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Green modular homes are coming

By Staff | Apr 28, 2010

Barbour County resident Ken Auvil has spent nearly 50 years researching and developing affordable and environment-friendly housing. Now, he has begun searching for an interested community in which to build a new "green" modular home factory.

Auvil is looking for the "optimum location" for a new plant to build 125 to 150 homes annually. Across West Virginia, Auvil’s companies have been responsible for manufacturing more than 3,000 homes, 300 apartments, 30 villages and three factories.

"If we can make this factory an instant success, like we did in my four years at Grafton (Manufactured Housing), it can be franchised," Auvil said. "It can be replicated and serve as a model for community empowerment for improving housing and creating jobs in rural America."

According to Auvil, the United States accounts for 4 percent of the world’s population, uses 25 percent of the energy and creates 25 percent of the pollution. Auvil’s companies have built more than 3,000 homes, using Auvil’s "less to build, less to operate" philosophy.

Auvil said his search will begin in northcentral West Virginia because the area is familiar with modular homes and building systems. He said trained craftsmen and contractors are more readily available because many of the area’s residents have worked in a modular factory or trained in building trade classes. He said the Tri-County Vocational Center, with the help of New Era Homes, was the pioneer for 30 vocational high schools to build, and later auction, quality modular homes for more than 30 years.

"There is a crisis, a need for affordable housing in rural West Virginia and America," Auvil said. "It has been masked by the collapse of the McMansion trend and easy money meltdown. Government policy subsidizes excess and waste at the top with the 90 billion interest deduction which goes 84 percent to high income owners and wealthy states while ignoring modest income families. With so great a need, many West Virginia towns can build a factory to serve their region."

Regardless of recession, Auvil said "the flip side of crisis is opportunity." An advocate of individual and community self-reliance, Auvil wrote to President Barrack Obama and members of Congress in November urging a policy shift to jumpstart affordable building and remodeling to create 500,000 jobs.

Auvil has been on the cutting edge of the "green" building movement while working as a building consultant for the past 12 years. He has encouraged customers to design their home as a 100-year plan for the most efficient use of resources. He said the new factory would be designed the same way.

Auvil has been in the housing industry since the 1960s. He later founded West Virginia’s first modular factory, New Era Homes Inc., in 1974. In 1985, it was destroyed by flood and fire and the process was incorporated as Grafton Manufactured Housing in February 1986. He opened the West Virginia Green Building School at Windwood near Davis in Tucker County in 2008. Auvil is also a former member of the state House of Deletes.