By Rick Reynolds
Bensonwood, the 44-year old, New Hampshire-based, next-gen prefab builder known for its artful timber frames and energy-efficient home and commercial building envelopes, and Unity Homes, its optimized, platform-based sister company, are moving forward on plans to more than double their existing production capabilities.
With the lease signed on 25 Production Avenue in Keene, the two design/build companies will be adding 100,000 square feet of production space to the existing 40,000 SF of space at their Walpole and Alstead facilities.
The new Keene facility will allow both high-performance builders to add new production capacity in their off-site fabrication of highly aggregated, closed-panel wall, floor, and roof panel assemblies, an established methodology in Europe, but relatively new in the U.S.
Both companies use sophisticated CNC (computer numerical control) cutting machinery and 3D systems for managing, cutting, drilling, and notching of timbers, engineered woods, and wall system components. The new facility will advance these capacities, and add automated panel assembly lines for routing and nailing, and automation for manipulating panels. This new facility will help to improve the capability, efficiency, precision, and quality that Bensonwood has become known for.
To run the new facility, roughly 20 new skilled employees will be added to the existing 110-member staff, which now includes in-house architects, designers, engineers, drafters, project managers, fabricators, timber framers, custom craftsmen, building, and installation crews.
While there are a few other facilities in the U.S. with similar production lines, Bensonwood and Unity Homes are unique in the production of closed-panel, Open-Built® wall panels that form the core of their resilient, energy-efficient buildings. Taken together, their panelized assemblies — including factory-installed dense-packed cellulose insulation, windows, cladding, sheathing, and a notched chase for electrical and plumbing — offer a level of high-performance that doesn’t occur in more common forms of pre-fab construction.
From the new facility, the panelized assemblies will be shipped flat to the job site for rapid installation. Their particular completeness permits reduced installation time on site, with typical weather-tight shells completed in 1-2 weeks.
When fully online around November 2017, the new, high-volume fabrication facility greatly expands existing year-round, precise, quality building under controlled conditions, free from weather-related defects and issues.
Ultimately, the new facility will provide advanced production on single-family, multi-family, commercial, institutional, and development projects, not just for Bensonwood and Unity Homes, but in support of similarly-minded, independent architects, engineers, construction managers, builders, and developers.