July 2007 Archive
The California desert seems to draw a lot of prefab prototypes. The JoT House from Yeh+Jerrard LLC is actually named after its prototype location, Joshua Tree, CA. Two original prototypes were built in 2004 in the city and a third was built near Los Angeles.
"Rooms are separated by movable partitions making it easy to convert the house from a one-bedroom loft to a three-bedroom home. The house is planned around a central utility core that houses the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry facilities; this 'box-within-a-box' design centralizes the major mechanical systems, allows for a variety of room configurations and keeps the costs down."
The JoT House website features some cool materials, including a step-by-step depiction (pdf) of the construction process.
I emailed the company on July 18 to request pricing info; no reply. Documentation claims that the price can be "as low as $100 /sf", but that's basically useless information.
model: JoT House
size: 1,344 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
model: JoT L
size: 1,370 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
style: single room, detached structure
size: 128 sf
notes: no plumbing
(Hat tip: Materialicio.us)
"We often get comments about how difficult it would be to live in some of the Prefab Friday homes that we have featured, and none have received more criticism than the Micro Compact Home (m-ch)...But the proof is in the pudding, and in 2006, the Technical University of Munich in Germany installed a small village of seven of these homes for six students and a professor to live in for a full year."
"It's the sort of house that both myself and my husband would love - me the green aspects and him the techy-gadgets. Although we wouldn't need as much room or as many bathrooms.The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday covered the iT House from Taalman Koch:
The Wired Home is described as a modernist home in an exclusive enclave of Los Angeles that allows luxury and the environment to live together in harmony.
Sounds pretty cool huh?"
"...it sure is a gorgeous example of what can be done with metal and glass."
"Now she's designed a prefab that's as green as possible. I think it's terrific. Note the sod roof, the way accordion doors open entire walls to expand the living space, the sunshades, and the photovoltaic panels."The post also confirms that the house will be showcased outside San Francisco City Hall during the West Coast Green building conference.
(One of the ongoing features that we're adding to the blog: a look back at prefab coverage over the past few years. These historic homes seemed like a great place to start.)
Last May the Wall Street Journal featured an interesting article on the Sears homes and the people who are working to find and catalogue them. The homes are some of the country's very first prefabs:
"About 70,000 to 100,000 of them were sold through Sears catalogs from 1908 to 1940. Distressed that the houses are falling victim to the recent boom in teardowns and renovations, their fans are scouring neighborhoods across the country....So, how can you tell? Read the article for details!
Precut houses ordered from a Sears catalog were shipped by boxcar in 30,000 pieces -- including shingles, nails and paint -- and assembled by a local carpenter or by the buyers themselves. Styles ranged from the elaborate, nearly $6,000 Magnolia, to the three-room, no-bath Goldenrod, sold in 1925 for $445. (Outhouses sold separately.)....
Sears also encouraged sales to families with steady wages but little in savings by financing up to 100% of some of the homes. But many homeowners were forced to default during the Depression, and sales came to an end in 1940.
The mail-order houses, many of which had big porches and were made from high-quality materials like early-growth cypress, were less expensive than architect-designed houses at the time, and were often all working-class people could afford. Because they were typically a family's first home -- and because they were often a do-it-yourself project for buyers -- the houses, enthusiasts say, are emblematic of the American dream.
It's difficult to know how many Sears homes are left. Sears doesn't have sales records, and while interest in catalog homes is growing, many people still don't know they are living in one...."
And check out the Sears Archives for more information on the Sears Homes.
Title: Historians and Fans Are Racing to Catalog Homes Sold by Sears
Author: Sara Schaefer Muñoz
Publication: Wall Street Journal
Length: 1200 words
Issue: May 15, 2006
Developers are building a smaller development of three homes in Detroit:
"Shipped in modular sections from a factory in Indiana, the ranch-style home of Tamika and Andrauyl Hines was assembled piece by piece Thursday within a few hours on Delmar Street in Detroit's NorthEnd Village....
The Hines family will be able to move into their new home within 30 to 45 days, once additions such as the front porch and garage are built. The Delmar Street homes are manufactured by Auburn Hills-based Champion Enterprises and cost from $170,000 to $210,000. They are between 1,700 square feet and 2,000 square feet.
The two homes assembled Thursday, and a third to be built later, are sold and include a full basement, two-car attached garages, three to four bedrooms, multiple baths and kitchen appliances."
Title: Modular Homes give area a boost
Author: Darrell Hughes
Publication: Detroit Free Press
Length: 210 words
Issue: July 13, 2007
A 23-unit modular development is rising in Grand Haven Township, Michigan:
"23 "luxury" pre-manufactured condominiums, known as Bignell Ridge....
The 11 duplex-style condo buildings will include composite fieldstone on the building's exterior....
They will be assembled on the site, along with garages and sunrooms. Each condo will have an inspection sheet when they're built in Indiana that will be completed by Michigan inspectors."
Title: First Modular Home Development Approved
Author: Kyle Moroney
Publication: Grand Haven Tribune
Length: 570 words
Issue: July 10, 2007
The Prefabrication Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin has been investigating prefab methods since 2002:
"The Prefabrication Laboratory is a research group...focused on integration of factory production techniques and architecture. Offsite fabrication offers many benefits for building: higher quality, economies of scale, and more efficient use of resources. Prefabrication takes many forms and is evolving rapidly: modularization, pre-assembly, 'off-the-shelf' components....Our research investigates these changing processes looking for points of entry for architects....We look at fabrication in the larger context, how it has been used in the past, successfully or not, and how it affects local environments, cultures, economies."
The lab is similar to Studio 804 at the University of Kansas School of Architecture.
I know I have blogged a lot about A Prefab Project, but homeowner Chris has a lot of great advice. He does a great job of documenting and reflecting on the home-building experience. His most recent post chronicles the difficulties of the house delivery and set. I would not want to have been there for the house's trip up the steep driveway to the site:
"So while I watched the house bend (and wondered if it might actually just collapse), I really wanted to scream STOP and make everybody back up and start over, doing all the things we'd talked about doing. But that's a hard thing to know when to do, and an even harder thing to actually do."
Chris offers some advice for any homeowner setting out on a large scale project:
"The one lesson I keep coming back to in my mind from these episodes is the importance of the people you have working for you."
In today's issue of the Newark (Ohio) Advocate, a mortgage broker discusses the financing of mobile homes vs. manufactured homes vs. modular homes.
Title: What's the difference between mobile, manufactured, and modular homes?
Author: Brett Richards
Publication: Newark Advocate
Length: 430 words
Issue: July 21, 2007
"Michelle Kauffman is known for her modern, livable, green, air and light-filled prefab designs, and the mkLotus is no exception. The modular construction allows for customization and flexibility, while sliding doors allow residents to open up their house to the elements....We can't wait to see the real thing this fall at West Coast Green!"(We covered this Building Conference a few days ago.)
Find a modular home manufacturer near you:
"Use this directory to locate modular manufacturers across the country that can deliver your new home! Most modular manufacturers have local or regional representation or a network of builders to put the finishing touches on your dream home."
(NAHB = National Association of Home Builders)
mkLotus is a new prefab concept from Michelle Kaufmann Designs that will debut at the West Coast Green home show. The mkLotus™ modular home is built by XtremeHomes™. "The house features: a living roof, LED lighting, innovative green building materials, indoor & outdoor living." Further details can be found on the mkLotus showhouse page.
Jetson Green is excited about seeing the mkLotus:
"I'm wanting to visit the conference just to see this home and participate in what's going to be the future of residential real estate."
designer: Michelle Kaufmann Designs
size: 672sf - 1,400sf
br: 1 - 2
West Coast Green: Residential Building Conference + Expo "is a feast of innovations, ideas and opportunities designed to expand your business, widen your vision, and stimulate your thinking with the latest, best practices and key players in green building."
On the prefab front:
what: West Coast Green Show
where: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
when: September 20-22, 2007
registration: $25 ($35 at the door) for Homeowner Day, September 22. $245/day before July 31, $325/day after July 31 for full conference access.
features: mkLotus show home; speakers Allison Arieff (former editor of Dwell magazine), Steve Glenn, Sheri Koones, and Michelle Kaufmann; over 100 green construction product vendors
"Ever since Sears, Roebuck shipped its first house kits across the country 100 years ago, architects have dreamed of perfecting an affordable, prefab house that can be mass-produced. Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius and Jean Prouve all tried their hands at factory-made houses -- and failed.(The article was also reprinted in the Washington Post: Custom Prefab Home Is at One With Nature and Technology.)
'It's the holy grail of modern architecture,' Kieran said. He said he has the problems licked, though."
Title: Changing Skyline | Green, clean, and pretty prefab
Author: Inga Saffron
Publication: Philadelphia Inquirer
Length: 1325 words
Issue: June 15, 2007
The Sierra Club's Sierra Magazine covers a familiar architect:
"Michelle Kaufmann believes that buying an environmentally friendly home should be as simple as ordering a pair of sneakers. Sitting at her laptop in her Oakland, California, office, the architect goes to the Nike Web site, chooses a shoe, and clicks a few buttons. Moments later her customized sneakers are ready for review: white with orange laces and an orange swoosh, the initials "MK" stitched on the tongue..."
Read the full article to see how Michelle Kaufmann Designs is working to achieve this goal. Don't miss this bit of good news:
"While her first customers tended to fit the stereotype of the Prius-driving, NPR-listening eco-consumer, Kaufmann is increasingly fielding inquiries from people who just want an attractive, affordable house."
Title: Innovators: The Henry Ford of Green Homes
Author: Dashka Slater
Publication: Sierra Magazine
Length: 850 words
Issue: July/August 2007
"I'm always looking for news on the prefab front in Seattle because, while the movement has great momentum, we haven't really seen a solid application in the local residential sector. Well today I came across a mini gold mine called Seattle Prefab."
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed a new concept project:
"The Clean Hub, 'a new prototype for sustainable infrastructure'....the freestanding module delivers completely off-the-grid infrastructure, from clean water and sanitation to renewable power to disaster areas or rural locations without access to such resources."
"Now in her fourth year in business, she has sold more than 100 homes.Read the full article for details on Rocio Romero, LLC and how the LV Series got its start.
One thing that should kick up the ticker is the fact that LV buyers are now buying more than one unit and putting them together. Ms. Romero and staff customize the design for every house — doing site plans, moving walls, enlarging baths and closets, converting bedrooms into exercise rooms, home theaters, offices — whatever the owner wants....And for those who find one LV a bit too confining, she has a two-story version on her drafting board."
Author: Christy Marshall
Publication: St. Louis Magazine
Length: 1300 words
Issue: July/August 2007
(Hat tip: Jetson Green)
The owners of an LV Series home built in Napa Valley, California are offering tours. And, for those of you who might be seriously considering an LV Series home, you can even rent out the place for a weekend.
what: LV Series home tour
model: LV Series
designer: Rocio Romero
where: Pope Valley, CA (about two hours north of San Francisco)
when: weekends (see website for details and available dates)
includes: audio tour, Q+A with homeowners, resource lists for LV Series homes, wine tasting
Quon Modular is a semi-custom prefab system from Australia. Each room is a (mostly) self-contained module, measuring 5 m x 3.1 m (16 ft x 10 ft). Buy exactly what you need placed side-by-side, stacked, or each by itself.
Materialicio.us loves the concept:
"For me, this is the simplest, most efficient system yet devised for a customized, prefabricated house. Design your house using their standard components, place the order, and ten weeks later it's delivered."
Few prefabs offer such a flexible approach. The weeHouse series from Alchemy Architects allows for the addition of specialized modules, such as the sleepTight, but their modules vary in size. v2world was offering a similar product in their v2shell, but last we heard, they were reworking their product line.
company: Quon Modular
size: each module is ~140 sf
price: starts at ~$150,000 for 4 modules (br, bath, kitchen, multi-purpose)
finish level: complete, inside and out, including light fixtures, utilities, and finish
(More coverage: Treehugger)
Exchange rate used: $A1.168 = US$1.00
One post links to a cool Google map locating all of the Hive Modular models in Minnesota.
RAL Homes is a company in Victoria, Australia producing home kits that resemble Quonset Huts. The RAL Home kits can be combined in a number of formations, and even added on to your existing home. The kits consist of a series of pre-framed panels which join together to form an arch.
"The components arrive on site, complete with hardware and including an illustrated Assembly Manual. Two workers with a basic knowledge of Carpentry skills and standard tools simply bolt panels together. The external Colorbond corrugated steel roofing and leaf-free guttering system make RAL Homes virtually maintenance free."
company: RAL Homes
style: like Quonset Hut
how: stud-framed panels bolted together to form arches
features: large open spaces, exterior metal cladding, large wood-framed window walls
finishes: corrugated metal cladding (exterior); interior your responsibility, but comes with rough sanded waterproof plywood
not included: exterior steps/rails, on-site labor, onsite mechanical systems, transportation
"...$200 per sq/ft still isn't that bad considering the quality that you are receiving. Hive Modular is one of the best prefab, modular companies out there...especially for the price."
"...Turns out it is the model of the Show House by Jennifer Siegal's Office of Mobile Design. It was open so we went in and took a look around and it was absolutely beautiful. Jennifer was there as well to answer any questions so we chatted for a few minutes....Although a little small for a family of 4, this example of what can be built off-site just proves that anything is possible."
"...Combine all that with some cutting-edge technologies, like automated theatre, temperature, and lighting, and you've got yourself a 4,000 square foot masterpiece of green design."
"When you see this, you won't believe how much functionality and comfort can go into a mere 325 sf."He also pointed out this video, from HGTV, about the home:
"Recipe for a good idea:Also worth checking out: the miniHome blog, miniHomage.
Combine all of the above into a package easily deliverable by truck anywhere in North America, that can set up on arrival in less than an hour."
size: 350 sf
bedrooms: sleeps 5
price: starts at $107,460 ($307/sf ++)
how: SIPs, steel frame undercarriage
finish level: complete, inside and out, including mechanical systems
features/finishes: adjustable roof canopy, commercial grade rubber flooring, stainless steel kitchen, fabric blinds, sleeping loft
available: Canada, U.S.
options/extras: wind turbine, solar panels, composting toilet, wood flooring, carpet tile, custom sofa, dressers, television
warranty: 1 year
more info: brochure (pdf)
The folks over at A Prefab Project are having an exciting time, with the delivery and set of their prefab home.
A post on Friday announced the successful arrival of the module on site:
"After many hours on the road and seven flat tires, our house arrived at the site in WV a little after 6:30 Wednesday evening."
Luckily the module arrived in good condition with little damage:
"Well, good news is the house made it fine. No real issues - some minor drywall cracking, a couple of window locks popped during travel that will need to be replaced (not sure exactly what will need to be replaced - Simplex will let me know). Structurally, the house came through great. Window panes are all intact, the loose materials that shipped inside the box didn't do any damage, and no water got in."
On Monday, the house was finally set:
"No attempt at a witty title - I'm too tired. But everything went great. The set was a breeze. Only really took about fifteen minutes to actually lift, move and set the box (and about six hours to set up and break down the crane)."
Homeowner Chris also gave a detailed and useful look at the foundation work that occurred prior to the module's arrival.
I sent an email off to Jay Swoboda of EcoUrban in St. Louis asking about a discrepancy between the home listed for sale on their site and the standard specifications of the model. He says:
"The standard 1,600 square foot home has just 2 bedrooms. However, in our display home, we finished out 250 square feet in the basement and with a closet and egress, this can be considered a 3rd bedroom. Also, $279,900 is the price for our LEED-registered home at 3140 Pennsylvania (we will soon receive our Platinum designation) - we offer homes starting at $200k that are still LEED-silver certified...Another item that we are particularly proud of is our $100 per month utility bill (electric, gas, water and sewer), of which only $60 is gas & electric."
size: 1,600 sf
features: 8'/9' ceilings, Low-E windows, LEED Silver certified
upgraded display model:
name: 3140 Pennsylvania Ave.
size: 1,850 sf
features: 8'/9' ceilings, Low-E windows, LEED Platinum certified, $60/mo for gas & electric
WIRED and LivingHomes have collaborated on the green prefab dream home that "will serve as an example of how people can effectively balance green living with high technology and high design."
"Consistent with its focus on sustainable design, LivingHomes and WIRED are deconstructing rather than demolishing the property's existing house, reducing the amount of building materials sent to landfill. Working with The Reuse People, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to keeping usable building materials out of landfills, interior materials will be sent to the Habitat for Humanity Store for re-use, while the framing is being transported to Mexico where it will be used for low-income construction....Deconstruction is currently underway. Installation is slated for August 2007 and only takes one day."
Jetson Green is enthusiastic:
"At a price of $300 /sf, the WIRED LivingHome is going to be an incredible residence with the best in green + modern + technology. I can't wait to visit."
Treehugger calls it "a catalog of the best green eye candy that money can buy."
Future House Now adds:
"I tend to advocate smaller homes and affordability for regular families, but I'm not about to fire any criticism at the project, because it is meant to be a showcase house, and all showcase houses are top end....I think we'll see a lot of neat stuff come out of this project."
name: WIRED LivingHome by Ray Kappe
size: 4,057 sf
price: $4 million ($300/sf)
method: full modules
assembly on-site: 1 day
features: LEED certified, "tricked out" game room, 4 kW solar system
for sale: late 2007/early 2008
more info: press release (PDF)