Many high-design concepts for sustainable housing remain just that: concepts. We see them on blogs, but they’re either too expensive or impractical to make it to our neighborhoods. A new wave of pre-fab home manufacturing is bringing inexpensive, sustainable homes to the eco-friendly masses. The latest design is a $52,000 home that can be shipped anywhere in the country and assembled for a just a few thousand dollars (though the additional costs bring the price up to about $200,000).
Named the Solar Homestead, it’s a solar-powered, two-bedroom, one-bath unit with a porch. The manufacturer Deltec Homes says it’s net-zero—the home will produce as much energy as it consumes—thanks to a strategic design relying on solar panels, superior insulation, including triple-glazed windows and double-stud walls, and high-efficiency heating and appliances. An added bonus: The factory that makes the Homestead runs entirely on renewable energy.
Order the kit, and it’ll arrive ready to be assembled by local laborers at an estimated cost of $5,000 to $7,000. “The target market is really anyone who wants to build a net-zero home who previously ruled out those type of homes due to high costs,” says Lydia Carrington, a spokesperson for Solar Homestead. "We expect most of these homes to be used for the primary residence.”
The “homestead” branding is inspired by the location of its creators in the Appalachian mountains, where thousands of European immigrants settled to live off the land in the 18th and 19th centuries (and many of their descendants continue the lifestyle to this day). The design is a collaboration of students and professors at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, who originally submitted the project as an entry in the 2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Deltec itself is based in nearby Asheville.
While today’s homesteader might seek out something a bit sleeker than the original pioneers, the principles of ruggedness and independence remain the same, and the Homestead adapts to any type of foundation or terrain, from mountain to desert.