A single small home, lifted onto a foundation in Milbridge. Maine last month, could signal big housing changes ahead. Confronted with scant affordable housing and mandates to reduce carbon pollution, Maine needs to re-envision how home construction happens — from the constituent elements and the building process to the carbon emissions produced.
A draft strategy proposed by the Maine Climate Council’s buildings, infrastructure and housing working group recommends “net-zero, renewable-ready new construction that makes use of Maine-made, low global warming potential building materials and minimizes consumer energy costs.” Minus the jargon, this translates to highly efficient homes built primarily with wood that generate as much electricity as they use (for appliances, heating and cooling) through solar power — either rooftop panels or participation in a community solar farm.
Could Maine use former mill sites to produce healthy and affordable zero-energy modular (ZEM) homes that rely on regional wood products? It turns out that plans have begun for such a factory at the former Great Northern mill site – now the One Katahdin multi-use industrial park – in Millinocket.
The project is the brainchild of consultants at the L3C firm Material Research, who have signed a memorandum of understanding with the nonprofit economic development group Our Katahdin to develop production plans for a ZEM home factory that – when operating at scale – would build 300 to 500 houses a year ranging in size from 600 to 1,000 square feet.
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