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Champion Home Builders Manufacturing Process is Inherently Greener, Both in the Factory and Beyond – as Supported by a University of Michigan Study

As printed in the August 2010 addition of The Journal

Champion Home Builders Manufacturing Process is Inherently Greener, Both in the Factory and Beyond – as Supported by a University of Michigan Study

A study by the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning concludes that a Champion factory constructed home has less environmental impacts and better energy efficiency than a site constructed home.

The study, commissioned by Champion Home Builders in April of 2008, analyzed and compared the sustainability of a modular home constructed in Champion’s Topeka, Indiana manufacturing facility with a conventional site constructed house of similar size and style in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Click here to view the full University of Michigan study.

Champion Manufacturing Process Creates Tighter Homes
Inside Champion Home Builders manufacturing facilities throughout North America, homes move through a production line similar to the way cars move through an automotive assembly plant. The home building and assembly process is streamlined, tasks are specialized and efficiencies are achieved. As the home begins to take shape along the line, entire walls, floors, and ceilings are constructed as large sub-assemblies, thereby reducing the number of seams yielding a tighter, more energy efficient structure.

Air infiltration is typically one of the greatest threats to energy efficiency in homes, so reducing it is significant. The study concluded that Champion factory constructed homes are significantly more airtight, reducing natural gas consumption over the home’s life. In fact, the study states that “the conventional home has 80% lower air tightness (0.35 ACH) than the modular home, which results in 7% more natural gas consumption over its service life.”

Less Waste in the Champion Factory Construction Process

Workers in the plant setting have the advantage of precision cutting and measuring machinery not always available to workers on a traditional construction site. The result is that materials, lengths and angled cuts are more precise. With fewer mistakes, there is less waste.
In addition, Champion Home Builders manufacturing facilities recycle what little waste is generated by construction. Extra lengths of copper, lumber, cardboard and vinyl are saved and re-cut for an alternate use, rather than thrown away, as many times would be the case in site-built construction. Any extra pieces that are too small for reuse are recycled. Recycling has been a plant initiative for many years here at Champion,” says John Gledhill, Vice President of Industrial Engineering for Champion Homes. “And because we operate in a factory environment, recycling is not only easy but critical to controlling our costs.”

The University of Michigan study estimates that “conventional home construction generates 2.5 times more waste than modular home fabrication.”

Factory Construction Lowers Transportation Energy for Materials Acquisition and for Worker Transportation

The energy used to transport all materials to the building site is highly dependent on the distance of the materials supply chain. Champion manufacturing facilities procure large quantities of materials directly from manufacturers and deliver these materials to a limited number of plant sites where many homes are produced. The study found that this “effective material supply chain enables the modular home to obtain building materials directly from manufacturers at lower costs and over a shorter delivery distance, resulting in lower transportation energy consumed” compared to site construction.

One of the most significant advantages of factory construction over traditional site construction, is that it reduces the energy and CO2 emissions required to transport workers to the job site by more than 93 percent. Plant workers report to the same local manufacturing facility each day, complete a home in about 5 days, and typically traveled a total of 1,996 miles per each modular home built in the study. Workers on a conventional site built home typically travel more miles to the job site, for many more months, totaling 31,500 miles on average per conventional home built. “The conventional home requires approximately 16 times more employee travel miles than modular home construction. This is one of the most significant benefits for the modular home and a disadvantage for the conventional home,” the study says.

The study concluded that factory constructed “modular homes are… overall more economic and environmentally sustainable…” over the conventional site built home, assuming a limited delivery distance of the finished home.

“This supports what we’ve long suspected, that factory constructed homes offer many environmental benefits over site built homes,” said Kevin Flaherty, Vice President of Marketing for Champion Homes. “While the study focuses on our modular construction, the points made regarding efficient material procurement and handling, the efficiency inherent in the manufacturing process, the reduction of waste, and the resulting tighter building envelope are all applicable to our manufactured homes. While the code is slightly different, the construction process is identical.”

Please visit: or for a copy of the Champion research study: “Life Cycle Assessment: A Case Study of Modular and Conventional Housing in Benton Harbor, Michigan.”

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