June 2007 Archive
"Affordable? Check. Cool? Check. Approved by the wife? Not so much, at least not yet. But Rocio Romero is on to something here with the LV series of prefab homes..."
Jetson Green's Flickr Friday introduced us to David Hertz's Panel House:
"This home is a three-story modern home in LA designed by David Hertz for Thomas Ennis. In the place of walls, Hertz's design called for industrial refrigerator panels--it keeps cool when it's warm outside and keeps warm when it's cool outside."
"It's a strange thing that in 15 years of building homes the house that Paul Melish is most proud of is one he didn't build at all..."
Back in 1960, designers George Nelson & Co. "threw out the old-fashioned and inefficient ideas inherent in many of [the day's] conventional houses." The design took advantage of the growing modern movement. One can easily see parallels with today's prefab ideals:
"They concentrated their thinking on greatly improved performance, mass production materials, extreme flexibility and a minimum of building parts..."
The Industrialized House featured:
Large homes would be formed by assembling a number of the cubes in large groupings, with air space between:
"... to provide the utmost in privacy and quiet ... Nelson's solution was to separate the rooms and join them by corridors made of the smaller extender units. Since the cube house offers complete design freedom, it can be perfectly adjusted to the building site to provide the desired seclusion and quiet."
"The house is composed entirely of off-site fabricated elements and ready-made components, assembled from the platform up in less than six weeks....The aluminum scaffold system, coupled with an array of connectors, provide both the structural frame and the means to connect cartridges, blocks and equipment to that frame with only the aid of a wrench.Integration of utilities into the home's "smart cartridges" sets the Loblolly apart. The full-module builders, like Hive Modular, Marmol Radziner, and Alchemy Architects, integrate utilities into multi-room modules that are shipped to the site near-complete. But the companies delivering flat-packed products, like the LV Series homes from Rocio Romero, require on-site work to incorporate utilities and finishes. The SIPs or stud-framed panels they ship generally incorporate little more than structure and insulation.
The assembly process begins with off-site fabricated floor and ceiling panels, termed 'smart cartridges.' They distribute radiant heating, hot and cold water, waste water, ventilation, and electricity through the house. Fully integrated bathroom and mechanical room modules are lifted into position. Exterior wall panels containing structure, insulation, windows, interior finishes and the exterior wood rain screen complete the cladding."
For the Loblolly House, this complete prefabrication was necessary to avoid large amounts of work on the sensitive site. The process even works in reverse:
"Just as the components may be assembled at the site swiftly with a wrench, so may they be disassembled swiftly, and most importantly, whole....It is a vision in which our architecture, even as it is disassembled at some unknown moment, can be relocated and reassembled in new ways from reclaimed parts."
Complementing the designs of Ray Kappe and David Hertz, LivingHomes plans to sell homes based on the system used in the Loblolly House. Also worth noting: Bosch produces the structural frame used for the Loblolly House and the TK iT House.
name: Loblolly House
size: 2,200 sf
price: not yet for sale
method: flat-pak, with utilities incorporated into panels
(Hat tip: Philly.com)
I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions about the new product line from Jenesys Building Systems. Here's what I learned:
Have you constructed any prefab structures?
Yes. Two. Our first was a small one-off cabin, the precursor to our current line of prefab buildings that we are developing. The second is the prototype of our E Cube line.
Are any models available for sale with timely delivery?
All the models on our website are currently available for sale. Time of delivery depends on the specific options and degree of customization that a customer opts for, but we do have a chain of supply in place and are ready to take orders.
You mention the prototype; do you have any photos, imagery or other documentation of the process/final prototype?
We have some information on this page: http://jenesysbuildings.ca/products-ecube.html
Our prototype E Cube is now at "lock up", structurally complete with doors and windows. [We anticipate] completion of the finishing of the building and landscaping this summer.
Standard features of the E Cube include:
Optional features include:
name: E Cube
size: 1,398sf - 2,244sf
price: $91,000 - $172,000
If your goal is to reduce the amount of on-site work to an absolute minimum, a houseboat delivers the ultimate in pre-fabricated housing. No earth movers or cement trucks required. Bonus points if the factory is on the water: the width of the flatbed truck no longer matters. Case in point: Modern Marine Homes in Sweden.
"Modern Marine Homes was established in 2002 from a vision of waterside living without compromising the demands expected from a modern villa. The result was [Villa Näckros], a new concept within marine living. A home with modern design characteristics and carefully considered construction."
Architecture firm Strindberg Arkitektur designed the original Villa Näckros, one of two models now available, and formed Modern Marine Homes to sell and produce the product:
"A residence for a client grew to an industrial project, with leading words as: sustainability, low maintenance, development of materials and building, care for the environment, low energy costs, identity....A comfortable living and a lay-out that gives you the optimal feeling of the closeness to the water."
Kalmar, Sweden has even developed a pilot program with Modern Marine Homes for living on the water:
"This unique work has led to the development of properties for living on the water — a floating residential project in the centre of town with the opportunity to leasehold or freehold [own]. The project will be a guide for the future design and construction of floating living in Sweden."
The house was awarded "Building of the Year 2003" by the Swiss Construction Industry. The homes are not available in the U.S.
name: Villa Näckros and Villa Näckros Alba
style: modern houseboat
size: ~1,200sf - 1,600sf
br: both models have 3 bedrooms
features: roof terrace and waterside terrace
EcoUrban is a new prefab home builder based in St. Louis. Owner Jay Swoboda keeps track of the company's home projects in a blog.
"After what felt like decades of anticipation and wait, it took just six days after the first pieces of wood were nailed together in the factory for the units to be delivered. Our units arrived at 10 AM this morning and the 60 Ton crane that lifted them into place was packed up and gone by 2 PM. We had a nice crowd gather to watch the four "boxes" come together and by the end of the day we were weather tight and secure."
Currently, the company offers a single 1,600sf floorplan, but "if you are passionate about an EcoUrban Home and not crazy about our floor plan then we will passionately find a floor plan to match you and your lifestyle."
With a focus on green, it's no surprise that EcoUrban "is aiming for LEED Silver certification, at the very least, for all future homes."
size: 1,600-1,850 sf
price: $200,000 - $279,900
features: 8'/9' ceilings, Low-E windows, LEED certified
(Hat tip: Jetson Green.)
"The Lighthouse is a two bedroom, two and a half storey house, with a floor area of about 100m2 [~ 1,076sf]. It does some things just a bit differently from the standard housing model such as locating all the sleeping areas at ground level. This allows the living areas to be located at the top, where they can make use of most of the natural light coming in through the windows and skylights. The curved roof sweeps down providing the living areas with a double height ceiling, making the occupant feel as though they are in a generous open-plan house, and concealing the rather tight and compact geometry of the house."
"Ever since we saw that this house was being built just a short ways from here, we have driven by it a bunch of times to marvel at it. This house is beautiful if nothing else..."
(Yes, we cheated. We posted this on Monday but set the date to Saturday consistent with our "this week" series.)
Alex Johnsons's Shedworking is "the only daily-updated guide to the lifestyles of homeworkers in sheds and shedlike atmospheres around the world." Not all of the sheds featured are prefab, but the UK site is still worth a look.
"The building is everything you'd expect from a timber flatpack (modular, customisable, portable, flat packed, renewable, recyclable, and with low emission materials) except it's built around a lightweight Smorgon stainless steel framework and PIR panels made from a fire-resistant urethane foam. It is, give or take a few cms, a 3m cube with adjustable legs and you can add modules together to make it bigger. A solar power system is optional."
By coincidence, I received an email from Alex while working on this post. I'll give him the last word:
"I also produce a bimonthly pdf magazine called The Shed for people who work in sheds and shedlike atmospheres. At the moment I am organising the first National Shed Week in the UK in collaboration with www.readersheds.co.uk."
(Hat tip: Future House Now featured a few models in a recent post.)
We've reported on disaster relief housing before. Prefab methods are ideally suited for quick, cheap housing in far flung, resource-starved areas. An organization named CalEarth (California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture) has developed a method of home building that requires little more than the earth present at a homesite.
CalEarth's designs are based on a proprietary product called Superadobe Earthbags. The bags come in widths ranging from 12" to 26" and can be ordered up to a mile long. Combined with barbed-wire and earth from the site, the bags create super-strong structures:
"To build simple emergency and safe structures in our backyards, to give us maximum safety with minimum environmental impact, we must choose natural materials and, like nature itself, build with minimum materials to create maximum space, like a beehive or a sea shell. The strongest structures in nature which work in tune with gravity, friction, minimum exposure and maximum compression, are arches, domes and vault forms. And they can be easily learned and utilize the most available material on earth: Earth."
CalEarth has experimented with a number of designs and implementations using Superadobe, ranging from the Eco-Dome house, aka the "Moon Cocoon", to emergency shelters. Features of the Eco-Dome include:
(Hat tip: Inhabitat shared a bunch of photos and thoughts on the design last week.)
"What you see is the sum total of all waste produced so far. In case you didn't know, this is about a 75% reduction in waste from the typical home."
"The simple and sophisticated design allows it to exist easily in an urban setting, while the quiet strength and sturdy attitude are comfortable in a more rugged environment."
name: MetroCabin by MetroShed
where: Orlando, FL
cost: $29,500 to $34,950
construction type: pre-assembled conventional stud-framed panels
standard materials: wood doors and windows
options: window screens, wall finishes, door and trim color, exterior color, porch, electrical
Update: fixed the picture (thanks to a commenter for pointing out the mistake)
The BRE Group is a British "research, consultancy, training, testing and certification organisation delivering sustainability and innovation across the built environment and beyond." They reported this week on the Osbourne demonstration house, built from SIPs:
"The Osborne demonstration house pushes the boundaries of sustainable affordable housing and supply chain integration. It was constructed in one and a half days using the Jabhouse Structural Insulated Panel System (SIPs)...The house uses the latest in modern methods of construction with:
The house needs two thirds less energy for heating and cooling than a house constructed to 2006 Building Regulations."
• a zinc and slate clad cassette roof that requires no trusses or rafters
• off-site manufactured bathroom pod and door sets
• a plug-together wiring system
• timber I-beam floor joists.
Similar to SIPs, the Thermomass Building Insulation System consists of two layers of modified concrete with styrofoam between. The system is flexible enough to be "used in site-cast tilt-up, plant precast, modular precast, tunnel form and poured-in-place concrete panels and walls." The site-cast tilt-up method moves the process out of the factory, allowing rapid construction on site.
Architects John Dwyer & Jeff Gallo selected the energy-efficient Thermomass walls to help their 5IVE house achieve LEED Platinum certification:
"Using a technology developed by DOW, the walls will act as a thermal mass giving them a rating of R-30. By employing prefabrication, we were also able to control the quality of the finish on the concrete."
The walls for the 5IVE home are being produced by a company called Forecast Concrete. The benefits of factory precast concrete walls include:
Resolution: 4 has posted three videos of the company's houses on YouTube, including the following video of the factory process (3:40):
"Container City™ is an innovative and highly versatile system that provides stylish and affordable accommodation for a range of uses.Developer Urban Space Management installed the original Container City I in an amazingly short 4 days. Construction time start-to-finish came to an admirable 5 months. The project utilized 20 shipping containers to build 15 individual housing units.
The Container City™ system uses shipping containers linked together to provide high strength, prefabricated steel modules that can be combined to create a wide variety of building shapes and adapted to suit most planning or end user needs.
This modular technology enables construction times and cost to be reduced by up to half that of traditional building techniques while remaining significantly more environmentally friendly."
Brand Avenue covered the system a while back:
"I appreciate how they acknowledge temporality: implicit in their no-nonsense construction, and the light ways they touch the ground, is the idea that the site can and will be cleared someday, and something else will take their place. In this way, they interact rather respectfully with context..."
YouTube has a clip from the History Channel's Modern Marvels about the home:
LiveModern is a website for "anyone interested in modern and sustainable design for housing products and services." EcoSteel, aka EcoContempo, contributes content to the site. Especially worth a look is the construction blog by architect Greg La Vardera:
"Our blog is for tracking the development of new Modern House designs which are available at our catalog house plan site lamidesign.com/plans. We also cover the prefab house products we work on such as EcoContempo, EcoSteel, custom modular, and IBU container based housing."
The blog covers the variety of projects, detailing developments in the ongoing planning and construction of each. A recent post focused on a project in New Mexico, including photos of the site and renderings of the structures:
"The project consists of a trio of buildings - a residence, a garage/shop, and an observatory structure. Yes! That's right. More detail about that later. The three structures are located in proximity to each other at one corner of the site."
At the Vermont Plat House, interior finishes are going in:
"The owner moves in to the house in a matter of days. No doubt there will be more loose ends, but we will see it almost done very soon."An earlier post on the same house had some great exterior shots.
"The proposal was for a student housing village composed of a series of these [stacked] IBU structures. As the competition was being held in concert with a conference on green building, the student housing was proposed as a test bed for new sustainable energy and building systems. It was proposed that the units serve the Engineering school allowing for the students to live in and work at innovating and optimizing the new systems being designed at the school."
Glossary: IBU (Inter-modal Building Units) - Greg La Vardera's name for container housing
I've been reading more about Yurts, and I'm beginning to be won over.
The Yurt Foundation lays out the key advantages:
"The roof structure, with its compression ring and tension band, is an amazing architectural design requiring no internal support system, thereby leaving the yurt open and spacious inside....Want to look inside? Pacific Yurts, Inc. features a virtual tour. (Quicktime required: drag your mouse left or right to swivel the camera around in a circle. If you zoom in, you can also move up and down a bit.)
Yurts are special because they are portable. Central Asian nomads put their gers up in an hour or less. Modern canvas yurts can be set up in a day. To have a shelter that can be put up quickly and then taken down and moved as one's situation changes is a distinct advantage in our transient culture."
"It's a very tranquil place but at the same time it's a bit of an adventure - there's always something to slide out or under, pull down, tuck away, generally fiddle with, if only out of the need for space. To live here you have to be ordered: to do one thing, you have to finish another first and put it away. And that may be my and other compact-livers' downfall."
The Maison Tropicale sale made a couple more headlines. An AP story about the sale showed up on quite a few sites, like ABC Money UK:
"Its last owner, Eric Touchaleaume, a French antiques dealer, has said he plans to use the sale proceeds to finance a Prouve museum that will travel inside another Maison Tropicale."NY Arts Magazine explained the original use for the prefab homes:
"Prouve's aluminum and steel home was designed for French colonists living in Brazzaville, now the capital of the Republic of the Congo."
"It's been recently updated, and gives a lot of detail, the kind of detail you don't get from glossy magazine articles."
"They say it has no geographic limitations. So, we say set it up for semi-outdoor summer living anywhere."
AOL Money & Finance has posted a slide show highlighting a new book called Prefabulous. Author Sheri Koones explores a number of prefab building methods, from steel frames to large modules. The slideshow includes a variety of in-progress shots of large, custom-designed prefabs from:
The book was published in March 2007 by Taunton Press, which some describe as the "the leading publisher in the house and home category". In addition to magazines such as Fine Homebuilding and Fine Woodworking, they offer a whole series of books on home building and design.
Other coverage of Prefabulous around the blogosphere:
Elsewhere on the web:
The original Hive Modular prototype in Minneapolis is the subject of a couple different videos on YouTube. Each runs a little long, but you get a good sense for the home's details and layout from the two. Some interesting facts gleaned from the videos:
• prototype composed of three modules
This video is excerpted from the HGTV show What's with That House? and features an off-the-wall host and some neighborhood commentary (6:51):
The landscape architect who worked with the Hive Modular folks on the home uploaded this video (4:33):
One of the downsides of the modular building method is that modules are limited to a size that fits on a flatbed truck. Chris offers some perspective after a visit to the factory:
"When we were first looking around at the different prefab options, we had no real perspective on what 14' wide or 16' wide would be like for the whole length of a house - those are both obviously fine dimensions for a single room, but how does it feel to have a whole house fit into that width?...yesterday it was reassuring to actually stand in ours and feel how open and comfortable the space is..."
Chris answered some user comments and questions by listing some of the finish and fixtures they chose. Their goal: "modest and genuinely cost effective (and of course largely unspectacular)".
Another post compares photos of the actual modules in the factory and the renderings that Resolution 4 had provided to the homeowners in the design process.
Last Monday, Chris relayed a funny story about his Grandpa's take on modernist design.
"'I just love Prouve,' said tanned hotelier Andre Balazs who bought the house and said he hasn't decided what he will do with it. Of one thing was he certain: 'It belongs back in the tropics.'"
The article added details on the house's history:
"About eight years ago, Touchaleaume traveled to the Republic of the Congo and bought three prototype tropical houses that Prouve had shipped to the French colony. They were in dismal condition, rusting, inhabited by squatters and riddled with bullet holes from civil wars.
He sold one to American collector and former commodities trader Robert Rubin, who restored and donated his house to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 'This price validates the other one,' said Rubin after the sale, speaking of the house he donated."
A blog called Nashville Modern Prefab covers the process of building a modern prefab by Hive Modular. The project is nearing the end of the design/approval stage; recent posts have dealt mainly with permit and zoning approvals and provide a good first-hand look at how some municipalities make building a unique home difficult.
A post back in December laid out the different approvals they would have to receive for the design:
"Metro Development and Housing Agency ....Metro Planning Commission ....The Metropolitan Historical Zoning Commission....The Nashville Civic Design Center...That post followed a meeting with the Historic Commission that expressed concerns over the home's modern design:
The upshot of all this seems to be that even with a house that meets zoning (MUN - Multi-Use Neighborhood) and fits the Neighborhood Design Plan for our lot (Neighborhood Urban) we will still need to jump through many hoops to satisfy all of these people just for the sake of making these petty bureaucrats feel powerful."
"Initial unofficial feedback from members of the Historic Commission and the Design Review Board mentioned major concerns with: 1 - The lack of a front-facing entrance. 2 - The lack of a front porch. 3 - The materials in general and the metal siding in particular. 4 - The flat roof."
A post in February provided a view of the home's final design. The following is the animated fly-by video of the home's exterior (1:09, no sound):
In April, the home received approval from the Design Review Board:
"...They asked a lot of questions and I answered a few of [them]. Luckily some of the people on the board were able to answer some of the questions for me just be looking at their copies of the plans. The only changes that they require to the design are on the windows for the North side of the house - a larger window in the front upstairs bedroom and one more small window near the base of the stairs. Could have been worse. They approved with conditions so we are ready to actually get started for real."
(Hat tip: Jetson Green covered the site last week)
Jetson Green discovered a unique combo of free internet technologies that helps you to display a home by MKD on your plot of land. Some of the applications involved, primarily Google SketchUp, require a bit of know-how.
Preston's post inspired a couple others. Materialicious explained why architects should love the "mash-up":
"What a great idea! Rather than bother the architect with endless queries like 'Can we change this?' or 'Can I have that?' or 'I don't like this, take it out', you can save time and money doing it yourself, tweaking the design (within certain limits, to be sure) and then presenting the desired customization to the architect. Makes sense to me."
Treehugger offers additional details:
"Google also offers Google Earth and mashed it and Sketchup so that you can put your Kaufmann design on your own property, play with the shadows and orientation, get comfortable with the plans and elevations before you even send her an email."
Jean Prouve's Maison Tropicale doesn't go on the auction block until next week. The vintage prefab stirred up a little more press this week. Luxist covered the home and linked an article in the Queens Tribune.
"If you want to live out your childhood fantasy of moving into your treehouse (and preferably seceding from the family), but a couple of planks slapped together with some rusty nails isn't going to cut it, you'll want to give the able carpenters of TreeHouse Workshop a ring."
"The homes' most innovative feature is the 'EcoHat,' a roofing system that allows hot air to rise and consequently be reused to provide passive solar water heating, thereby mitigating the energy consumption of the house. Clever floorplans optimize natural lighting schemes, while prefab modules and flat-pack components reduce waste and energy..."
Tour locations to date:
Vancouver Art Gallery
Yale School of Architecture
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center
what: Some Assembly Required Exhibit
when: June 15 - September 30, 2007