GO Homes Are Predesigned, Prefabricated, Passivhaus and Possibly Perfect

Go home black house

© GO Home / Josh Gerritsen 

Being an architect is hard. You design a nice home for a client and then you have to start over, almost from scratch, with the next one. That’s why I was always a fan of selling plans and extolling the virtues of prefabrication; it becomes more like industrial design, where you have a product that you refine, work out the bugs, and get some real design and production efficiencies.

That’s why I am so excited about the GO Home line from GO Logic architects in Maine. They are very talented architects that we have shown many times on TreeHugger. They have now taken their most successful designs and and are turning them into products.

GO Home brings the process of building a new home up to date. Our predesigned, prefabricated houses join spatial elegance and traditional craft with precision manufacturing and industry-leading performance, delivering the design and construction quality of the finest custom homes, but faster and less expensively.

'Donkey Universe' Design

They have a line of houses on offer, but I want to concentrate on one design in particular, the "Donkey Universe," at 1,600 square feet, because it is such a great example of what I have been trying to say for years about design, construction, energy efficiency and everything. There is a lot to learn from this.

Go Home 1500
Go Logic Red House.  Trent Bell

Back in 2012, when we still did the Best of Green awards, I gave one to the Go Home built in 2010, which I described as proof that “one can in fact build a very attractive, beautifully proportioned home that meets the Passive House standard for a reasonable price.” It was such a simple, elegant form, like all of their work; another project they did was also an object lesson, which I titled Buildings can be boxy but beautiful if you have a good eye. They have a very good eye.

The Go Home is available as the 1500, but the 1600 footer owes a lot to the original Go Home, and has a lot of interesting features. The original was timberframe, while the new one is made of load bearing walls, but there is an obvious heritage here.

Designed to the Passivhaus Energy Standard

Go Home 1600 rear
 GO Home/ Josh Gerritsen

The Go Home series is designed to the tough Passivhaus energy standard, which sets tough limits on energy consumption and air tightness, not to mention window size on north walls in a climate like Maine's. But it is not just hard to do in the field; the hard work starts right on the drafting table, where the design has to be put through a giant wringer of a spreadsheet that accounts for every “thermal bridge” and possible hot spot for air leakage or heat loss. Selling the same plan is going to dramatically reduce the cost of doing that analysis; building the same house means that they are going to learn in the field each time, making it better and the details simpler.

foundation heat loss

© GO Home

Whenever I write about this, like in A thermal bridge too far: As much as 30% of heat loss can be caused by bad design, I use the Go Home as an example of how to do it right, how to make a design simple, elegant, or as Bronwyn Barry puts it, #BBB or Boxy But Beautiful. I wrote:

That's why Passive Houses or Passivhaus designs tend to be simpler; each of these geometric thermal bridges are accounted for. Every one of those jogs on the silly McMansion creates a thermal bridge, almost all of which are avoided in GOLogic's wonderful Go Home passive house. Unfortunately, it is often harder for an architect to make a simple design look beautiful; they have to rely on proportion and scale. It takes skill and a good eye.

Benefits of Prefabrication


© GO Home

Then there are the benefits of prefabrication, where the work is done in the shop instead of in the field.

Every GO Home is prefabricated, in the form of insulated building panels, in our midcoast Maine shop. Our process, based on a small-team model pioneered in Sweden, allows us to execute precise, airtight building details faster and more economically than conventional methods. The finished building panels are delivered to your site and quickly assembled on a superinsulated foundation of our own patented design.
Ground floor plan

© GO Home

Finally, let’s look at the plan because there is a lot to parse here, and it just speaks to me about how they know what they are doing. When I started in the prefab world my prototype model was a very small two bedroom unit with one bath. It got published everywhere, including a rave in the New York Times. I did not sell one of them; small means very expensive per square foot, and I quickly learned that the world wants three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an island kitchen. Oh, and it takes a minimum of 1,400 square feet. Most ended up a bit bigger. Most people wanted one-storey designs, but two-storey models are more energy efficient and cost effective so I tried to push classic Cape Cods like this one.

Go Home second floor 1600 unit

© GO Home

GoLogic has designed this 1,600 sf unit to have those 3 bedrooms on the second floor, but also a main floor master, because every single baby boomer building their retirement home in the country is told they have to have a main floor master bedroom. So this house has three bedrooms upstairs, giving the owners the option of using the room downstairs as a den or study or whatever until it is needed or wanted as a bedroom. The plan is a model of flexibility and adaptability.

Kitchen view
Kitchen. GO Home/ Josh Gerritsen 

Note also that the house has a huge vestibule -- they know how people live. Many designers would have made it half the size, but people come to the country with lots of stuff. They could have had a bigger master bedroom (room for a closet!) but they knew where people need a bit of space.

You can have a look at all the other offerings from GO Home on their site; the pricing is there too and is pretty reasonable for a house of this quality.

angled view
 GO Home/ Josh Gerritsen

I am probably overstating it when I call this house the apotheosis of prefab. I know, it is probably a second home in the country for rich people in a hurry, but that’s where the market is. GO Home has pushed every other button. It’s a classic design refined through trial and error; it is Passivhaus; it is prefabricated; it is boxy but beautiful. It’s practically perfect.