Factory built autonomous home

IT looks like somebody in the construction industry has been listening to all this talk about off-grid homes. At last.

Quest is a 400-square-foot, off-grid capable, factory-built alternative home that its creator says is versatile enough for a variety of applications, including instant housing, affordable housing, resort units, temporary housing, and accessory dwelling units. It is on a tour of Californian cities as its makers try to drum up sales for the home, which is slow gaining market share because of its high price.

But perhaps what Quest is best suited for is to provide affordable housing for elderly care/retirees, as the U.S. faces the largest upcoming demographic of seniors in its history, many of who may not have income, social security, a 401K, or pensions, the company says.

“The Baby Boomers are aging,” says Steven Lefler, vice president of Modular Lifestyles, Quest’s manufacturer, which has offices in Irvine and Roseville, Calif. “The idea is to build affordable housing in case there is no social security, no jobs, and to offer a proven model to the green folks who want to use unimproved land without the huge expense of site-built homes.”

Lefler says the company’s factory-built home is better than site-built homes for a variety of reasons, likening the process to a watch assembled at your dining room table compared to one manufactured in a factory under controlled conditions.

“The efficiency of the factory makes the watch attractive, [with better] control on the materials, less costly to make, and it will be operational and efficient,” Lefler explains. “The typical site-built house is a collection of 14 independent contractors who have no skin in the game to its final construction efficiency—thus the need for a HERS [Home Energy Rating System] rater to verify the workmanship; however, the builder will not guarantee the efficiency once sold.”

Quest, the company says, is an off-grid home that eliminates the need for utility and municipal infrastructure typical of standard homes. The home is battery operated using solar and propane fuel and is available as a one bedroom, one bath model or as a two-bedroom with one bath.

Each home has a tankless hot water system, two-burner propane stove, dual-flush or composting toilet, 4,000 Btu furnace, and 2.2 kilowatt solar system. The structures are insulated based on their climate zone and are available with optional rain water harvesting, greywater recycling for the shower and sinks, LED lights, and other green features. The home can be constructed as a mobile, HUD, or modular structure.

Priced at $70,000, the house seems inexpensive, but when you consider that it only measures 400 square feet—that’s $175 per square foot—the price doesn’t seem all that cheap. We would hope the mass-market price once there is a long production run could drop as low as $40,000 – ie $100 per square foot.

Lefler says, however, that the current price is slightly inflated. “This is a prototype,” he explains. “This model has $5,000 in green furniture and materials—cork flooring, spruce tongue-and-groove walls, LED lighting throughout. Its intent is to educate people to Off-Grid. The cost will drop on volume.”

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