What happens when you put two conscientious real estate developers (no, it is not an oxymoron) together with a prefab homes builder? You get responsible development in an urban setting …but it feels like the country.

Nexterra Developments is a new project started by two real estate developers, Gary Lands and Barry Campbell. They are developing a ravine property in North York, just off Senlac Drive, close to Yonge and Sheppard. With all the development going on in this city — and with most of it being unenlightened —  it’s refreshing to see some forward thinkers for a change.

The homes being developed by Nexterra range in size between 2200 and 3000 square feet with full height (9′) basements. While these homes wouldn’t be considered gigantic, they are neither cramped nor overly cavernous. It’s all part of the “eco-enclave” philosophy. Smart design allows you to get more functional space while using less material. But that’s only the tip of the green iceberg.

LivingHomes Interior (photo courtesy of LivingHomes and Nexterra)

What’s also unique about this housing development is that the homes are prefabricated. They will be built in a factory in Manitoba by Conquest Manufacturing using the philosophy, designs and systems of LivingHomes, a green prefab manufacturer out of Santa Monica, California. LivingHomes is the brainchild of Steve Glenn, who started the company five years ago. Using himself as the first guinea pig customer, he lives in the first factory built home the company produced (the exterior and interior photos here are of his house — I admit I have house envy, sigh).

The advantage of prefab. Building a home in the factory before setting it up on site has several advantages.

  • Minimal waste of materials. In a typical wood-framed single house build, between 30-40% of construction materials end up as waste. In prefab homes 2-8% becomes construction waste. Leftover materials can be used on the next job.
  • Covered Storage. All building materials are covered and protected from the elements so they are not subjected to weather which again leads to less waste.
  • Precision. For building code reasons, prefab homes must be built to higher standards. They need to withstand transport from factory to building site.
  • Shorter time frame. Homes can be built in 46-54 weeks depending on if it’s standard or custom. They can be built in the factory while the footings are being built on site.

LivingHomes are modular. That is, they are built in modules within the factory, and they are assembled on site. If you have a look at their website you can see the crane putting homes into place. All interior finishes can be installed in the factory — including the kitchen cabinets, flooring, windows, etc., and then the modules can be put together on site (think Lego for grown ups).

LivingHomes: Elevation (courtesy of LivingHomes and Nexterra)
LivingHomes: Floor Plan (courtesy of LivingHomes and Nexterra)

Design Excellence.  The homes are designed by well-known American architect, Ray Kappe who is known for his “warm modern” designs.  The importance of a well-designed home cannot be ovestated. A home can be made of 100% renewable, recycleable materials, but if it’s not functional and not nice to look at then well, it won’t last very long either. Good design is at the core of any environmentally influenced home, and these homes are oozing with style and functionality.

Green Building: LivingHomes has a strict environmental philosophy that they apply to all of their homes. In fact most of their homes receive LEED for Homes Gold or Platinum certification. The Nexterra Homes will be more more “Canadianized” than their California counterparts, with walls having insulation value of R38, the roof at R50. Windows will be triple-glazed, low-e with argon gas. Further, the homes will be heated and cooled using a geothermal system, and outfitted with tankless hotwater system. The homes will also have green roofs (which not only absorb excess rainwater, but also act as an insulator).

The materials chosen for the interior continue LivingHomes’ philosophy of mixing high design with environmental practicality. Kitchen cabinets will contain no added urea formaldehyde, are highly durable, and have superior moisture resistance than standard MDF cabinets. Countertops will be the recycled line of CaesarStone quartz, all wood products are FSC certified, all paints used are from Benjamin Moore’s Natura line (zero VOC), bathroom fixtures are made by  WetStyle, a Montreal company that produces bathroom fixtures from either “eco-friendly natural stone composite” material, or FSC-certified wood.

Cost per square foot: The price of a home varies depending on many factors from where it is built to whether it is a custom or standardized home. Here is a link to LivingHomes’ page with various models and pricing options. Note prices are in US dollars and do not include the cost of land, taxes, foundation and many other incidentals.

When and Where? The first home will break ground in August 2010 and is anticipated to be ready by early November, 2010. Visit the Nexterra site for more information or to keep up on progress. Homes are expected to be priced for around $1.5 million.


BEC Green

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