Here's something you don't see ever day: a video (scroll to the bottom of the page) depicting the on-site creation of twin prefab modular townhouses. It’s pretty neat, like witnessing the construction of a giant LEGO house.

The structures, the Lancaster Net Zero Energy Live Townhomes in Oakland, California, are 1,540 square-foot demonstration homes from San Francisco-based ZETA (Zero Energy Technology and Architecture) Communities that were completed last month. Each townhouse has a two-bedroom layout with ground floor work studios, single car garages, and a host of features that, according to ZETA, demonstrate “an affordable solution to achieving net zero energy and LEED Platinum multifamily housing through advanced building energy systems and energy efficient technologies.”

Just a few of the many green features in the two townhouses:

  • Passive Solar Design
  • Recycled cellulose insulation
  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • FSC-certified lumber
  • 100 percent photovoltaic power
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Drought resistant landscaping
  • LED and CFL lighting throughout
  • Thermal storage conditioned basement
  • Wastewater heat recover system
  • Whole-house integrated fresh air system

In addition to LEED Platinum certification, the project has received a 240 GreenPoint rating, EPA Indoor airPLUS certification, ENERGY STAR certification, and has qualified for the Department of Energy's Builders Challenge program. All of this in addition to the fact that a majority of the construction was completed off-site in an efficient, low-waste manner. Not too shabby.

As mentioned, the homes are now in “demo” mode, meaning they’ll be used for tours and educational purposes while serving as testing grounds for the DOE, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Pacific Gas & Electric to validate ZETA’s metrics.

All and all, a straightforward yet remarkable achievement and a huge push for the multifamily green prefab micro-trend that I last mentioned in a post about Clayton’s latest project in Tennessee. Keep an eye out for one of ZETA Communities’ next projects, SmartSpace Student Efficiency Housing in Berkeley. It may be the coolest, smartest dorm design concept that I’ve ever seen.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Never seen a net-zero energy, prefabricated multifamily home be installed? Today's your lucky day.