The world of prefab and modular homes.
  August 2007 Archive

Million dollar modular

The [Southwest Florida] Herald Tribune published an article this month on the pairing of a high-end developer and a modular builder.

"At first glance, new partners Stephen Weeks and Howard Rooks seem to be working opposite ends of the real estate street.

Rooks builds 'spec' custom waterfront mansions costing $5 million to $10 million each.

Weeks is the former Florida Budget Realty Realtor who specialized in selling much more modest modular or prefabricated houses made by Palm Harbor Homes.

Weeks made news last April by assembling a $400,000 prefabricated Palm Harbor home on Sarasota's Bahia Vista Street in a day.

At that time it may have been the most expensive modular home offered in the county, but a mere four months later, that record has been almost tripled by a pair of Palm Harbor homes on Siesta Key, which are both being offered for $1 million or more, although they are not being offered by either Weeks or Rooks.

The new partners agree that the current era of high-end real estate must include offerings of prefabricated houses, some of which which have gotten so elaborate they can easily top $1 million in price, as the two Palm Harbor homes for sale on Siesta Key have demonstrated."

Read the full article for details on these high end modular homes.

Title: Odd realty couple become partners
Subtitle: Howard Rooks builds custom waterfront mansions, while Stephen Weeks sells more modest prefab homes
Author: Stephen Frater
Publication: The Herald Tribune
Words: 950
Date: August 13, 2007

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Spend a night in a restored Wright prefab

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One of only 11 Frank Lloyd Wright prefab homes has been dismantled, moved and reconstructed as a guest house in Pennsylvania.

From an article in the Cincinnati Post:

"Duncan House had been built in the Chicago suburb of Lisle in 1957 for Donald and Elizabeth Duncan. It's been moved to the rolling hills in the Laurel Highlands of west Pennsylvania, near a town with the unlikely name of Acme...It's only 15 miles from Wright's most famous house named Fallingwater....

Duncan House is now owned by Tom Papinchak, who has said he's had guests nearly every night since the June opening....

Duncan House has some Wright trademarks: a low ceiling in the entrance hall, a three-step drop into a large living room, a kitchen entrance from the carport.

The story is told that the modern little ranch of 2,200 square feet was discovered by the Duncans in a store about prefabs in the December, 1956, issue of House and Home Magazine. Duncan was an electrical engineer who thought Wright designed for wealthy people, but the architect wished to design middle-class housing toward the end of his career. The Duncans ordered the No. 1 prefab house, which Wright had manufactured by the Erdman Co. in Madison, Wisc. Factory-assembled windows, cut lumber, cabinetry and partial walls were delivered on flatbed trucks. There's no evidence that Wright personally visited the Duncans while their prefab was put up."

what: Frank Lloyd Wright prefab guest house
where: Acme, PA
price: $385 per night

(Hat tip: Not PC via PrairieMod)

Related Posts:
   1. The Duncan House in the New York Times (Mar 06, 2008)
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MicroSystem homes: small but feature-packed

Link to MicroSystem homes: small but feature-packed

Mfinity offers the MicroSystem series of prefab structures, with options ranging from a small microSHED to the larger microHome.

From the Mfinity press release:

"The average American home is roughly 2,200 square feet yet the microHOME is less than a 100 square feet. A mix between a small house, a ship's cabin, and a travel trailer, it comes standard with a kitchenette, including a sink, stove, refrigerator and storage, as well as a private bathroom with a pass-thru shower and composting toilet. There are also a multitude of interior options and porch styles to choose from allowing the homeowner to personalize their own dwelling. With just a single 8 foot by 12 foot unit the microHOME can provide all the daily needs of three occupants."

Worth noting:

"Leading the prefab industry, our free delivery and set up service is a critical aspect of the microSYSTEM philosophy. No matter where you live within the contiguous United States you pay the same low price for your microSYSTEM."

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday offered some skepticism:

"It's hard to imagine how in the world a person (let alone a family!) could live sanely in just 100 square feet. Perhaps as a temporary shelter it would provide welcome relief, but in the long term we suspect anyone would crave some elbow room."

Michael Cannell weighed in on the Dwell blog:

"It feels like a cross between a backwoods cabin and a trailer - prefab with an ironical folksy hardly seems like a bargain, though delivery and installation are included."

Ecofriend covered the home. As did Land + Living.

model: microSHED
style: single room, detached storage shed
size: 96sf - 192sf
bedrooms: 0
bathrooms: 0
price: $15,995 - $33,995 (~$175/sf)
more info: microSHED brochure (pdf)

model: microSTUDIO
style: single room, detached structure(s)
size: 96sf - 192sf
bedrooms: 0
bathrooms: 0
price: $26,995 - $52,995 (~$275/sf)
more info: microSTUDIO brochure (pdf)

model: microCABANA
style: single room, detached structure(s)
size: 96sf - 192sf
bedrooms: 1
bathrooms: 1
price: $37,995 - $63,995 ($333/sf - $400/sf)
more info: microCABANA brochure (pdf)

model: microHOME
style: single room, detached structure(s) with kitchenette
size: 96sf - 192sf
bedrooms: 1
bathrooms: 1
price: $39,995 - $65,995 ($340/sf - $415/sf)
more info: microHOME brochure (pdf)

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Prefab is not a fad

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Yesterday we covered a slideshow essay at Slate that criticized the current "prefab fad." Rybczynski has a 3 part indictment:

"unpopular, expensive and divorced from industrial production".
We're not sure whether he's paying attention.

As for "unpopular", Modernist homes (prefab or otherwise) are aimed at a specific audience:

"Where are all these people who live in cool lofts and spaces in the city supposed to go when they move to the country? They certainly don't want to go live in a colonial-style house." (Robert Luntz of Resolution: 4, quoted in Builder Online)

It's unlikely that modernist prefab will sweep away the dominant preference for traditional homes. But it could easily become a profitable (self-sustaining) niche. Our favorite example is the one that we (Peter and Scott) are using to create and edit this post: the Macintosh still has less than 10% overall market share but represents a thriving business that continues to dominate several niche markets.

Prefab doesn't just mean modernist, e.g. info_smallHive Modular offers a (mostly) traditional facade, info_smallEmpyrean's Deck House and Acorn are classic "post and beam", and the "traditional" modular housing industry is growing.

The current crop of prefab architects want to make "good design" more affordable.

"Most architects working in prefab are trying to create standard designs, to reduce the cost and risk to the client, and bring the services of talented architects to smaller houses." (Lloyd Alter on Treehugger, quoted in May)
"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." (From an article on Michelle Kaufmann in July.)

Last point: prefab is not "divorced from industrial production". Many of the companies we cover have built their own factories and most others are working closely with existing factories

Has the prefab industry achieved its goals? No. Is it headed in the right direction? We think so.

Related Posts:
   1. NPR interviews Slate's prefab skeptic (Nov 01, 2007)
   2. Slate: The Prefab Fad (Aug 27, 2007)
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Slate: The Prefab Fad

Link to Slate: The Prefab Fad

Earlier this month, Slate posted a slide show essay by Witold Rybczynski on "The Prefab Fad." The essay and slide show cover a number of modernist prefabs, arguing that "the current vogue for prefabs is more about industrial chic than affordability."

Rybczynski's says that "modern architecture is unpopular, expensive and divorced from industrial production. That is why whenever it has tried to extend its field to include the territory of the prefabricated house it has failed and been forced to retreat." He predicts that "the current generation of Modernist prefabs is unlikely to fare any better."

Lloyd Alter of Treehugger says "I hope he is wrong."

We think he is. For details, please tune in tomorrow!

Title: The Prefab Fad
Subtitle: Prefabrication is everywhere in American home-building. But that doesn't mean your next house is going to be a stylish, modernist box.
Author: Witold Rybczynski
Publication: Slate
Photos: 8
Words: 1,200
Date: August 8, 2007

Related Posts:
   1. Witold Rybczynski goes to MoMA (Aug 19, 2008)
   2. NPR interviews Slate's prefab skeptic (Nov 01, 2007)
   3. Prefab is not a fad (Aug 28, 2007)
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This week: prefab concepts, debate, and more

Link to This week: prefab concepts, debate, and more

Equity Green discussed Hybrid Seattle, a prefab company building homes from shipping containers. They also showed off the ATC cabin, a prefab concept from Canada.

A blog simply called "House" covered the Empyrean info_smallNextHouse blog, we've talked about before.

Preston at Jetson Green showed off the Ideabox Prefab:

"Ideabox offers a pretty cool product in the modern, prefabricated housing industry. Ideabox emphasizes good design, not square footage, and they make it easy to do."
He also wrote about the JoT House.

The author at ColumbusING tried to spark debate about prefab:

"Can it be a viable solution? Over the past 10 years the country and for that matter Columbus has been inundated with the "cookie cutter" type of residential building, which has paved the way for convenient and affordable living for some and in the mind of others, has created a perception of architectural character digust. So where does that put Prefab houses?"

A New Zealand blog, Sneak, discovered the WIRED Living Home.

PrairieMod mentioned the blog at A Prefab Project:

"It's an interesting mix of photos, thoughts and information that anyone who dreams of going prefab will find very enlightening."

The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday wrote about the PLACE Houses, a new prefab concept. We'll cover those in more depth soon.

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday examined a student housing project made from containers.

Related Posts:
   1. This week: Ideabox, Method Homes, and unconventional (Jul 26, 2008)
   2. Empyrean and the NextHouse (Apr 20, 2007)
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Prefab hotel rooms in Amsterdam

Link to Prefab hotel rooms in Amsterdam

As we've reported before, prefab is not just for homes. Business Week recently covered an interesting new hotel in Amsterdam:

"In order to create a hotel in big cities where real estate is often costly and space at a premium, Qbic's founders came up with a novel idea: Create a prefab, plug-and-play module called a Cubi that can be outfitted inside existing space. 'There are more than 1 million square meters of empty office buildings in Holland,' says Maxine Hofman, Qbic's sales and marketing manager....

The Cubi, a pre-assembled, 74-square-foot cube-shaped living area, is the focal point of each room. Despite the seemingly cramped quarters, each Cubi is both self-contained and luxuriously appointed with Swedish Hästens beds, flat-screen TVs, high-speed Internet access, and a small work station. The bathrooms boast a rain shower and Philippe Starck fixtures....

The Cubi can be placed and hooked up within a few hours. Which means Qbic is a near-instant hotel."

Read the full article for details on the concept.

Title: A Hotel in a Box
Author: Stacy Perman
Publication: Business Week
Words: 950
Date: August 15, 2007

Related Posts:
   1. Pop-up hotel technology from Abilmo (Jul 16, 2008)
   2. Prefab hotel in London (Mar 03, 2008)
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The top modular builders

Link to The top modular builders

Last year, Builder Magazine released a list of the top 31 modular builders (pdf) in the United States.

I've put the data in the top chart above. As can be seen, a few large companies build the majority of modular homes. In case you don't recognize the shape of the curve: it's a classic "powerlaw" distribution known as Zipf's Law and discussed in the business bestseller The Long Tail. All sorts of data show the same shape, including book sales, blog traffic, and word usage in any language.

The second chart shows revenue per home for each company. There is lots of variation in this chart. It might be interesting to research this variation at some point. One likely factor: companies that sell direct vs. wholesale. Any other thoughts?

Fleetwood Enterprises builds a number of products, including recreational vehicles, so their revenues reflect revenue sources other than the modular homes shipped, accounting for the large discrepancies in the data.

Below, you can see a table that shows all of the data charted above for each company.

Company (rank)HomesRevenue ($m)Revenue per home
Champion Enterprises (1)46531365$293,359
CMH Manufacturing (2)31661328$419,457
Palm Harbor Homes (3)1614711$440,520
Muncy Homes (4)134685$63,150
Excel Homes (5)1200111$92,500
Ritz-Craft Corp. (6)84991$107,185
Professional Building Systems (7)78158$74,264
Royal Concrete Concepts (8)60068$113,333
Liberty Homes (9)55297$175,725
Pleasan Street Homes (10)52657$108,365
Patriot Homes (11)490151$308,163
Crestline Homes (12)48036$75,000
Simplex Industries (13)45245$99,558
R-Anell Housing Group (14)40842$102,941
Stratford Homes (15)37535$93,333
New England Homes (16)35027$77,143
American Homestar Corp. (17)341111$325,513
Four Seasons Housing (18)32084$262,500
Handcrafted Homes (19)30728$91,205
Westchester Modular Homes (20)30530$98,361
Fleetwood Enterprises (21)2612145$8,218,391
Unibilt Industries (22)25322$86,957
Integrity Building Systems (23)24722$89,069
Penn Lyon Homes Corp. (24)23032$139,130
Oxford Homes (25)22015$68,182
Deluxe Building Systems (26)16533$200,000
Barvista Homes (27)12515$120,000
Custom Building Systems (28)12111$90,909
Heritage Homes of Nebraska (29)12114$115,702
Manufactured Housing Enterprises (30)10610$94,340
Epoch Homes (31)10014$140,000

Related Posts:
   1. Epoch Homes nominated for SBANE award (May 26, 2009)
   2. Epoch Homes factory tours this weekend in NH (May 15, 2009)
   3. The NAHB on Systems-Built Housing (Jul 27, 2007)
   4. NAHB Modular Home Manufacturer Directory (Jul 20, 2007)
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JoT House update and pricing

Link to JoT House update and pricing

A couple weeks back, I reported on the JoT House. I've received a few more details about the JoT line of products from Jim Vinson.

The reported "as low as $100/sf" price was for a spartan artists loft. Their PDF states "the average cost is $180 per square foot" excluding design fees, site prep, and materials shipping.

model: JoT House
style: modern
size: 1,344 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $210,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$180/sf)
how: SIPs

model: JoT L
style: modern
size: 1,370 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $260,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$215/sf)
how: SIPs

model: Mini-JoT
style: single room, detached structure
size: 128 sf
price: $45,000 - $75,000 plus $2,000 design fee ($350/sf - $600/sf)
notes: no plumbing, "trailer delivery option reclassifies the structure as a temporary building or vehicle, eliminating many permit issues"

Related Posts:
   1. The JoT House: cheap and flexible (Jul 31, 2007)
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A Prefab Project budget

Link to A Prefab Project budget

One of the great features of A Prefab Project is the detailed budget homeowner Chris keeps updating. As the project nears completion, it offers an accurate estimation of how much a prefab project from Res4 might cost you. Granted, your site work and other specifics might differ, but it's a good bunch of numbers to study.

I've pulled together the spreadsheet above showing the initial estimation of how much each piece of work would cost. I've then inputted numbers for the actual costs, based on what Chris has reported. They are doing an impressive job of sticking to their budget!

My only question: why does a prefab house have a 15% design fee? I emailed Resolution 4 on Aug. 7th and Aug. 11, but haven't heard back.

Related Posts:
   1. Lost River Modern by Resolution 4 (Aug 13, 2009)
   2. A Prefab Project you can rent (Jul 10, 2008)
   3. This week: XtremeHomes visit, JoT, Lot-ek, and more (Sep 01, 2007)
   4. Learn from a Prefab Project (Jul 23, 2007)
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This week: weeHouses and more Dwell on Design

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The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday covered the info_smallweeHouse from Alchemy Architects:

"A two bedroom prefab for $109,000? Sounds interesting. Except for the foundation, fitting and seaming of the house after arrival, and utility hookups, these weeHouses from Alchemy Architects come ready to live in. Very cool!"

Luba's San Francisco Real Estate Blog is looking forward to for the upcoming Dwell on Design show:

"Woo Hoo! This is the first year that I'll be attending the Dwell on Design Conference and Exhibition! And I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am!"

Inhabitat also shared their thoughts on the show and recapped their coverage from last year.

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed the microSYSTEM homes this week; we'll take a closer look at those soon.

Related Posts:
   1. Dwell on Design 2009 at the end of June (Jun 19, 2009)
   2. weeHouse in Continental Airlines magazine (Jun 16, 2009)
   3. weeHouse by Alchemy on display in WI; today and this weekend (May 22, 2009)
   4. Dwell on Design Conference (Aug 15, 2007)
   5. Itsy Bitsy weeHouse (Mar 26, 2007)
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Marmol Radziner videos

Link to Marmol Radziner videos

info_smallMarmol Radziner Prefab has added a videos page to their website. The videos feature some quirky footage of their factory and process set to music, and speaking engagements by Leo Marmol.

Marmol Radziner will be displaying at this year's Dwell on Design conference.

Related Posts:
   1. Podcast features Marmol Radziner and Blu Homes (Aug 14, 2009)
   2. Hollywood Hybrid by Marmol Radziner Prefab (Jul 11, 2009)
   3. The Skyline Series by Marmol Radziner Prefab (Jul 02, 2009)
   4. Marmol Radziner Prefab writes a blog (Feb 20, 2008)
   5. This week: Modern Shed and the Marmol factory (Oct 20, 2007)
   6. Some Assembly Required at LAMOCA (May 03, 2007)
   7. Sexy Prefab (Mar 29, 2007)
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The Perrinepod: concrete prefab from Australia

Link to The Perrinepod: concrete prefab from Australia

The info_smallperrinepod is a prefab product out of Australia made from a precast concrete shell. While the pods are heavy, assembly takes just three days and the pods are engineered to stack up to 30 units high.

PerthNow reported on the house last week:

"Here's something for the 'I want it now' generation - a house that can be erected in three days. But this is no flimsy, mail order, do-it-yourself number, the Perrinepod is made from pre-cast, pre-stressed and tensioned concrete and is cyclone and earthquake proof."
Worth noting:
"With more than 100 orders on his books already, including some from resorts, developers and other corporate groups, Perrine is quite confident the pod will take off."

Inhabitat was impressed. was too.

style: modern
size: 515sf - 1,030sf
bedrooms: 1 - 2
price: $125,000 - $250,000
how: precast concrete
finish level: complete, inside and out, including mechanical systems
available: Australia
more info: brochure (pdf)

Related Posts:
   1. Casa Grossi and prefabricated concrete wall panels (Nov 03, 2008)
   2. This week: trailers, perrinepod, and more (Jan 05, 2008)
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Dwell on Design Conference

Link to Dwell on Design Conference

The Dwell on Design Conference will hit San Francisco in September, right before the West Coast Green building conference. Dwell on Design "is an idea-driven, hands-on experience designed to ignite a creative spark within anyone who is passionate about modern design, sustainability, and smart growth."

"This year's Dwell on Design Conference will highlight the ingenuity and commitment of people who are building community on a number of fronts, each with an emphasis on modern design, sustainability and smart growth. Speakers and panelists will offer their stories and in-depth knowledge of projects that range from single-family dwellings to multi-family, multi-generational housing to large-scale initiatives in urban planning and community development."

No official schedule has yet been released for the event, but we've heard from a few prefab vendors that they will be on hand showcasing their products.

where: Concourse Exhibition Center, San Francisco, CA
when: September 14-16, 2007
registration: $20 for Exhibition Only pass, September 15-16. $275 before August 21 for a Basic pass, $895 for full conference and exhibition passport.
features: over 80 exhibitors and vendors

Related Posts:
   1. Dwell on Design 2009 at the end of June (Jun 19, 2009)
   2. Dwell on Design bringing an entire neighborhood of prefab homes to LA June 5-8; get in FREE (May 23, 2008)
   3. Dwell on Design preview (Sep 12, 2007)
   4. This week: weeHouses and more Dwell on Design (Aug 18, 2007)
   5. Dwell Magazine, Dwell Homes (Apr 17, 2007)
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PowerHouse: emphasizing solar

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Last week, CNET posted a photo gallery of a modular home with solar electric, solar hot water and other green features:

"PowerHouse Enterprises has designed a house--which could attain official green-building certification--that is delivered by flat-bed truck and crane. In June, the Lawrence, Mass.-based company shipped a two-unit model home to a site in Cambridge, Mass...

A key design element of this green building is its metal roof, which on first thought may not seem energy-efficient. After all, metal absorbs heat, and air conditioners consume a lot of electricity.

But PowerHouse's metal roof serves two specific purposes: heating the house in the cold season and generating electricity. Builders run plastic water tubes under the roof. The water is heated by the sun and distributed through the house to supply hot water and warm the house. The house also has solar electric panels to generate electricity during the day....

The company expects the two-unit project, begun in late June, to be done by the end of August."

Jetson Green was impressed:
"Power Pod Can Reduce Energy Costs Up to 80%. And that's pretty incredible"

Treehugger is a fan:

"The modular green prefab biz is full of difficult choices and tradeoffs. The Powerhouse people appear to have thought about them carefully here. Small, green, just drop it in place, what could be better?"

Title: A modular solar home takes root
Publication: CNET
Photos: 8
Date: August 7, 2007

Related Posts:
   1. Boston area home goes prefab and green (Feb 26, 2008)
   2. CNET and the PowerPod (Oct 16, 2007)
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Apartment Therapy and Lindal Homes

Link to Apartment Therapy and Lindal Homes

'Prefab' can mean more than the modernist prefabs featured in Dwell and other design magazines, as Grace at Apartment Therapy LA found out:

"When friends of mine told me that they were building a prefab house on their lot on the outskirts of San Diego, I was expecting an offshoot of the Glide House. Imagine my surprise when they sent me a photo of their rustic cedar mansion courtesy of Lindal..."

According to the Lindal Cedar Homes FAQ:

"Q: Are your homes prefab (prefabricated) kit homes? A: Our homes are custom designed and crafted around a building system incorporating post and beam construction technology. We further detail the plans and high quality materials with a part numbering system, where every piece of lumber has a place. So, our system differs from true prefab. But our system provides a flexible and accurate approach to building a custom home not found at your local custom builder or in the prefab market."

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This week: Marmol Radziner, prefab love, and Sundance

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The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday enjoys the designs from info_smallMarmol Radziner Prefab, but wants something affordable:

"I would really like to see an affordable, attractive and modern prefab house come on to the market. As much as I love all these designs, the price just puts it outside the realm of possibility for us and most other people."

A blog called cobalt_blue praises prefab and the info_smallLV Series from info_smallRocio Romero:

"Years ago, I had no concept of the words 'prefab housing' meant. I thought that it was a fancy euphemism for what we call a trailer home, or doublewide. This is until I had heard the words 'Rocio Romero' and the 'LV Home' mentioned in an article."
Read the whole thing (875 words).

Collin Dunn unleashes the snark (and wild exaggeration, e.g. "99.99%") on Treehugger's blog at the Sundance Channel, with several links to prefab coverage on

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday covers the info_smallperrinepod, which we'll look at in more detail shortly.

Related Posts:
   1. The Skyline Series by Marmol Radziner Prefab (Jul 02, 2009)
   2. 35 homes and counting (Apr 11, 2007)
   3. Sexy Prefab (Mar 29, 2007)
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XtremeHomes: modular building the green way

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We recently reported on the info_smallmkLotus show house from info_smallMichelle Kaufmann Designs. Modular builder info_smallXtremeHomes will be fabricating the mkLotus at their factory in Oroville, CA.

"XtremeHomes provides a diverse array of architectural styles from ultra-modern to highly detailed alpine homes. Our product offerings address a variety of consumers with our entry level Neighborhood Series™, to an XtremeCustom™ home or a house from one of our Signature Series™ architects. Through its ongoing research and development, XtremeHomes focuses on ways to produce homes with less environmental impact, that are more energy efficient, are healthier and of higher quality. XtremeHomes, an Energy Star® partner, endeavors to build all of its houses to Energy Star®, LEED® and Build It Green® standards."

XtremeHomes will be a part of the West Coast Green building conference in September.

As an aside, are we the first to link to their (new?) Web site? This post should help get them into the Google results:

Related Posts:
   1. Live Xtremely Green: the XtremeHomes blog (Jan 17, 2008)
   2. West Coast Green: pieceHomes (Oct 01, 2007)
   3. CNET visits the XtremeHomes factory (Sep 07, 2007)
   4. This week: XtremeHomes visit, JoT, Lot-ek, and more (Sep 01, 2007)
   5. The mkLotus show house (Jul 19, 2007)
   6. West Coast Green Conference (Jul 18, 2007)
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Kiplinger's on prefab

Link to Kiplinger's on prefab

One year ago, Kiplinger's Personal Finance featured an article on Fabulous Prefabs.

The article details homeowners Scott and Lisa McGlasson's decision to purchase an info_smallAlchemy Architects' info_smallweeHouse as a summer home for a lot they own in Minnesota:

"The couple wanted to keep a lid on building costs, but they did not want to sacrifice great design and solid construction. They met both goals with a two-story modern built by Alchemy Architects, in St. Paul. 'During the day we have a lake view from 8-foot windows,' says Scott. 'But when we close the curtains at night, the living room is chic enough to feel like a New York City apartment.'

The McGlassons' hideaway -- with two bedrooms, one bathroom and tons of personality -- is a prefabricated home. The components were assembled in a factory, trucked to their lot and put together....

Scott and Lisa paid $95,000 for their second home. They chose the layout of the first story from a half-dozen of Alchemy Architects' plans and added a second story to the blueprints, expanding the size to 780 square feet. The firm hired a Wisconsin factory to manufacture the house's components, a process that took about six weeks. The components were trucked from the factory on a flatbed, and a crane helped assemble them (delivery and crane costs ran $6,000). The McGlassons hired contractors to connect the house's wiring to the electrical grid, dig a well and do other finishing work. The final tally was about $160,000, including fixtures and appliances."

The article also outlines some key differences between panelized and modular construction:
"Panelized houses are made of sections stuffed with wiring and insulation. The panels are trucked to your lot, where contractors hired by you (or less commonly, by the prefab firm) join them together. Panelized houses tend to cost more than modular ones. But because the panels can be arranged in different ways, panelized houses can have custom options....

The flexibility of a panelized house makes it superior for building on mountain, beach and lakefront locations, which tend to have more quirks than the typical suburban lot....

The major limitation of modular houses is size: Modular units must be able to travel down highways. 'We have to do a lot of thinking within the box,' jokes Joseph Tanney, a partner at Resolution: 4 Architecture, a New York firm that builds prefab homes using modular and other methods. What's more, modular houses often need thicker-than-usual interior walls to ensure that they will withstand the stress of being lifted onto your lot by a crane. (Panelized homes don't face this problem.) These thicker walls reduce the number of floor plans because there are only so many ways the fatter walls can be disguised."

Kiplinger's included a slideshow that covers several companies we've covered here:
info_smallAlchemy Architects
info_smallLazor Office
info_smallEcoSteel (aka EcoContempo)
info_smallTaalman Koch
info_smallResolution: 4 Architecture
info_smallRocio Romero.

Title: Fabulous Prefabs
Author: Sean O-Neill
Publication: Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Length: 1,500 words
Date: July, 2006

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Wall Street Journal: modern modular

Back in 2003, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the partnership of Joseph Tanney and Robert Luntz, of info_smallResolution: 4 Architecture. The two had just won the Dwell Home competition:

"Despite a thriving New York practice whose clients include trendy ad agencies and rich people with gaping lofts...Resolution: 4 Architecture has poured itself into a series of designs for manufactured modules that can be combined into three- or four-dozen modern homes. All are striking departures from the choices available to most home buyers today, and all, at least theoretically, are buildable in a factory for something like the price of the banal tract homes gobbling up farmland across America....

Nobody sneers at a Lexus because it came off an assembly line. But for some reason modular houses still carry a stigma, which may be why 97% of new American homes are built on site by hand when almost everything else -- cars, clothing, even many foods -- comes from a factory. Yet the quality of modular houses has improved dramatically in recent years even as the quality of traditionally built homes remains mired in mediocrity. When it comes to housing, low construction standards, haste and ever-more-scarce skilled labor have given new meaning to the axiom 'they don't make them like they used to.'"

Read the full article for details on Resolution 4: Architecture and their dreams for prefab.

Title: The Very Model of a Modern Modular House
Author: Daniel Akst
Publication: The Wall Street Journal
Length: 1,030 words
Date: May 29, 2003

Related Posts:
   1. Resolution: 4 in East Hampton (Sep 17, 2007)
   2. The Dwell Home by Resolution 4: Architecture (Apr 18, 2007)
   3. Dwell Magazine, Dwell Homes (Apr 17, 2007)
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Not so trailer-like trailer

Link to Not so trailer-like trailer

This 'caravan' (UK English for trailer), from Retreat Homes can be parked almost anywhere, thanks to its wheels, but it's far from a trailer:

"Classified as a transportable building, it is ready to move into within days and can be situated in places that a conventional home cannot..."

Shedworking loved the idea:

"Although it's aimed at a holiday home market, there is a garden office option....with floor to ceiling windows, oak floors and kitchen or bathroom options, plus furniture suggestions."

company: Retreat Homes
style: modern trailer
size: 480 sf - 1,000 sf
bedrooms: 2 - 3
price: $103,000 - $200,000
finish level: complete, inside and out, including mechanical systems
features/finishes: wood floors, hardwood windows, steel tile roof, Bosch appliances
available: UK/Ireland
more info: brochure (pdf)

Related Posts:
   1. The miniHome: ready to roll (Jul 06, 2007)
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Prefab goes to the mall: kitHAUS in San Diego

Link to Prefab goes to the mall: kitHAUS in San Diego

Here's an unexpected use of prefab. The folks at info_smallkitHAUS have completed a display pavilion at the Westfield UTC Mall in San Diego. Tom Sandonato, of kitHAUS, gave us the details:

"Westfield design department contacted us after picking up a postcard from the hospitality show in Las Vegas. The design firm RTKL came up with the initial concept and a company in Canada was originally hired to do the work, but was not able to perform due to the tight time frame and costs. With some minor design modifications our K2 modules were utilized and adapted...

We modified two K2 modules: one of the K2's as an open gazebo, the second as an all glass Gallery space.

Total time to install was two weeks with four weeks worth of design and shop fabrication...

In terms of promoting kitHAUS, we have a product display on site there inside the Gallery module, as well as vinyl art stating 'modules constructed by KitHAUS'."

Tom's partner Martin Wehmann added:
"Much of the fervor in the marketplace for prefab is directed towards residential uses, but this shows how the kitHAUS modular structures can be used very successfully in commercial applications as well — achieving the design aspects of the project with a very short installation timeline.

These are the very same components we use to create the K3 units that are available for residential accessory structures. The K3 is large enough to be used as an outdoor studio, an office, a kids play room, etc — its uses are limitless, and with its size, it fits below the permitting requirements of most municipalities.

The kitHAUS K3 unit will be on display at the upcoming Dwell on Design show in San Francisco September 14-16."

We really like the kitHAUS's aluminum extrusion and clamping system, and look forward to seeing their display next time we're in San Diego.

Related Posts:
   1. LA Times on mini prefabs (Jun 18, 2009)
   2. Prefab goes retail: buy a kitHAUS at Design Within Reach (Feb 14, 2008)
   3. The Modular Housing System (May 10, 2007)
   4. A house for you and one for your dog too (Mar 28, 2007)
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This week: Zigloo, A Prefab Project, mkLotus, and more

Link to This week: Zigloo, A Prefab Project, mkLotus, and more

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday covers the Zigloo Domestique, a container-based project in British Columbia:

"The DIY Zigloo Domestique integrates shipping containers, personal and sustainable touches, and lots of hard work. Keith Dewey...designed, built, and documented the construction of his Zigloo Domestique home that epitomizes accessible, green, reclaimed, yet comfortable contemporary prefab architecture....

The home is located in Fernwood, one of Victoria's oldest and funkiest areas, and proves that shipping containers are more than just modules for cargo transport or emergency housing. The designer has done a wonderful job of documenting the entire design process, from initial plans to delivery of the containers and final construction and furnishing. The project spans almost two years, and the final residence consists of 8 containers, 1800 square feet, and 3 stories of homey prefab space. Keith's family home design is a great example of shipping containers and prefab techniques as a viable and accessible building approach for just about anyone."

The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday discovered A Prefab Project and likes it as much as we do:
"The blog was started back in December of 2006 with discussions about design and construction, and if you go back and read through the entire thing it is quite a journey....

I for one cannot wait to see what it looks like all complete and ready to go!"

Greenerati anticipates the arrival of the info_smallmkLotus at the West Coast Green building conference:
"It won't solve the housing problem here in the City but when West Coast Green occurs next month attendees will get a chance to tour a 'zero energy' Green home right smack in the Civic Center across from City Hall. Yes, it's a prefabricated house but not that nasty 'Prefab' often associated with temporary replacement for housing during and after WWII."

Green Options posted on the eco-friendliness of modular and prefab construction:

"Prefabrication and Modularity are new eco buzzwords on the menu this year. From homes to furniture, designers are beginning to employ new methods of construction and transportation to cut waste and energy consumption, ensure safety, and achieve greater overall methods of sustainability."

Related Posts:
   1. Shipping container homes in Edmonton (Nov 08, 2007)
   2. The mkLotus show house (Jul 19, 2007)
   3. A Prefab Project delivery and set! (Jul 05, 2007)
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Modular homes in Alabama: quality, price and quick turnaround

Many homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina are turning to modular construction:

"Cindy Armour's house on Dauphin Island was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and while crews were framing a new home, Katrina wiped it out in August 2005. For her third try, she's gone modular.

'The labor is all done in a factory, and this house is really well built,' she said. 'The whole roof is bolted down. And I've got the fattest pilings I could find. If it doesn't hold up in the next hurricane, I'm moving back to Texas....'"

Terry Stewart, owner of Visionary Home Builders:
"Modular or system-built homes are constructed in a factory and shipped by truck in sections called modules or boxes. There can be two, four, six or more modules, depending on the size of the house, Stewart said. The modules are lifted by crane and placed on the pilings or foundation -- and that takes a day. The modules are about 90 percent complete when shipped and include all the walls, flooring, ceilings, stairs, carpet, and wall finishes...."

Walt Bolton, an engineer at B.E.S. Construction:

"The quality, the price and the quick turnaround drew Bolton to modular building. 'We have great local subcontractors, but when you build a product in a plant, the consistency is much greater and you don't have to worry about the temperature, wind or rain.'"

Read the whole article for more details about why people are choosing modular.

Title: Modular doesn't have to mean less quality
Subtitle: Demand is up locally for factory-built homes with amenities
Author: Kathy Jumper
Publication: The Press Register (Alabama)
Length: 860 words
Date: July 22, 2007

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MiSo House: modular efficiency

Link to MiSo House: modular efficiency

Like the Prefabrication Laboratory and Studio 804, the MiSo* House is a university-based prefab project. Michigan Solar House (MiSo*) "is an interdisciplinary endeavor at the University of Michigan incorporating students, faculty and staff from" a number of the different departments.

"The architecture of MiSo* reinterprets the single family dwelling to reflect a changing balance of ecological and technological choices that strive to integrate sustainable design within a contemporary lifestyle. The entry to the 2005 Solar Energy Decathlon functions as a working prototype of a portable, modular, and sustainable, solar powered dwelling and its design and construction are considered with future mass production in mind....

The MiSo product line can cater towards any size family. Therefore, reproducible parts are essential to the success of MiSo. The house on the mall will be built of five modules, three interior and two end, all pre-assembled and simply connected on site.

The modular design of the house components within the MiSo* system provide a vast set of combinations that can effectively assemble a house of any size from 400 sq ft upwards."

The University of Michigan page for the house features additional photos of the construction.

(Hat tip: Green Options)

Related Posts:
   1. Prefabrication Laboratory  (Jul 23, 2007)
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