How Are Prefab Builders Helping Customers Build Through the Pandemic?

This North Carolina company’s resilient practices and flexible approaches are making it possible to build during the COVID-19 crisis.
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The current pandemic is creating myriad opportunities for reflecting on residential home design. While trends around indoor-outdoor connections and sustainable construction were growing well before the virus outbreak, recent stay-at-home orders are reinforcing both old and new ideas. Canadian architect Brian MacKay-Lyons put it this way: 

"Maybe the pandemic is underlying what’s always been important. It’s about connecting interiors to outer landscapes. It’s about the idea of prospect and refuge. We need that in our dwellings and always did, but especially now."

For Deltec Homes, a North Carolina-based prefabricated home builder, the sentiment is a familiar one—and it’s also a reminder that homes can protect from extreme events without compromising connections with the outdoor world.

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Deltec Homes is a hybrid manufacturer specializing in custom home design using prefabricated construction methods.

The company is best known for their hurricane-resistant, round homes, which allow for a panoramic connection with nature while protecting from it when needed.

"Our big dream is to change the way the world builds," says the company’s president, Steve Linton. "For over 50 years we’ve focused on building more resilient homes to protect people from outside conditions—including hurricanes, extreme temperatures, seismic events, or other very challenging environmental situations. Now, like everyone else, the virus is broadening our understanding of what it means to have a safe and healthy home." 

Deltec counts customers in all 50 states and others in over 30 countries and 5 continents.

Linton and his team are adapting their process by offering virtual consultations, refundable deposits, and discounts for medical workers, among other things. Below, they discuss these options, as well as parallels between the current situation and the company’s experience building in uncertain situations.

The distinctive, circular design and innovative engineering allows Deltec structures to withstand powerful winds and storms.

How is Deltec’s building process adapting? 

"I'm finding a lot of my clients have more free time right now," explains Deltec designer Kerry Watkins. "We are staggering our hours so customers can talk to us when it’s convenient for them." As communication becomes more virtual overall, Watkins finds the transition easy. "Over the years, I’ve worked on projects around the world, and I recognized the similarities with how we are working now." 

Deltec offers 3D tours for customers unable to view model homes and sends personalized photos to ensure customers are still actively experiencing the process. As Watkins advises customers, the Deltec process of building a prefabricated home makes it possible to take advantage of the current period to work on the initial fabrication while completing the finishes later.

For projects more than 50 miles from the factory, Deltec builds the structural shell of a home, then ships the components to be assembled and finished by a local builder. The unique process generally allows for a quicker and more efficient process than traditional, on-site construction.

Current Deltec customer Mark Brown of Candler, North Carolina, describes his recent decision to continue with construction on a solar-powered vacation rental: "Initially, I put the project on hold due to the Coronavirus. However, I decided to use this time to have my house ready when things return to normal."

The round design minimizes the need for load-bearing walls, allowing for sweeping interiors and windowscapes. Watkins, who lives in a Deltec home herself, describes the view as like a "hug from nature."

Which of Deltec’s features are more relevant? 

As more people become aware of eco-friendly and sustainable building practices, Deltec sees that increase reflected in customer interest for their homes. "The environmental practices we already follow now resonate with a wider group of people," says Deltec’s sustainability manager, Leigha Dickens. "Our design process comes down to the insulation system and making our homes airtight. By building prefabricated sections that fit together in a highly insulated way, it becomes easier to control the interior air quality and energy efficiency." 

In addition to the flagship round homes, Deltec also offers a collection of modern and traditional prefabricated kits.

Dickens also notes an increase in customer questions about off-grid options. "I keep up with the science of new building materials and mechanical systems. When it comes to options such as fresh-air ventilation systems or solar power, I love helping customers determine what is best for them."

Various floor plans are based on ultra-efficient, quality-built, and durable designs, making it easier to reduce energy consumption or accommodate an off-the-grid lifestyle. The design shown here was a 2019 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home winner.

How is Deltec helping customers financially? 

"Over the last few weeks, we've put several programs in place to help our customers and community between now and the end of June," explains Linton. "First, to give people the peace of mind to begin working with us, we launched a deposit assurance program, which means new customers can receive a refund if they lose their job or become medically impacted by the virus. Second, we extended our standing military and veteran discount program to offer the same 7% discount to healthcare workers and others on the ‘front-lines’ of this crisis." Additional company efforts include donations to a local community fund and exploring the creation of medical gowns from unused house wrap. 

Wrap-around windows and skylights help create a stronger connection with the surrounding landscape.

After intense weather recently passed through the southeastern United States, one homeowner emailed Deltec to say, "We were again reminded how fortunate we are to live in our round home. The spring storm continues to lash us with rain and wind, but we remain comfortable inside our ‘fortress.’ You can't put a price on that peace of mind."

"This moment is a reminder that we're all interconnected, adds Linton. "As a B-Corporation, we're asking ourselves: How are we helping our community, our environment, our workers, and all of our stakeholders? That's the philosophy behind being a people-centered operation."

For more information about Deltec Homes, please visit their website or check out their image galleries and virtual tours.

Related Reading:

Life After COVID-19: How the Pandemic May Reshape the World as We Know It

17 Architects and Designers on How the Pandemic Will Change Our Homes Forever 


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