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Articles
Photo courtesy of Blu Homes
Liquid Living and Modular Homes

It took the Great Recession to make pre-fabricated housing a fashion statement. Today, the American dream is shifting from needing lots of stuff to ‘liquid living’, where the cardinal virtues  are nimbleness and adaptability to circumstance. As we traveled the country for our new book Spend Shift, we encountered many American households who equate excessive consumption as undermining their freedom. In our surveying, sixty-three percent of Americans disagree with the idea that “the more I have, the more I want,” while “two-thirds are happier with a more down to basic lifestyle.”

“The whole idea is that less is more,” says Blu Homes co-founder Maura McCarthy, who along with Bill Haney, work in a Victorian era schoolhouse that has been converted into office space in the Boston suburb of Waltham. Blu Homes is bucking the downturn in real estate by offering energy-efficient, low-cost homes built with green materials. The breakthrough which makes this possible is a unique hinge-based design that lets a Blu Home literally fold into a package that can fit into a standard shipping container and be transported anywhere in the world. “We want to give people permission to downsize by providing them with a house they will love,” says McCarthy, “and we want to give them the badge of awesomeness because it’s built with sustainable materials and it’s so energy efficient.

As far as McCarthy could tell, no one firm had ever succeeded at designing, selling, manufacturing, delivering, and completing homes at a customer’s site. McCarthy got around these problems with technology that allows her customer almost infinite options for designing their homes and seeing 3D prototypes at no extra cost. Her architects and engineers then devised ways to have virtually all of the work on a home’s utilities done in the factory, avoiding on-site contractor work. On delivery day, connections for heating and plumbing just snap together as the structure is unfolded. Technology allows Blu Homes to be customized for use as office space, school buildings, country homes, and backyard granny flats in jurisdictions where property owners are allowed to erect small outbuildings on piers under flexible, low-cost permit programs. The folding design has made shipping so inexpensive that Blu Homes can actually send a unit cross-country and still beat local competitors on price. A television studio in Burbank, California, is using four Blu homes for dressing rooms on its lot.

Yet perhaps Blu Home’s biggest appeal is their anti-McMansion appeal. Rather than be slave to a mortgage you can’t afford, these modular designs allow a homeowner to grow into their house over time. Get a raise? Add another room! We want to make an impact,” Maura adds, “on the entire housing market.”

Blu Homes is one of fifty companies interviewed for Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell and Live.

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