Modular Homes Meet Modern Needs

By Mitchell Clute

Modular homes are quickly becoming an exciting option for those embracing the “less is more” lifestyle. They can be cute, sophisticated, tailor-made and super green. Seattle-based GreenPod Development is at the forefront of designing such small-footprint homes. Featuring natural interiors, excellent insulation and customizable options, GreenPod’s designs are the future of modular.

“To me, modular represents one of the highest levels of building green,” Ann Raab, company founder, tells Organic Connections. GreenPod uses woods and panels certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which waste less of the tree than traditional lumber. The combination of compact spaces, insulated panels, passive solar orientation and energy-saving features makes for much lower upkeep costs than traditional homes, Raab says.

A GreenPod home can be built off-site and then assembled on-site in a few days. On-site building takes longer—two to three months versus the nine months to a year for traditional stick-frame homes—but allows for lofts, widths greater than 16 feet, and other custom features.

In either case, the materials generate great cost savings over the life of the homes. “We’re trying to educate people about a home’s real costs,” explains Raab. “In the fifty-year cycle of a house, only 6 percent of the costs are building costs. And though our insulated panels cost more upfront, they have a 2.7-year payback—that’s what people should understand.”

Clean Green Interiors

But green is more than skin-deep. Because the structures are so airtight, having chemical-free interiors is even more important. “We wanted to focus on using organics in the house, with plant-based dyes for all the sheets and towels, no toxic fabrics, and American clay-wall finishes that are antimicrobial and resist mold.”

To make the home interiors as green as possible, garages are located away from the living spaces, the inside air is kept clean and healthy through filtration, and there are even options for on-demand variable water pH and the ability to turn off electromagnetic fields.

Small Footprints, Local Artisans

GreenPod uses space-saving measures such as Murphy beds, stackable tables and multipurpose spaces so that residents can make the most of the space they use. These efficiencies allow the design team to really focus on fitting the space to the owners’ needs.

“We really want to create something that’s more of a jewel,” Raab continues. “Rather than create the same kitchen over and over, we create art you can live in, where everything has a function.” Examples of these custom creations include handmade sliding doors and LED lighting options, and furniture made to fit the home’s footprint.

“By encouraging smaller footprints and sustainable living, with multiuse spaces that offer more flexibility, we help people create houses that work for them—and also save money for the future,” says Raab.

With a small-house movement in full swing and prefabricated home-building options that were unavailable a decade ago, builders like GreenPod may just give modular a whole new meaning. And that’s a good thing—for us and for the planet.

Learn more about GreenPod Development at

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  • Love these tiny houses but not very good for disabled people, not enough room for wheelchairs

    • They can all be adapted no doubt.

  • They never show you the bathroom. Very curious about the bathroom lol.

    • Three pix of Kitchen (how do you reach those high cupboards?) but none of a bathroom … hmmmm. Outdoors? Doubt it! We'd need big overhangs for passive solar in hotter areas of Oz - or all-round verandahs. I still love what they are doing: thinking outside of the square. There's a lot of it around yet few if any current real estate 'developments' build anything but brick venereals. There's a North Rise estate near the Narangba Industrial area with 1 Strawbale house among the brickies. As though somehow that justifies its energy-sapping neighbours.

      • If you follow the link to the website, then click on Interiors, they have three sample floor plans that show bathrooms included.

  • Yeah - my "living space" would be outdoors.

  • I agree - love the tiny home movement.

  • I love these. If we could them in Australia I would definitely consider them.
    • You can get 'modular' here in Australia...Google 'modular homes'.

      I'd like to see modular design that is also removable and easily raised up further on stumps --say when a flood comes a calling or you move and want to take your house with you. End the terror of the cement slab.

      My last home was a removable. A 1950 house we bought in Banyo for $500 in 1993 and moved it to the next suburb. I went back and purchased the garage for $50! 

      Before that I lived in a 1922 Queenslander and I leant to respect that elevated design (but not the steps). But hey it too got transported and lives on at another address....somewhere.

      It's the flexibility of materials and the many options you never can get from brick.Window here. Door there. Open up the whole wall...Open the roof up to a skylight....

      But the old weather board houses shift about and sink, are termite friendly... when modular would surely be more stable and sustainable.

      So I'm saying modular could be the essence of recyclable... But here my take on modular would be  corrugated iron because it is a great breather and cooling material.Roof. Cladding. 

      So long as the cyclone 'tie down' issues are resolved with light construction...

  • Often wondered how 'air tight' can allow oxygen for breathing … Fan of Grand Designs some of which are enviro-friendly airtight houses. Love the idea, would be great to live in a house like these modular ones. Or the new trend of 'tiny houses' similar enviro-friendly and great use of small spaces. Roll over McMansions, your time is past.

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