Latest from Engineering Green Buildings

Melissa Dowland, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Hpac 7513 Wildturkey01xfb
Hpac 5219 Offgrid Sustainable Living House Prefab Mesocore 1024x495

Affordable housing that’s also sustainable? Yes, it's possible

May 24, 2018
After seeing one Florida builder's highly-automated, modular construction process for a prefab home, our sustainability reporter feels like he has seen the future.

Several months ago, our firm was hired by a new client that claimed to offer comfortable, attractive, energy-efficient, resilient, sustainable housing… that is also affordable.

In our initial telephone conversation, the client’s CEO, Joe Esposito, told me that his “sustainable hybrid” homes included – as standard features – solar photovoltaic (PV), high-efficiency AC, solar thermal for domestic hot water heating, LED lighting, and an integrated cistern for rain water harvesting. Needless to say, I was curious about his definition of “affordable”. However, after visiting the Mesocore website, I realized that sustainable and affordable were no longer mutually exclusive.

The Mesocore concept is very unique. They start with a 20-foot shipping container, but unlike other housing products that use recycled containers, Mesocore builds its own new, steel containers using state-of-the-art robotic welders. The container – or chassis, as they call it – then becomes the core of the new home.

So having established that the homes are energy-efficient, sustainable, and resilient, the question that remains is, are they affordable?

The 1,000 sq-ft, 2/2 home described above can be built on an existing lot here in South Florida for $100/sq-ft or less! The secret to its affordability is due, in large part, to Mesocore’s hybrid construction technique, with the chassis being factory-manufactured and the home’s completion done on site. According to Mesocore, the home can be completed by relatively unskilled workers primarily using drill-drivers. But I suspect many U.S. buyers will prefer to have a professional contractor complete the construction. Even so, since all of the materials are either factory-installed or shipped in the container, ordering mistakes and shortages are minimized or even eliminated.

The standard Mesocore home is designed for temperate climates (ASHRAE Zones 1 and 2) and has the option of being completely off-grid with additional PV panels and batteries. Unfortunately, if you live in colder climes, it is not available.

A regular contributor to HPAC Engineering and a member of its editorial advisory board, the author is a principal at Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, a south Florida-based engineering firm focusing on energy and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected]. 

About the Author

Larry Clark

A member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board, Lawrence (Larry) Clark, QCxP, GGP, LEED AP+, is principal of Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, a South Florida-based engineering firm focused on energy and sustainability consulting. He has more than two dozen published articles on HVAC- and energy-related topics to his credit and frequently lectures on green-building best practices, central-energy-plant optimization, and demand-controlled ventilation.