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If builders still have the notion that a modular home is a plain, boring box, the Mid-Century Modern show home is likely to shatter that misconception.

The modular home at the 2019 Professional Builder Show Village at the NAHB International Builders’ Show accomplishes the deft feat of using modular construction to achieve a mid-century modern design sensibility, with its open-plan living environment and plentiful glass.

For the home’s designer, Kegan Flanderka, principal of Base Design/Architecture in Portland, Ore., it was a tricky but rewarding task. “For us it’s an opportunity to get more people turned on to modular construction because we like doing the design, and we think it’s a better construction type,” Flanderka says. “What we ended up coming out with was a home that if you didn’t know it, you would never know it’s a modular home.”

Visitors to the Builders’ Show can take an opportunity to explore the Show Village home, which features gas systems throughout that highlight the design and energy-efficiency opportunities available by building with propane. Visitors can also stop by the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC’s) outdoor booth P1 to learn not only about the propane appliances featured in the home, but also how to integrate them into your own homes and communities.

Modular Home Fireplace

A central gas fireplace serves as the centerpiece of a feature wall that unifies two of the home’s modules. Credit: Base Design/Architecture.

A fireplace that unifies

One of the most interesting design uses for the gas systems in the home is a gas fireplace that serves as a centerpiece of the home’s central feature wall. Because the living room is at a connection point between two of the home’s modules, the feature wall runs perpendicular to the marriage point of the module, sitting free-standing within the space.

“We’re using that fireplace element to try and make the space look like there’s no marriage line; it’s one continuous unit,” Flanderka says. The slim, linear design of the fireplace wouldn’t have been possible without the direct-vent capabilities of propane or natural gas. “We have a hearth that’s being made of Caesarstone that sits below it and unifies both of those modules, so it reads like one space,” he says. “It wouldn’t have been feasible from a design standpoint with a wood fireplace.”

Mods PDX modules

The show home was built as a set of six modules from Mods PDX, a factory in Portland, Oregon.

The home will use a gas furnace for heating in two zones, and a slim-duct minisplit system in the rest of the house, since the Las Vegas home will have a larger cooling demand than heating. The combined system highlights opportunities to provide both energy efficiency and comfort in climate zones that can range from extremely hot to very cold. “If you can find a way to do a hybridization of the [gas and electric] systems, it leads to greater efficiencies,” Flanderka says.

Multigenerational and entertainment amenities

The home’s developer and eventual owner, Joe Crosland, a Las Vegas area general contractor, values both the energy efficiency and performance of the show home’s gas systems. In researching the area’s medium-cost to high-end home market, he says including gas cooking is a must at a time when parties and get-togethers are centered around the kitchen and cooking.

“If you’ve ever been in a situation where the hot water has run out, you’ll definitely know the benefits of a tankless.”

Crosland also knew that having a gas tankless water heater would be important after he swapped out his existing home’s water heater for a gas tankless unit, which provides endless hot water. “We live in a multigenerational home,” Crosland says. “I have my mother-in-law living with us, and it’s nice to never have to worry about taking a shower. If you’ve ever been in a situation where the hot water has run out, you’ll definitely know the benefits of a tankless.”

The show home will feature Rinnai’s Sensei tankless water heater with recirculation pump. It provides up to 11 gallons per minute of hot water, and the recirculation feature allows users to get hot water at the tap without dumping a large initial burst of cold water. The unit also includes many new features that ease both installation and serviceability, says Kevin Morgan, business development manager or the energy segment for Rinnai America.

Rinnai Sensei tankless water heater

Rinnai’s Sensei tankless water heater includes ease-of-installation features such as an easy-hang bracket, quick and easy gas-to-propane conversion, and low gas pressure requirements.

Immediately after the Builders Show, Crosland’s home will be moved to a lot he purchased, and he’s eager to add more outdoor living features that won’t be shown in the Show Village. “We haven’t gotten to landscaping yet,” he says, “but there most likely will be a firepit and some fire features around the pool that you don’t get a feel for at the show, but will definitely be incorporated in the home.”

For homes and developments that lack access to natural gas, propane provides an always-available option that allows builders to incorporate desirable gas amenities in their own projects. Visit PERC’s outdoor booth P1 to discuss your own project needs and pick up a copy of our toolkit for big builders to learn more about incorporating propane on large projects.