With historic wildfires sweeping the West Coast and burning over 3.2 million acres in California alone, it is clear in 2020 that the climate change emergency is upon us. Dvele Cofounder and CEO Kurt Goodjohn's purpose is to create a new generation of ultra-energy-efficient, self-powered prefabricated homes that will inspire society’s transition to a clean energy future. The company not only manufactures the prefab container houses, but also has designed technology to ensure that the homes can be reproduced consistently and affordably at scale.
All Dvele prefab homes are completely self-powered by solar energy, thus addressing climate change and eliminating dependency on the power grid. The homes utilize advanced materials and assembly techniques in order to ensure that they require 84% less energy per square foot than a traditionally-built home. With such efficiency, Dvele homes are capable of utilizing the solar array and battery backup system to make them fully grid-independent and insulated from the inconveniences and safety risks associated with long-term power outages, not to mention significant financial savings.
“We've redesigned the home from the ground up,” says Goodjohn. “Our approach not only results in ultra-efficient living environments that can generate more energy than it takes to operate, but also ensures the safety, health and wellness of occupants.”
Kurt Goodjohn and his brother Kris Goodjohn stumbled into the construction industry, starting off building luxury homes using traditional, stick-built construction. Quickly, they realized how outdated, inefficient, and uninspiring these methods were. They had seen prefab construction projects on a trip to Europe and wondered why the homes weren’t more popular in North America. So over beers one night, they decided to found a company in the prefab industry.
Now, Kurt Goodjohn feels he has tapped into his life purpose. “I have always been a strong advocate for the notion that everyone should leave the world better off than they found it,” he says. “At Dvele, we are accomplishing this by disrupting an age-old industry and bringing it into the modern age. Our company contributes to minimizing the overall environmental impact of homes and enhances the way they function to benefit the health and wellness of occupants.”
As a result, Goodjohn never feels that he really is “working” because he is pursuing something truly important. “There’s absolutely nothing my brother and I would rather be doing than building this company. We passionately believe that what we are doing will have a positive impact on the world and we have an unwavering determination to lead the change necessary in the new home space,” he says.
In the beginning, the greatest challenge the Goodjohns faced was getting other people to believe in the value of what they were doing with Dvele. However, they remained determined. “Trust your gut,” Kurt Goodjohn advises other aspiring entrepreneurs and changemakers. “When you're young, you really don't have a lot of experience, you don't know what will work or what will fail. So, it's actually the best time to just do what you think is right and learn as you go. My brother and I wouldn't be doing what we are doing today had we listened to all of the naysayers who told us it could never be done.”
Prefab house construction
To further stoke the flames of interest, Dwell magazine held a modern prefab invitational in 2003 to create an economical flat pack container house that could be mass-produced. Allison Arieff, the former editor of Dwell, had written the 2002 book Prefab, which profiled modern prefab prototypes. Nathan Wieler and Ingrid Tung contacted Arieff with the hopes of obtaining more information about how to build a modern prefab home. Instead, Arieff asked the couple if they'd be interested in using their land in Pittsboro, N.C., as the site for a design competition. With an initial construction budget of $200,000, the couple agreed and soon was helping the magazine create the criteria for the home and judging designs [source: Boston Globe].
While some prefabs qualify as "traditional homes" to mortgage companies because they use some of the methods of stick-built homes, others do not. But many new modern prefabs are being introduced to home-builders, with shipping container room included. The Swedish company, IKEA, introduced its modern prefab home, the BoKlok, to the European market. In 2006, the Walker Art Museum presented an exhibit around modern prefab, "Some Assembly Required: Contemporary Prefabricated Houses." And as the market demands more environment- and wallet-friendly housing choices, the modern prefab market should continue to grow in the scope of its offerings.