Our modular Passive House is on its foundation

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Architects rarely see sudden transformations. Our work is composed of small incremental steps, generally forward, from fuzzy concept to finished building. The pace usually seems glacial and there is never, ever, a big WOW moment when what we do suddenly becomes a building. So it was a unique experience today watching our first modular house go up. To see a site go from empty foundation in the morning to fully erected and enclosed house in the afternoon — that was indeed a first for us!

Things began quickly. They had brought the modules over from Delaware on Monday and parked them in a nearby parking lot, so they were at the site by 8. The first floor was a bare box. The second floor box had the folded up roof on top of it. By 9:30 the first floor module was already on its foundation.

The second floor module took more time, as the set crew decided to completely erect the roof while the unit was still on the ground and more easily accessible. Also safer to fall from 9’ rather than 19’ if there were an accident. So the rest of the morning and early afternoon went into the process of unfolding the sections, attaching the eaves, then tilting the roof up into position. It was a beehive of activity with a crew of about 15 men and boys all busy all the time. Around three, things got very quiet, the hammering stopped, and all the workmen stepped back to watch the crane operator do his magic. Lifting the second floor and roof into place took exactly six minutes. Voila, we had a house!
Here are some of the high points in photos….

last clean up of crawl space
Last chance to clean up the crawl space

8 am
8 am. Waiting for a house.

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9:30 am. First floor on the foundation.Second floor ext wall corner-4


Second floor ext wall corner-2                                              Perfect fit!

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The hold-down metal straps are embedded in the concrete and will now be fastened to the structure.  The factory-applied blue Tescon Vanna tape makes the seam between the sheathing and the rim joist airtight. Another piece of the Zipwall sheathing (the green stuff) will now be anchored to the wood sill plate below and the rim joist above to make the whole assembly monolithic.

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These metal straps will anchor the first floor module to the second floor module. The taped up box you see there is a junction box for one of the exterior awning motors.

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The cheering section: Brendan O’Neill with Jocelyn Harris and Maryann Dillon of HIP

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The second floor module now pulled into position. Note how the right side of the roof is of one piece but the left side is made up of two segments with an elbow. This is done so that they will lie as flat as possible for shipment down the road in order to stay under the maximum shipping height limits.

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Loading the eave overhangs onto the deck from the truck. They have to be added at the site; otherwise the width of the unit would exceed the maximum shipping width limits.

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Beginning to attach the eaves to the rafter ends.

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More of the same.

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Meanwhile Vince Coffin, our jobsite supervisor, adds some more Vanna tape as an extra sealing precaution.

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Eave overhangs now in place.

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Inside the first floor module Brendan O’Neill and Vince Coffin confer with John Meredith. John shepherded the house through the factory design and construction process from beginning to end.

A couple of spectators in the stairway on top of the first floor module.

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Roofs with their eaves attached now tilted up into place.

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Inside the attic, the hinges that the rafters pivoted on.

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Kneewalls,…Second floor ext wall corner-18… gables, and rafter ties all on the truck waiting to go up.

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Kneewalls being delivered.

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Kneewalls now in place. Rafter ties being delivered, while above men are installing the ridge vent for the roof.

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Now the gable ends are set in place.

Second floor ext wall corner-26Setting the cables in place….Second floor ext wall corner-28… and running them under the module.

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The metal strap is there to prevent any chafing by the cable during hoisting.

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3:30 pm. Top unit in place.

Tomorrow the electrician, plumber and mechanical contractor arrive to make the hookups between first and second floor units, while carpenters finish attachments between the units and the the foundation. Then taping of the joints between modules and penetrations in preparation for the blower door test at the end of next week.

I will add video of the actual setting of the units when available.