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Design Principles
High-Efficiency Custom Modular Building


Over the past several years Mark Duval has engaged his many years of Cape Ann housebuilding experience in building homes on properties that he himself has purchased. His last project, a single-family colonial in Lanesville, is an excellent example of his combining the advantages of quality modular construction with custom site work to achieve highly efficient, green building values. Four modular room units were built by a custom modular builder in a special indoor facility. 


Mark engages only a select number of New England modular home manufacturers, companies known among contractors for following quality construction principles, and for their emphasis on building highly energy efficient modules. Because the modules are constructed indoors under optimized building conditions, more exacting tolerances can be achieved. Unlike “stick-built” houses that are constructed on-site, these modulars are not subject to the demanding New England climate conditions that can compromise site-built houses. The modular components of the house are brought to the building site in pristine condition, where they are quickly set onto the foundation and wrapped with the home’s exterior siding. In accomplishing this the highest green value standards are achieved. 

Floor Plans

The four modules of the house correspond to the four major living areas in each of the two floors of the house. The site  was  carefully prepared and coordinated with the building specifications of the modules being constructed in New Hampshire. The foundation and walk-in basement walls were built of poured concrete in the late spring, and the modules were delivered during a dry early summer week. As a local contractor, Mark Duval possesses an intuitive understanding of the local geography and soil conditions, and with this knowledge he is able to produce foundations with optimized water control runoff and management. His basements are “tight”, they’re dry, and the result is a home highly resistant to the problems other homes have with wet basements and mildew.


It should be emphasized that modular building is not the same as manufactured housing. In the past manufactured housing had a negative reputation for being inexpensive or of lesser quality because it included housing like mobile homes. This is emphatically not the same as a modular house. Modular homes have come a long way since the 1908 Sears & Roebuck catalog, where customers could order a home kit. Modular homes today are built to the most exacting standards and are of notably better quality than than “stick built” homes. Modular housing companies have learned that building houses at a single manufacturing facility and then delivering them to the site possess a number of compelling advantages. In a climate-controlled facility protected by the elements, house-builders can create the optimal conditions for constructing a house to the most exacting standards and specifications. Under such controlled conditions, houses can be built much more energy efficient than is typically the case with on-site construction. The same quality materials for frame construction can be used when building on-site, but when done in a climate-controlled facility a building contractor can create the optimal conditions for workers constructing the house. It makes a big difference if a carpenter can install a window in a temperature-controlled hall than if he were building on-site up two-stories in a  freezing, howling November wind. Building a house in a controlled environment means that wall tolerances and insulation can be maximized, thus creating walls with a high energy-saving R-Value. When considering such work over the course of an entire house-building project, one can gain an appreciation of the significant advantages of making strategic use of modular construction.


Retaining quality construction on-site is just as important as the work done in a manufactured home facility. If the contractor can continue to optimize construction with quality materials and techniques, a custom modular house is indistinguishable from a traditionally built house on-site and is in many ways better. The custom colonial in Lanesville is a good example of this blending of modular construction with custom-building techniques. The best construction materials were used both in the manufactured housing facility--Andersen windows, quality kitchen and bath cabinetry, and the like, as well as on site with cedar siding, hardwood floors, granite countertops and Frigidaire Gallery appliances. The result is an attractive family home of solid construction. The two residences are so tight and energy-efficient that the primary heat is electric, since so little will be needed to retain comfortable living temperatures.

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