3-D Vision Origin is built to LEED-Silver standards. State-of-the-art configurator software lets buyers fully visualize their choices before plans are downloaded to ¨the factory.

3-D Vision Origin is built to LEED-Silver standards. State-of-the-art “configurator” software lets buyers fully visualize their choices before plans are downloaded to ?the factory.

Credit: Colleen Barry

Sum of Its Parts

When mix-and-match modules can serve as additions, backyard studios, or a whole-house compound, the possibilities are limitless.

Blu Homes co-founder Maura McCarthy likens its modular homes to a luxury European car—an apt image given their transportability. A house is fully assembled in the factory in four to eight weeks, then partially broken down and folded in half for delivery. The floor literally hinges up against the fixed “wet” parts—kitchens, baths—and the walls swing in.

It’s an engineering feat, to be sure, but you don’t have to be obsessed with prefab to appreciate 10-foot ceilings, glass walls, radiant floor heat, and heavy-gauge tubular steel and I-beam framing designed for high seismic, wind, and snow loads. Or operating costs that are typically half that of comparable homes.

Like its six other models, Blu Homes’ Origin is built to LEED standards. With three interchangeable modules (18 feet wide and 24 feet, 36 feet, and 48 feet long) and multiple ways to configure the orientation, floor plan, and windows, “you can create a compound instead of one huge house,” McCarthy says, “or use them as granny flats and artist studios.” With aging in place on the rise, each plan offers full accessibility options.

But its latest genre-busting innovation is the “configurator,” an online visualization tool that lets buyers walk through the house at different eye levels and swap specs, zooming in to inspect the recycled-glass countertops they’ve just picked out. This isn’t just any design program. Each component is 3-D modeled, and the sophisticated engineering software shows every bolt and screw. “It really helps our sales team and is literally the same file that gets downloaded to the factory,” McCarthy says. “That integration is a critical business model for us.”

It’s also the M.O. of a company whose stated goal is to “use advanced technology to improve the health, economics, design experience, and environmental effect of housing for American families, and to do it in a fun and collaborative way.”

Collaboration with local contractors is the key to Blu Homes’ future expansion, McCarthy says. Although it doesn’t build foundations, decks, or garages, it will design them. “We’ll fly builders to the factory to show them how to build a typical foundation or soffit and fascia detail,” she says. “We’re trying to invest in builders so they can make money off these projects.”