How long does the process take?
There are three major phases to a project: design, approvals, and construction.
The design phase can take as little as 1 month to design one of our model homes. During this phase we prepare the architectural and structural drawings necessary to get a building permit and you select finishes and appliances. If you want to customize the design or move things around, we can typically do that, but it will add time to the schedule.
The approvals phase can take as little as 1 to 2 months in jurisdictions with quick plan check times. If your local jurisdiction requires planning department approval or design review approval prior to submitting to the building department, it will take more time. The time it takes to get local approvals depends on the planning and building departments’ backlog and staffing resources available. If you are building in highly regulated areas, like those needing coastal commission review, you expect a much longer approval schedule.
Once you receive all of the local approvals needed, the construction phase takes 3 to 5 months. The timing depends on the size of the home and the distance from our factory. During this phase, we build your modules in our factory, deliver them to your site, and send a crew to finish the home once they are installed on the foundation. We will be updating you on your project schedule, so you are prepared for your move-in date.
How are Connect Homes different?
We think building a home can be more like ordering a car than commissioning an opera.
1. Our architects have plans already done, so you can see what you’re going to get without spending significant money on architectural fees.
2. We can build your house in 6 to 9 months from initial discussions to move in, which is less than half the time of a fully custom home.
3. Most of the cost of your home is quoted up front, so budget overruns, change orders and hidden fees are substantially reduced if not eliminated.
4. We complete 90% of the home modules in our San Bernardino factory. This includes doors, windows, cabinets, finishes, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical. This limits the amount of on-site work, thus reducing waste and allowing a higher level of control during construction.
What technology does Connect Homes use?
We think of the technology behind Connect Homes as a building system. That system has several desirable characteristics:
1. Higher Quality: First, it is based on a steel frame module. Steel provides high quality, both in terms of strength and in terms of precision dimensions.
2. Open Spaces: Second, our module design allows long spans (40 feet) so that our designs can have large window walls and big open spaces. We can build up to three stories high. We offer designs with 18’ ceiling heights. And we can do designs from small (640 square feet) to large (5000 square feet or more).
3. Better Reliability: Third, our system modules are assembled in our factory. Because most of our work is done indoors, weather damage isn’t hiding under the surface. Our workers are also highly trained and experienced in the materials and methods of our system, which helps to maintain high fit and finish levels. And we carefully measure and manage our materials and components so that we know what works.
4. Shorter Design And Build Time: With Connect Homes, you can choose a design, select finishes and apply for any local approvals in less time than it would take to find an architect and get on his or her schedule. Once approvals and financing are complete, your home can be built in a few months. Site preparation happens at the same time that your modules are in the factory. Completion of your home, once modules arrive, takes only a few weeks.
Are Connect Homes prefab?
“Prefab” is used with a wide variety of meanings, so the answer depends on what you mean. Connect Homes are not pre-fabricated kits of parts assembled on site, which some people call prefab. Connect Homes are not mobile homes. Our homes are permanent structures using advanced engineering to exceed building code requirements. Connect Homes are built using our patented modules, which offer several advantages over any other building method.
Where can I build a Connect Home?
We’ve engineered our building system to be transported at relatively low cost. So, in principle you can build anywhere in the continental United States. Since we do send a crew to finish the installation of the modules on site, there is an additional cost for remote deliveries over 60 miles from our San Bernardino, CA factory. The final step of delivery involves trucks, so your land must be accessible by a semi-trailer. In addition, we need to be able to access your building site with forklifts or a tower crane. Contact us to arrange for an online assessment of your site.
Are Connect Homes solidly built?
Yes, in fact, we think our construction quality is substantially higher than in typical homes.
One reason for our high quality level is that Connect Homes are built using a steel frame, rather than the typical wood frame construction used in residential work. The steel perimeter frame we use is welded together using a special high-strength process. Major sections of your Connect Home are bolted together. Contrast that with typical construction using wood as the base material and nails as the predominant fastener.
The precise dimensions of steel construction result in better fit at seams, with the result that window and door swings and slides function better over time. Another advantage is that the strength of the steel, combined with short span joists, yield low flex and vibration in the floors.
The frame sections are welded to plates that are embedded in a reinforced concrete foundation. The exact foundation design is engineered for local soil conditions, with attention paid to ensuring longevity. But this approach means your Connect Home is stronger and more tightly connected to the land than with conventional building.
Are Connect Homes container homes?
No. Shipping containers are very poorly suited for residential construction. Among the reasons are that shipping containers are engineered around the assumption of metal walls being part of the structure. Remove the walls, which you need to do for windows and to allow realistic floor plans (you probably don’t want to live in 8’ wide rooms with almost no windows), and the structural integrity goes away. Shipping containers are also extensively treated to work for years in an ocean environment, which means large amounts of hazardous materials must be stripped away before they are suited to residential living. This is not cost effective or environmentally wise.
Connect Homes do use many of the same transportation systems that are used for containers. This is a very efficient intermodal (truck, rail and ship) system, which allows us to serve the entire U.S. from a single factory. But what we ship, although container-shaped, are not containers per se.
How much can I customize a Connect Home?
Connect Homes allow some customization. We suggest you think of our approach like you would think about ordering a car – you can change the colors and some of the options, but you can’t change the wheelbase or the location of the engine. Here are some general rules:
1. We recommend that you work with our existing set of floor plans, which is the most cost-effective way to proceed. You may browse our current model home plans here.
2. Once you find a plan that works, you can make some modifications to window openings (e.g. sometimes the existing plan anticipates that the “back” and “front” of the house are opposite where they occur naturally on your lot).
3. Reference our fit-out sheet that describes the standard options in your home. If you would like to use a different finish or appliance, you can upgrade from the standard specification.
In reality, you don’t have to do all of these steps by yourself. Our project manager and architects will work with you to understand your needs and propose efficient approaches. Or, in some cases, we may tell you that our building system is not well suited to your goals.
What are the dimensions of your modules?
Our typical module is 8′-0″ wide X 40′-0″ long and 320 square feet. Our model homes are named after the number of modules used. For example, our Connect 2 model home has two modules, so the footprint of this home is 16′-0″ X 40′-0″.
The height of the module is typically between 10′-6″ to 11′-0″ from bottom of floor beam to top of roof.
Are Connect Homes energy efficient?
One of the key design goals for Connect Homes is to be truly green. Part of this comes from green materials and part of this comes from a low-waste construction process. And we’ve also designed Connect Homes for superior energy efficiency. There are many details, but just to give you an idea:
1. We use a “Cool Roof” system that has a solar reflectance index of 107 and reflects up to 90% of incident heat.
2. Our roofing system is built to R-38 insulation levels (code normally only requires R-30).
3. Our exterior walls are built to R-21 insulation levels (code normally only requires R-13).
4. Our windows and doors use low-E glass, with a U factor that blocks most UV light.
5. Appliances are Energy Star rated and lighting is LED.
Can I have a “green” roof on my Connect Home?
That depends what you mean. We use a “cool roof system” that reflects up to 78% of heat generated by the sun, thus reducing your air conditioning costs. The insulation below the roof surface is R-38 rated and the building code is generally sets the minimum at R-30.
We can also design for grass or other green vegetation on the roof. Such treatment requires additional engineering and is not a standard feature.
Does Connect Homes install solar panels?
Yes. We can design a solar array for you and install it at the same time that the home is constructed. Normally, we design roof-mount solar electric, but depending on your needs and land, ground mount solar electric or solar hot water may be more appropriate. Many of our clients choose to make the home “solar ready” where we provide conduit from the utility room up to the roof, so a separate solar company can easily install panels, wiring, and the inverter.
What type of foundation does a Connect Home have?
Our steel-framed modules are permanently attached to a reinforced concrete system of stem walls and piers. Steel weld plates are embedded into the foundation. After the modules are delivered, the floor beams of the modules get welded to these steel plates. Below our homes is a crawl space where utilities run and can be easily accessed in the future. The photo below shows our typical foundation system prior to module installation:
If our typical foundation system cannot work on your site due to slope, soil condition, or other reason, a custom foundation system can be designed by the structural engineer.
Do you design and build landscapes along with the home?
We don’t do the design, but we are happy to recommend and work with a landscape architect so that the design of decks, hardscape and softscape can be coordinated. This is actually our preferred approach because everything can be envisioned as a unified whole.