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Study of Sustainability of Modular Home Compared to Site-Built

2008 University of Michigan study by The College of Architecture and Urban Planning & School of Natural Resources and Environment

Objective:

  • To analyze the sustainability of a modular home in comparison to site built. It focused on assessing the sustainability performance of a generic modular home compared to an equivalent conventional site built home using lifecycle metrics and identifies significant differences in their life cycle performance (50 year life span).
  • Lifecycle metrics were quantified using the calculated lifecycle inventories for each housing model including, energy use, material consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and solid waste.

Findings:

  • The total amount of the materials placed in the conventional home is 9% less than the amount of the modular home.
  • The conventional home produces 2.5 times more construction waste than a modular home. (Modular home = 641Kg vs. Conventional = 1630Kg of waste)
  • Modular home uses 446GJ less in its total life cycle energy consumption. (Equal to the amount of potential energy in over 74 barrels of oil when combusted).
  • The conventional home consumes 282.7GJ more energy than the modular home during the use phase. (Equal to the amount of potential energy in 47 barrels of oil when combusted).
  • The total global warming potential for the modular home is 25,247 Kg CO2 equivalent less than the conventional site built home (equal to the amount of CO2 emissions from 2,830 gallons of gasoline consumed).
  • The conventional home has 80% lower air tightness than the modular home, which resulted in 7% more natural gas consumption over its service life.
  • The modular home fabrication consumes 4.6% less life cycle energy and emits 3% less greenhouse gas than a conventional site built home. (Modular = 11,00Kg of CO2 vs. Conventional = 20,900Kg of CO2 equals the amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by recycling 3.7 TONS of waste instead of sending it to landfill).

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