One home manufacturing company hopes to disrupt the home construction industry with sustainable practices.
By Lydia Noyes
Sponsored by Deltec Homes
As millions of people search for ways to lessen their impact on the Earth, environmentally sustainable housing options are quickly gaining momentum. In response, construction companies across the country are shifting from a strategy driven purely by profits to find innovative ways to make their business operations, corporate culture, and final products as sustainable as possible. This shift toward sustainable manufacturing is good for more than public relations: By reducing negative impacts on the environment and conserving limited natural resources, sustainable home manufacturing benefits customers, employees, and communities at large.
Deltec Homes is one company that’s leading the way toward a more sustainable future.
Leigha Dickens, Deltec Homes green building and sustainability manager, describes Deltec’s mission more broadly than building a certain type of home to include the type of impact that home will have.
For [Deltec], environmental responsibility doesn’t mean just “lessening our impact,” rather, it means finding ways to have a restorative effect, a positive effect, on our planet through the homes we build. Making decisions with these ideals is not always easy or simple, but it’s the right thing to do.
This stance is ambitious in a construction industry where a 2,000-square-foot home produces nearly 9,000 pounds of waste material! In contrast, Deltec homes generate 80 percent less waste during construction, diverting thousands of pounds of material from landfills every year.
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Deltec has been a family-owned company since its start in 1968. In the early years, they primarily produced hurricane-resistant round homes for resorts. When delighted vacationers flooded the company with requests for personal home designs, they gradually shifted its focus toward designing and constructing personal homes. Today, Deltec produces round, conventional, and modern-style prefabricated (“prefab”) kits. The kit is the structural shell of the home, which includes the roof system, wall system, and floor system, making up about one-third of the materials needed to build a house from scratch. Each home is designed with high-quality materials to provide a healthy, sustainable living space that withstands natural disasters and operates on a fraction of the energy that traditional designs require.
In February 2016, Deltec Homes achieved B Corp certification, an honor given to organizations such as the publisher of MOTHER EARTH NEWS that show strong social and environmental performance, and a commitment to staying accountable to their customers. By measuring their business success in standards beyond simply making a profit, Deltec has become the first prefab home company to earn this impressive certification.
While evaluating the full environmental impact of a construction project can be a daunting task, green building advocates typically consider “cradle-to-grave” and “cradle-to-gate” life cycle analyses to be the gold standard in reviewing a home design, and Deltec Homes is no different. Their focus on the environment is reflected in every aspect of their homes: from the materials used to the prefabrication process to the home itself.
Each Deltec home is built in a factory that is powered with 100 percent renewable energy. With 273 solar panels on the factory roof, their Asheville manufacturing facility was once the largest solar panel array in North Carolina.
Not only do Deltec homes reduce waste, they are also sourced from sustainable materials. The lumber for each Deltec home comes from Beadles Lumber, a sustainable mill in Georgia that lets their trees grow for 40 years before harvest in order to produce more board feet per tree. After harvesting, each board is machine stress rated for 2400 psi, ensuring that the trusses and walls are twice as strong as typical framing material produces.
The resiliency is evident for people who live in disaster-prone regions, as Deltec's round homes are wind- and earthquake-resistant. A round shape is aerodynamic and more structurally stable than square designs, and factory-precise prefabrication with tight beams and joints ensures that each Deltec home is equipped to stand up against strong winds. In fact, since the company’s start in 1968, not one home has been lost to wind damage.
For homeowners who want to enhance their sustainability throughout their home’s lifetime, Deltec offers several green building options to choose from, including metal roofs, double-stud walls, triple-pane windows, skylights, fresh air ventilation, pre-painted siding, and more.
While many companies build homes from scratch on-site or prefabricate them entirely in a factory, Deltec combines these processes to optimize sustainability.
After a Deltec home is ordered, the Asheville-based team constructs the structural shell before shipping it anywhere in the world. Homeowners then complete the home themselves or hire a local construction company to assemble the structural shell, usually in a week or less. Then, the interior can be completed just like a site-built home.
Costing roughly $150 to $200 per square foot for finished designs, Deltec homes are designed to be high performance, safe, durable, and comfortable to live in. For homeowners, this higher upfront cost is offset by the reduced maintenance costs and lower energy use in the long run.
Due to a rising demand for traditional and modern designs that could also qualify as net-zero, Deltec launched the Renew Collection in 2014. This collection includes 10 high-performance homes that make leaving a smaller energy footprint and achieving net-zero energy simple without compromising livability. Each home in the Renew Collection uses traditional passive design concepts, such as solar orientation, natural ventilation, and more, to minimize heat in the summer while keeping the home insulated in the winter. This allows each home to use less than two-thirds of the energy of a conventional home.
To better offset their energy usage, Renew Collection homes can provide the remaining third of their energy needs with solar panels. In many cases, they produce more energy than they need and can sell their excess power back to the grid for a profit under a process known as net metering (regulations vary by state).
When a home can produce all or most of its electricity, it’s considered to be net-zero in terms of energy consumption. Living in a net-zero home is as good for you as it is for the environment. An airtight living structure and high-level insulation ensures that cold drafts rarely come through and indoor temperatures remain comfortable. The home environment remains healthier, too, as net-zero homes naturally provide fresh ventilation, ensuring that clean, filtered air is constantly circulated through the living space. Finally, net-zero homes have dramatic benefits for your wallet. By lowering your energy needs by more than two-thirds, you’ll be spending less in heating and cooling bills every month.
As the field of sustainable home construction continues to expand, Deltec Homes will continue to set the standard for environmentally sound manufactured homes. By relying on renewable energy for the construction process and creating less waste in the long run, Deltec homes are designed to last while leaving a lighter imprint on the planet—the ultimate in sustainability.
To learn more about Deltec, visit their website at www.deltechomes.com.