faster construction rates, with construction schedules reduced by up to 50 percent
  • Increased labor productivity at the building site and lower labor costs because of fewer work interruptions and delays
  • Factory-built components can be completed on time because IC is not typically subject to setbacks from weather

Cost savings and reduction in waste

  • Material cost savings of up to 20 percent
  • Up to 70 percent reduction in construction waste

A model for the future taking hold now

  • Industrialized Construction overcomes many of the complex challenges facing the construction industry and is on the rise
  • Now is the time to incorporate industrialized construction into your building practice – and by starting with ZEMAHI you will have a guide who can walk you through each step

The Future is Industrialized

By 2035, the construction industry has forecast that most buildings will be built with IC. The industry will benefit from the expertise in manufacturing for mass production, just as the construction industry will be able to customize designs and complete complex projects cost effectively.

Both the construction and manufacturing industries have begun to align with one another and with academia to ensure that architecture, engineering, and lean construction programs can produce skilled construction professionals to meet the growing need for this cost-effective construction method.

Now is the time for developers to begin building IC into future project pipelines. This site answers questions about costs, construction options, special cases, and risk management.


Your Questions Answered

General Information

Q. How is modular construction different from prefabrication, and how does IC fit in?

A. Both modular construction and prefabrication are off-site construction methods. Prefabrication is a broader concept that includes modular construction. That is, prefabrication can mean components ranging from panelized wall systems, bathroom pods to completed modular units. IC is an emerging term. As the industry evolves, it is likely that IC or perhaps a new term will evolve, reducing the number of interchangeable terms currently in play.

Q. How can a builder be sure of the full costs of a project?

A. Builders can have certainty about many costs, because all of a project’s players – designers, manufacturers, and delivery personnel – agree on projects requirements at the beginning. Wherever transparency is part of the requirements, all parties can stay apprised of factors affecting their respective bottom lines.

Multifamily Construction with IC

Q. How likely is it that multifamily projects can be completed with IC?

A. From a straightforward construction standpoint, multifamily projects can and are being completed with IC. However, the numbers are still low. The likelihood is increasing now, because IC manufacturers are beginning to expand their operations to support large projects. However, several barriers still remain for developers and contractors, lenders, local officials, and designers. With steadily increasing experience with IC, those barriers are diminishing.

Q. What are the risks for a multifamily developers and contractors?

A. As more multifamily buildings are delivered via IC, developers and contractors will gain greater certainty about time and cost savings, relative to their perceived financial risks. These risks frequently relate to project payment timelines, and the ability to locate favorable financing for those timelines.

Q. What other factors should a multifamily developer or contractor know about?

A. Lenders are still unfamiliar with real estate and manufacturing risks in large IC projects. Designers must think in terms of modular construction, and balance those different kinds of constraints with meeting client needs. And local government officials (for example, planning commissions and building inspectors) are not yet familiar with how their regulatory processes fit with modular construction.

Q. How can risks from these factors be overcome?

A. Making IC work well, especially in the multifamily sector, will require community-level collaboration. Some jurisdictions have launched innovation cohorts of cross-sector stakeholders. Learning opportunities for the construction industry can also help laborers, developers, contractors, and designers gain the information and skills they need to transition confidently to IC practices. Developers, especially, can participate in pilot programs to identify and overcome community-level risks. Where feasible, it will be important to attract new modular manufacturers, sited near communities where building and rebuilding needs are significant. And increasing the interest of investors to IC will accelerate its widespread adoption.

Q. I am an affordable housing builder. Are the insurance risks from IC lower because many of the usual on-site risks are removed?

A. Yes, for the most part. However, an affordable housing builder should be aware that by using IC, rigging exposure should be taken into consideration. Responsibility for transporting panels, modules, and other components to the site should be adequately covered (to be determined among the manufacturer, trucking company, and general contractor). Most of the liability for workers’ compensation will be the responsibility of the manufacturer, because the general contractor will have fewer employees at the site, and their time at the site will be less than what occurs during a conventional build.

Zero Energy Modular Housing

Q. What are a builder’s options for zero energy homes?

A. Zero energy modular (ZEM) homes deliver high energy performance and are well suited for both affordable housing and market rate housing. Vermont, New York, and Delaware are among several states that have been advancing methods for construction and delivery, and describing customer and builder economics for ZEM construction. ZEM housing typically offers high-performance heating and cooling systems and other forms of electrical mechanical systems—including rooftop renewable energy installations. ZEM homes’ superior indoor air quality is a significant factor for maintaining occupant health and safety—a selling point for all customers. 

Further information of ZEMs can be found at: