We spoke to Mark Lock, a Data Scientist at Duolingo, about buying his first home with Module in East Liberty. With a projected completion time of summer 2022, we chatted with Mark to learn about what drew him to Module in the first place, his favorite feature in his new home, and his experience with building a house so far.
Mark and the team at the closing.
How did you first learn about Module?
I was watching Youtube videos, actually. This was a few years back, and I was watching tiny house videos and came across a video about Module. Then I came to Pittsburgh and was looking to buy my first home and looked into modular housing. I realized that Module was one of the houses I saw on Youtube a while back.
Oh yeah, I remember the video you’re talking about! So, what made you want to buy a Module house? Was it the video that influenced you, or was there something else?
I don’t really subscribe to the mentality of needing to own a big house. I’m a single person, I don’t need something huge. I wanted to have something that was small and well-built and did not have a big footprint. And that’s hard to find in Pittsburgh. Everything is old and big, which is the opposite of what I want.
Also, I grew up in Taiwan where I lived in a small apartment, so I’m used to small spaces. I was initially thinking I’d save cost on the project, and you end up not really saving cost. But it's exactly what I want, regardless of the cost, so it’s worth it.
Living room rendering
I feel like the biggest issue with the Pittsburgh housing market is that it’s full of big, weirdly built houses, so it’s great that Module fits what you were looking for.
Yeah, there’s a lack of medium-quality housing. Everything is like 100 years old. If you find a house that’s 20 years old and located in the city, it’s super rare. No matter how you try to retrofit the old houses, you can’t. Especially when you deal with insulation and building standards today. The standards today were just not around back then.
For example, I’m staying in a refurbished rental right now that looks great, but I’ve been there this winter and last winter and I’m always freezing. There’s some insulation in there and there are weather strips on the doors, but it’s just not working.
The nice thing about Module houses is that the boxes are so well insulated, so you’re comfortable regardless of the weather. If it’s cold outside, you’re warm. If it’s warm outside, it feels really mild inside.
The biggest attraction for me is having that tight envelope. Humidity is a huge issue for me in the winter and sure, you can install a humidifier in your HVAC but it’s not the same as a house that’s well-insulated.
This house was previously designed before you bought it, correct? Can you describe the layout of the home for me?
It’s basically the Haven layout with a basement. So the first floor has the living space and kitchen, plus a half bath. The second floor has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The basement has one bathroom, one bedroom, and a flex space.
Do you have an idea of what you’d want to do with a flex space?
I’ll probably use it for when my parents come into the city and want to stay with me. I can use it as a private space for them or anyone else who comes to visit.
What feature are you most excited about in the home?
The insulation! I made it very clear to the Module team that I want to see the blower door test and to ensure that the envelope is built well. If other things go sideways, that’s fixable. The envelope is not fixable.
I’m also excited about the basement setup. So many basements in Pittsburgh flood because they were originally not supposed to be sealed to keep the rest of the house from flooding. But this basement will be sealed, so I’m excited about that.
Was sustainability important to you as you were looking for a home to buy?
It’s funny - I like that I’m contributing to the movement of using less carbon emissions and going all-electric, etc. But ultimately those features are a bi-product of my needs.
It just so happens that I want a well-insulated house. It turns out to be the most eco-friendly solution, too. Using the mini splits for electric heating happens to be the easiest construction method for HVAC for a smaller house, compared to other methods, but it also turns out to be the most eco-friendly option.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think that people would trade a well-built home for sustainability, which is how I feel. But it’s great! It’s a plus.
It is convenient that all of the sustainability features in a Module home come with being more comfortable and easier to use. With an all-electric house, it’s easier to install solar power and is generally more energy-efficient, so that makes sense. What is the timeline for the construction of this house?
We put a deposit on the house, which will be complete in May. The foundation work will be done in May, too. Then once the house is delivered it will take about 60 days to finish all of the on-site work. So we’re shooting for summer 2022.