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A Mobile Home Designed to Stay in Place

  • Steven Davis, middle, owner of Vermod, talks with Joel Ferris, left, who will be living in the first energy efficient mobile home built by Davis's company during an open house to display the house in White River Junction, Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Davis has been building what he calls high performance homes for seven years. Davis's father Fred is at right.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Steven Davis, middle, owner of Vermod, talks with Joel Ferris, left, who will be living in the first energy efficient mobile home built by Davis's company during an open house to display the house in White River Junction, Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Davis has been building what he calls high performance homes for seven years. Davis's father Fred is at right.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Diane Mackay of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is reflected in an iPad while she and co-workers Anne Duffy, middle, and Cassidy Francik, right, watch a display of the energy usage of a "net zero" manufactured home at Vermod in White River Junction, Vt. Wednesday, October 23, 2013. The house is the product of the Vermont Manufactured Homes Innovation Project meant to provide more sustainable and affordable housing and to replace homes endangered or destroyed by weather events like Tropical Storm Irene. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Diane Mackay of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is reflected in an iPad while she and co-workers Anne Duffy, middle, and Cassidy Francik, right, watch a display of the energy usage of a "net zero" manufactured home at Vermod in White River Junction, Vt. Wednesday, October 23, 2013. The house is the product of the Vermont Manufactured Homes Innovation Project meant to provide more sustainable and affordable housing and to replace homes endangered or destroyed by weather events like Tropical Storm Irene.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin steps down after a tour of a manufactured home developed by Vermod Homes in White River Junction, Vt. with input from several energy efficiency organizations to have "net zero" energy usage Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Shumlin spoke at the open house that showcased the home. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin steps down after a tour of a manufactured home developed by Vermod Homes in White River Junction, Vt. with input from several energy efficiency organizations to have "net zero" energy usage Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Shumlin spoke at the open house that showcased the home.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Davis, middle, owner of Vermod, talks with Joel Ferris, left, who will be living in the first energy efficient mobile home built by Davis's company during an open house to display the house in White River Junction, Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Davis has been building what he calls high performance homes for seven years. Davis's father Fred is at right.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Diane Mackay of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is reflected in an iPad while she and co-workers Anne Duffy, middle, and Cassidy Francik, right, watch a display of the energy usage of a "net zero" manufactured home at Vermod in White River Junction, Vt. Wednesday, October 23, 2013. The house is the product of the Vermont Manufactured Homes Innovation Project meant to provide more sustainable and affordable housing and to replace homes endangered or destroyed by weather events like Tropical Storm Irene. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin steps down after a tour of a manufactured home developed by Vermod Homes in White River Junction, Vt. with input from several energy efficiency organizations to have "net zero" energy usage Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Shumlin spoke at the open house that showcased the home. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

White River Junction — Gov. Peter Shumlin helped unveil a new energy efficient, built-to-last manufactured home in White River Junction on Wednesday that is designed to withstand severe weather and shrink the utility bills of its occupants.

The home, which resembles a traditional mobile home on the outside, was built in response to hundreds of mobile homes being destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene.

Gus Selig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, said at Wednesday’s event in White River Junction that mobile homes bore a disproportionate share of the homes damaged during the 2011 storm.

“Although mobile homes constitute only 7 percent of Vermont’s housing stock, they comprised 15 percent of what Irene destroyed,” Selig said. “And we just thought we needed to push ourselves to build something better.”

The approximately 70-foot-long home, which would cost about $100,000, was unveiled Wednesday and is one of 10 being built as part of the Vermont Manufactured Housing Innovation Project, a collaborative effort among the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Efficiency Vermont, the High Meadows Fund, Vermod High Performance Manufactured Housing, and several other agencies.

The homes cost about 40 percent more than the typical mobile home, said Chet Pasho, a building consultant with Vermod, the White River Junction-based company that is constructing the homes.

The 10 homes in the pilot program will eventually be sold to residents who live in nonprofit-operated mobile home parks throughout Vermont. Selig said subsidies to make the homes affordable coupled with federal tax credits could knock at least $30,000 off the price. Those factors, paired with fixed-rate 20-year financing, will help ease the owners into the new homes, he said.

The homes feature 10 inch-thick walls that provide for efficient heating and cooling, have triple-pane windows, a built-in ventilation system, offer open floor plans with sun-light rooms and kitchen and living room space. The units are available in one, two and three bedrooms models and come with all appliances installed.

Wednesday’s event was staged to highlight the pilot prgram, but anyone can purchase one of the homes, said Pasho.

Although the homes cost more, savings would be realized over the long term in lower heating and utility costs, according to Pasho. He notes the annual energy costs in the new homes are projected to be about 70 percent less than typical mobile homes.

The installation of a solar array would drive down costs even further. Pasho said it costs more than $300 to heat, cool and light the typical mobile home per month, but with the efficiently built structure accompanied with upgrades, the cost could shrink to $16.

“We can ultimately achieve net zero energy with this house,” said Peter Schneider with Efficiency Vermont, adding the homes are designed to run off electricity and no fossil fuels are used.

Shumlin spoke proudly of the “high-performance” homes, but acknowledged that their higher cost would be offset by energy savings over the long run.

“This building is going to cost $16 bucks a month we estimate to heat and to cool, that’s because that’s the charge we all get for the infrastructure,” Shumlin said. “You got to pay it.”

Shumlin said the new homes represent Vermont’s resolve and ingenuity in rebuilding after Tropical Storm Irene.

“Why would we go and put those mobile homes back the way they were,” Shumlin said, of the destroyed homes. “They are cold in the wintertime, they are warm in the summertime, they take huge amounts of money to heat and to cool and we know that we are asking the folks who have the least, who struggle the most to pay the biggest bill. So we turned to the partners we are thanking today,” he said. “We are going to put the money back in the pocket of our homeowner ... that’s called Vermont innovation and Vermont creativity and Vermont get tough things done.”

Joel Ferris, of South Royalton, who will become the first owner of one of the Vermod-built homes, was enthuiastic about replacing his mobile home at Riverbend Park.

“Everything will be great. It’s so much better than a mobile home,” he said. “I said I want to be first on the books.”

Later in the day, Shumlin visited the Marion Cross School in Norwich where nearly two dozen students and a few parents and teachers showed the governor what the children have been working on in their day-to-day studies. Second through sixth grade students shared their work, which ranged from innovative science projects to speaking French.

“You guys are doing so great and are pumped and excited,” Shumlin said to the students while offering up words of advice. “If you do well in science and math, you will do great, got it?” he said — to which the students replied with a loud and cheerful “yeah!”

“Stay in school for as long as you possibly can and will and then stay right here in Vermont and work,” Shumlin joked. “So I came here to ask you to do that.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

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Letter: A Good Energy Alternative

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

To the Editor: This is in response to your Oct. 24 article about energy-efficient mobile homes. Vermont has about 250,000 housing units, of which 17,500, or 7 percent, are mobile homes. Typically, they are drafty, uncomfortable, hard to heat and cool, and are occupied by mostly low-income households. In Vermont, the cost of a typical energy-sieve mobile home is about …