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|Sunday, November 22, 2009|
He chose an industry you wouldn’t expect in this recession — the housing industry.
Making a large capital investment (in a quantity Boydstun would not disclose), he took three years to retrain his engineers from Boydstun Metal Works, which he closed in April. The business, Miranda Homes, is using the same facilities his car business did to build homes in Oregon. It’s raising eyebrows both locally and nationally because they just might be the most sustainable and energy-efficient homes being built in the state right now.
“We’re going back to the way homes used to be built,” Boydstun says. “We are building the whole house.”
Contracted to build 20 homes in Newport, the company sold its first house on Oct. 6, before it was completed. Located in Clackamas near 132nd Avenue, it went for $285,000.
“Miranda is showing that you can build a more energy-efficient house and the house could end up costing less,” says Mike O’Brien, a green building specialist at Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development.
The outside of the house doesn’t reveal that the frame is made out of recycled steel. And rather than being built on site, large pieces of the home are assembled at Boydstun’s Clackamas plant and then transported to the site where the panels are pieced together.
That makes the house so well insulated that the National Association of Home Builders, which is monitoring the energy efficiency of the home in Clackamas by measuring air flow and changes in temperature and humidity, estimates the house’s energy consumption will be around 50% of an average house.
“Headed toward 50% in energy efficiency savings is big,” says Amber Wood, a program manager at the National Association’s Research Center. “They’re going to be a leader in energy efficiency, nationally.”
“Their envelope is much better than a site-built house. It’s flawless,” says O’Brien.
And it was all done in 48 days, with Miranda’s 15 employees and four subcontractors doing electrical, plumbing, HVAC and landscaping — unlike the usual six months and numerous contractors.
Rather than using subcontractors, Miranda’s engineers are cross-trained. Wood says that “bringing everybody back in adds a lot of aspects of making it easier to build a house.” Miranda Homes also owns all of its own equipment.
Wood says it is that capital investment that’s key to Miranda’s uniqueness, funding the numerous up-front costs associated with bringing the various trades in home building in-house.
Boydstun, who knew nothing about building homes three years ago, was able to create Miranda’s business model and way of building homes — both radically different from typical home builders — because he and his engineers were able to approach home building from a completely different perspective.
“It’s not that it hasn’t been figured out,” Wood says. “It is somewhat unusual to combine everything the way Miranda Homes has.”
Correction, published Dec. 17, 2009:
The facility where Miranda Homes are being built was mistated; they are being built on privately owned property that was used by Boydstun Metal Works for R&D. Also, Miranda Homes is cross training its site workers, not engineers, instead of using subcontractors
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