Five years ago I toured a Palm Harbor Homes factory in Austin Texas. The houses were towed down the assembly line by a chain drive; I almost got run over by a house. When I asked talked about the use of sustainable, healthy materials, I was told that they never even think about it, that the market won't pay for it.
Much has changed in five years. Nationwide Custom Homes, a subsidiary of Palm Harbor, is showing the Osprey at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. It is "designed to meet the needs of Baby Boomers, Echo Boomers and RV enthusiasts seeking an affordable Green weekend retreat" but is as big as a lot of one bedroom apartments.
It has a very high level of insulation, (Walls- R 24 , Floors - R 29 and Ceiling - R 49) and Energy Star rated windows; sited properly it could almost act passively. The show model has thin film solar integrated into the standing seam roofing.
Interior finishes are appropriately green as well; they have also used recycled wood, low or no VOC paints and formaldehyde free insulation. "Bamboo, cork and other natural materials are layered in throughout the interior to accentuate the home's clean lines."
Preston at Jetson Green calls it an off grid home, but that is questionable. It has a solar roof but that won't power their appliance choices. It is certainly not off pipe; it has a dual flush toilet, and that Rinnai tankless water heater is gas fired, whereas solar hot water heating is the lowest hanging fruit around. None of the appliances shown make much sense with an off grid home but hey, it is a show model, they have fancy stuff to show and sell.
There is no reference to a heat recovery ventilator either; even though this unit is small, it is well insulated and tightly sealed. Two people living, cooking and showering in that small a space would need the fresh air.
In Canada, this would be classed as a park model home, built under the CSA Z241 code that limits square footage to 538 square feet. (50 square meters). In the USA, Park model homes are built to ANSI standard A119.5, which limits the area to 400 square feet. It is probably HUD code, but could also probably be downsized to ANSI 119.5 without too much trouble.
It is great to see mainstream companies like Palm Harbor offering decent small units that don't play to the lowest possible standard and price. They wouldn't do it if there wasn't a market for it, which is a big change in five years. Osprey from Nationwide Custom Homes, found via Jetson Green