Dvele Drops a Self-Powered Prefab in Malibu

Resilient, healthy, and efficient homes never looked so good.

Dvele Home at dusk


Dvele is a modular prefab home company making "self-powered" homes that come with solar panels and battery storage. Their homes are possible because they get a critical point that many on the "electrify everything" bandwagon do not: The first thing that you should do is "drive down consumption with efficiency."

"We engineer our homes based on the underlying premise that producing homes that require significantly less energy to operate will reduce the total energy needed to power the home," said the company. "With this goal at the forefront, producing a self-powered home becomes much more attainable." 

Dvele does this by building to the PHIUS standard, reducing energy consumption by up to 90%. When you hammer away at demand with LED lighting, induction cooking, and heat pumps, it doesn't take many panels or batteries to keep it going.

Exterior home in daytime against a mountain range


That is one of the interesting features of this new home in Malibu, California, which is built to replace a home lost in the 2018 Woolsey Fire that burned the state's Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. It is "fully grid-independent even when the sun is not shining, effectively protecting homeowners from the inconveniences and safety risks associated with long-term weather-related power outages."

Interior from ktichen


Sometimes it seems some of the ideas in a Dvele home might be competing with others. They work so hard to drive down consumption, and then fill it back up with "smart home" features, including 200 real-time sensors "built into every crevice" so that the home adapts to your every routine and behavior.

According to the Devele press release:

"To paint a picture of what life would be like once you transition into this next-generation home, imagine it helping you wind down for bed by automatically regulating the temperature to your liking, locking all your doors, turning off your lights, shutting all your shades, filtering in fresh air, and playing a white noise machine on your speaker for a set amount of time. And then picture waking up well-rested to a shower that knows your schedule and has the exact right temperature ready and waiting for you to start your day, wasting no time."
Living room looking toward kithcen


If some of the smart home features seem superfluous, the health-promoting features do not in this current plague. Architects, engineers, and building scientists have worried for centuries about water and human waste, but until the pandemic, air quality in homes was left to a contractor doing a heat loss calculation and a bathroom fan. Now, thanks to the building scientists and doctors who realized that Covid was airborne, attitudes are changing. As epidemiologist David Fisman puts it, "Air: it’s the new poop."

HOme office


Dvele delivers continuous filtered fresh air from an Energy Recovery Ventilator with MERV 13 filters, with "a ventilation strategy that pushes/supplies fresh, filtered air in down low in the breathing zone, while drawing stale, used air out from above for a continuous fresh-air experience." They claim to capture 90% of outdoor air contaminant particles, and use some of those sensors to circulate more air when carbon dioxide (CO2) spikes or "the home anticipates VOC increases from cooking."

Exterior corner


This is why I am liking the Dvele concept so much. Fundamentally, for health comfort, you want to start with the tight envelope and controlled and filtered air supply you get with PHIUS or Passivhaus. For resilience, you want the insulation that will keep you warm or cool, and the batteries and solar panels certainly help. I am even coming to like the 200 sensors and the monitoring of everything from CO2 levels—a proxy for Covid-19—to the moisture in the walls.

None of this is cheap and, until recently, people would rather invest in more space or granite counters. But the previous house on this site was destroyed in a wildfire. California energy officials are warning of possible blackouts this summer. In March of this year, the state had record-breaking heatwaves. They are even worried about noise pollution.

The Dvele approach to health, resilience, and energy independence is looking increasingly attractive.

View Article Sources
  1. "A Sustainable Building Philosophy." Dvele.

  2. "Inside Look: Dvele's New Prefab Malibu Dream Home." Dvele, 6 May 2022. Press release.

  3. "A Higher Standard and Philosophy." Dvele.