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Maxed-out townhouse sets the stage for minimal impact on environment

Maxed-out townhouse sets the stage for minimal impact on environment

Northern Virginia–based Van Metre Homes—No. 147 on the 2022 Next 100—has been experimenting with modular construction in production homes on the East Coast. The home builder recently completed its second POWERhaus project, a modular-constructed townhouse in Chantilly, Virginia. The Washington Post reporter Michele Lerner says the company is using the townhouse model, and the first detached single-family POWERhaus, as a prototype for future development.

“We’ve had a factory in Winchester, Virginia, since 2008 where we build roof trusses and wall trusses, so we wanted to do more in a factory setting for greater efficiency,” says Mike Sandkuhler, vice president of building operations for Van Metre Homes, based in Ashburn, Va. “Also, most people in the building industry understand that the skilled labor shortage we’re all experiencing isn’t disappearing. Modular construction can help us manage that shortage.”

Sandkuhler says Van Metre intends to incorporate more townhouses in its product mix in the future, which is why the company chose to design a modular townhouse for its second project.

Van Metre Homes brought in Joseph Wheeler, a professor of architecture and co-director of the Center for Design Research at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design in Blacksburg, Va., as a consultant while he was on a research sabbatical to help redesign a townhouse model as a prefabricated concept.

“The focus was to develop cartridges that could be built in their factory for greater efficiency,” Wheeler says. “Townhouses require a firewall in between each unit, so we needed to do research and development to be able to make that work within the modular factory setting.”

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