Vantem Offers Energy Efficient Factory Made Modular Dwellings

Modular home manufacturer Vantem has just closed a Series A funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

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By Steve Hanley

Vantem manufactures energy efficient modular dwelling units. Over the past 3 years, more than 3 million square feet of homes, hotels, and commercial buildings in South America and the Caribbean have been constructed using its proprietary factory made structural panels. The resulting buildings are affordable, energy efficient, and able to resist hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. With the addition of solar panels, they can be net zero.

Now, thanks to a Series A investment round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Quadrant Management, and TEM Capital, the company plans to build 15 factories in the US over the next seven years. New factories are already planned for Arizona, California, Texas, and the Dakotas in 2023. Each will have the capacity to build more than 1 million square feet of housing per year.

“Vantem’s approach allows the production of high-efficiency and net-zero homes at extremely competitive costs and low embodied carbon,” says Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “With their proven track record in South America and the Caribbean, we’re confident that the Vantem team can scale their modular approach to ensure homes everywhere can be energy efficient.”

Modular school. Image courtesy of Vantem

The Vandem structural panels have a thick layer of insulating foam between the inner and outer surfaces. In an interview with Fast Company, Vantem describes the outer material as ceramic-like and “in the same family” as the tiles that covered the nose of the space shuttle.

“You don’t need to reinforce it with steel, wood, or anything else. It can be loaded for your walls, for your floor, for your roof,” says Vantem CEO Chris Anderson. “That’s what we do. We make the entire box of these prefabricated modular units out of these panels.” A Vandem modular home costs about 20% less than a conventional stick built structure and features far greater strength and much lower energy costs for heating and cooling.

“We are excited to have the support of investors who share in our goal of meeting affordable housing needs while reducing energy and carbon emissions impacts,” Anderson says.  “Construction in this sector has seen the least amount of innovation and productivity gains and is one of the greatest direct and indirect sources of carbon emissions. At the same time, affordable housing is a global need that must be addressed, but if we build with traditional methods, we will solve one problem only to worsen another. At Vantem, we are committed to addressing both challenges on a global scale.”

Low income housing. Image courtesy of Vantem

Vantem establishes its factories as joint ventures with local developers who want to reduce costs, construction time, and the carbon footprint of the communities they are building. The strength and resiliency of Vantem’s system is well suited for a wide range of regions and climates including extreme hot and cold, wet tropical, dry desert, high hurricane, and seismic zones. Made from refractory materials, the system is also fire-resistant.

“You can think of it kind of like an automotive production line where these units are moving down this production line, and different elements are being put in,” Anderson says. “The bathroom, the floor, the walls are being painted, the roofs are being put on. By the time it hits the end of the production line, it’s completely finished with the electrical and everything. Essentially, 80% of the job of what you would typically do on the job site is complete by the time that unit leaves the factory door.”

All that remains to be done at the work site is for the foundation to be poured. If a multi-dwelling structure is involved, the individual units are then assembled into the finished building. Construction waste is a significant issue when using conventional building techniques. The Vantem system eliminates all that mess and clean up. Plus, Anderson says construction takes 50% less time than normal. Time is money. Chalk up another big win for Vantem.

The Takeaway

Vantem is not the only company making modular home components in a factory setting and shipping them to the job site. But with backing from Breakthrough Energy Ventures in hand, it is well prepared to become a dominant player in the modular space.

Now if we could get them together with Dandelion Energy to merge its ground source heat pump technology with all those new modular homes Vantem plans to build, that would not only lower construction costs but also guarantee significant energy savings for the life of those homes and buildings.

Nearly 40% of global emissions are attributable to the built environment. Anything that helps lower that number is welcome news.

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” Perhaps it’s time we heed his advice.

Originally published on November 25, 2022

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