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Duke Street Cottages, an Offsite High Performance Pocket Neighborhood nestled in NC

Introducing Rob Howard, President of Howard Building Science, a small general contractor based in Granite Halls, North Carolina, dedicated to providing sustainable housing solutions. Rob and his team are focused on constructing small homes built to the Department of Energy's Zero-Energy Ready Home standard, employing Offsite Construction methods, technology, and techniques within a pocket neighborhood designed for 11 homes. The current phase consists of 4 homes constructed with Structural Insulated Panels (SIP), with plans to progress to full volumetric modular builds.

Audree Grubesic, host of the Offsite Construction Series, shares Rob's belief that high-performance offsite construction technology represents the future of community design. Rob turned this vision into reality by not only spearheading the project but also residing in one of the homes within the 1.25 acre lot known as Duke Street Cottages pocket neighborhood.

In 2021, Rob initiated his plan as a pilot project in his hometown, Granite Falls, stating, "if I can do this in Granite Falls, I can do this anywhere." Despite a lack of significant demand for high-performance, net-zero construction in the area, there was a clear need for affordable housing. Rob's mission was to construct sustainable and accessible homes, and he has succeeded. These homes exceed building code and meet the certification standards for Zero Energy Ready Homes, offering healthier living spaces that consume less energy compared to traditional construction methods. 

The single-family detached cottage homes feature 5-foot setbacks around the property. The one-bedroom, one-bath units span 800 sq ft, while the two-story cottages cover approximately 1400 sq ft, with the majority of living space on the main floor and three bedrooms upstairs. A key feature is the communal space at the front of each home, encouraging neighborly connections as residents face each other from their front porches. This emphasis on community drives the design of the pocket neighborhood.


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