Many homes designed for discriminating clients today contain aspects of green building: passive solar orientation, non-toxic materials and finishes, and sustainably harvested woods. But those features are one-off alternatives to conventional construction, not part of a package. Clever Homes aims to change that with the NowHouse, a panelized, digitally networked house that can be built at a predictably lower cost than stick-built construction. “It's a real grab bag of sustainable concepts, but all contained in the same bag,” says Toby Long, AIA, co-founder of Clever Homes ( and principal of tobylongdesign, in San Francisco. Clever Homes spent six months working with manufacturers to build a common set of construction specs. The building blocks include engineered -lumber framing and structural insulated panels. Made of expanded polystyrene and laminated with oriented strand board, the wall panels can be left exposed as interior walls or finished off with recycled Sheetrock. The 6-inch-thick wall panels, 12-inch-thick floor panels, and 10-inch-thick roof panels are all made in 48-inch-wide modules, as are the 8-foot-tall windows.

Although the NowHouse comes with a fixed floor plan, the emphasis is on flexibility. Mix-and-match components allow for a variety of landscape conditions, and the interior walls are non–load-bearing, designed to be moved about at will and locked into place. The house can be one or two stories and contain up to five bedrooms. At $48 per square foot for the shell materials ($83 per square foot with finishes), it takes three to four months to build, including site prep.

The prototype house has already been sold. The company is now reaching out to more manufacturers to create downgrade and upgrade options. High-end construction, Long notes, is in need of as much change as the low-end market. “We want to position ourselves at what we see as the inevitable convergence of design and construction-process technology, and lifestyle and consumer technology,” he says.