The Irene Cottage Homes – An Innovative Approach to Housing for Vermonters

Designs for Upper Valley Strong’s Irene Cottages were unveiled at the recent Upper Valley Home Show and will also be on display at our table at April 15th’s Flavors of the Valley.   The planned homes are energy–efficient houses for residents who lost their homes in the floods of Tropical Storm Irene and include several sizes and designs to fit or surround historic neighborhoods or mobile home parks.   These homes can be built through various means, such as: stick built” (conventionally framed and site built), turn-key prefabricated or modular, where the total house is made off site, delivered and assembled in a single day; these homes are then “buttoned up” by a contractor or volunteer.

House types include:                   

  • Mini house, a small-scale home – as an alternative to a FEMA trailer – which could have future use as a home office or rental apartment/accessory dwelling unit under Vermont law (1-2 BR, 300-400 SF).
  • A one-story house the size of a single-wide, “1X1”, mobile home (1-2 BR, 550- 650 SF).
  • A two-story module on the same footprint as the “1X1”, but with a second story with 2 additional bedrooms (2-3 BR, 1100-1400 SF).
  • A one-story similar to a typical New England home (1-2 BR, 2-3 BR, 850-950 SF).
  • A two-story home (2-3 BR, 1500-1650 SF).

Variations could include extra bedrooms, living or storage space, porches/mudrooms. The homes are designed to accommodate a slab on grade, crawlspace basement, full depth basement and walkout basement depending on site constraints. Replacement homes will need to comply with new FEMA Flood level designations.


All homes are designed to be priced within the guidelines for a VHFA subsidized loan for working Vermont families; several models can be delivered for significantly below those values.  A funding/financing package can be designed for flood-impacted residents.


While up-front costs may be higher, savings in energy costs and reduced infrastructure cost can significantly offset annual living expenses. Superior insulation could have a 1-2 year payback due to fuel cost savings, making this a more financially sustainable housing option. We are working with Efficiency Vermont to refine a high performance energy package for these homes.

Implementation: A second, longer term goal is to use these prototypes as replacement homes for mobile home parks, so that homes with greater energy values and longer life spans can be offered to people with limited incomes. Many housing organizations, both in Vermont and in other States, may find the options to be excellent values for the future.

Irene Cottages Pattern Book pamphlet