Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

July 2002

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Modular Homes Deliver

Shelli Lachance is a hard-nosed shopper. She generally knows what she wants in a new home and won't stop looking for it until she gets it - at the right price. "When someone says, "No, you can't have that,' I get stubborn and start looking around, checking to see how to do it, doing whatever I have to do to get what I want," says the 40-year-old mother of five. As a prospective new homeowner, Lachance's buying attitude therefore meshed perfectly with the modular homebuilding world, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of the residential construction market today.

Balancing Your Heating and Cooling

An important part of any forced-air comfort conditioning system is balancing it so that the distribution of heated or cooled air is proportionate to the loss or gain of each room. The ductwork may feed a dozen rooms in your house, all of varying sizes. Exposures differ, too - a sunny, south-facing room will require different levels of heating and cooling than one on the north side of the house. Getting a consistent temperature is even more complex in an older home with only one or two temperature-control zones.

The Lowdown on High-Definition TV

If you want the best picture money can buy, high-definition television (HDTV) offers jaw-dropping clarity. But when you start making decisions about which set to buy, that picture looks muddy. As with any new technology, the prices are falling - they already dropped about 40 percent over the last three years, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and are likely to fall further. And the bells and whistles are becoming more sophisticated as competition increases. So there's a lot to be said for waiting.

History Under Foot

When antique dealers Mark and Elen Grove built a new timber-frame house outside Charlottesville, Va., last year, they sought the best building materials they could find. Fir for the house's frame, for example, was cut in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to a mill in New Hampshire for processing. When it came to flooring, the couple settled on century-old longleaf pine salvaged from a Worcester, Mass., distillery and re-milled into random-width flooring.

A Modular-Housing Checklist

In a nutshell, modular housing compares favorably with ordinary "stick-built" structures erected on site. In six key categories, here's how the two methods stack up: Initial Price: Modular house prices are generally less expensive than site-built, coming in 5 to 20 percent less for the same structure. The difference usually depends on local labor and materials costs for site-built. Design Variety: In wood-framed structures, modular should be able to match anything a designer for site-built homes can come up with.

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