Entries tagged as 'process'
We recently came across an interesting project called The OPEN Prototype Initiative (OPI). It is:
More information is available on the OPI website:
We look forward to seeing more from this collaboration.
See the post for photographs of the construction sequence.
According to her website, the KTainer house was made from 4 24' containers which she purchased on Craigslist.
Also on the site, she details the process throughout various stages of construction and shares pictures:
If you are interested in shipping container homes, or considering building one yourself, Kathy's site is a must-visit.
The New York Times architecture critic provided a glowing review of MoMA's Home Delivery in this morning's paper:
We've provided extensive coverage of the full-scale homes; this review adds details on the accompanying exhibits:
Here's a sample: (plus some external links we dug up)
Read the full article for more details and a new slideshow with 12 images.
One correction to the article: the frame of the Cellophane House is aluminum not "lightweight steel."
subtitle: At MoMA, a Look at Instant Houses, Past, Present and Future
publication: The New York Times
author: Nicolai Ouroussoff
length: 1,500 words, 12 slides
publication date: July 18, 2008
Over a year later, the home is complete and available to rent. It's an excellent opportunity to understand what a Resolution: 4 Architecture home can be. Homeowners Chris and Sarah have definitely put a lot of energy and care into the home, and it shows.
A few guests have been testing the place out over the past couple months. Chris shared some stories:
Our previous coverage of the project:
where: Lost River, West Virginia
price: $150 weekdays, $200 weekends
More detail on the "gro(w)ability" of the home:
The Texas A&M Solar Decathalon Website has more background information on the team and the project.
A few of the prefab companies we cover already use similar standardized systems:
We missed this item last year when we covered West Coast Green 2007: the EPA's Lifecycle Building Challenge. From a West Coast Green email:
The Challenge returns to this year's show. The ability to take apart a building and re-assemble it elsewhere seems like prefab in its purest form.
where: West Coast Green 2008
deadline: July 31, 2008
This last week has seen some impressive progress in the installation of homes for MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition, opening July 20.
In the video above, the System3 home hatches from its shipping containers and is craned onto its temporary foundation in midtown Manhattan. The bones of the BURST*008 model can also be seen in the video, from about 0:10 to 0:25.
Visit the Home Delivery blog for up-to-the-minute blog posts, images and videos.
I've received an update on a few EcoSteel projects. There's been significant progress with the house and observatory (pictured above), designed by Gregory La Vardera, that we first covered them about a year ago.
The large project consists of a 7,000+ sf custom home, a "toy garage" and a private observatory. Definitely not your average home! Because of the project's remote location in Rodeo, New Mexico, not many contractors were available. So, homeowner Steve Cullen chose prefab. Some of the advantages:
Another project, Goshawk Ranch, has its own blog. Under construction since September, the home looks to be moving along. The blog's most recent post shows the newly installed wall panels and front door.
EcoSteel's prefab system consists of a home's steel frame, both interior and exterior, along with exterior wall and roof panels. The remainder of the design and materials are left to the homeowner and local contractors. We discussed the system in detail last year.
This skeleton-and-skin sort of offering is not uncommon. A number of other prefab companies sell similar systems, with a range of additional design help. Rocio Romero's LV Series homes come without finishes, but with a list of recommendations on finishes and vendors. And Sander Architects design the entire home, but only prefabricate the steel framing.
One post covered a not-so-weeHouse in PA:
The Alchemy Architects website provides a description of the home (seen above) and additional images:
A post from last week profiled a weeHouse in upstate New York:
We're still waiting for the Build a wee page to become active. Hopefully we'll see that announced on the blog soon!
Also: there's a weeHouse page, updated frequently, on Facebook. You have to be a friend to see the profile, but you can find it through a search.
With MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition just 6 weeks out, signs of substantive progress are appearing. And it's definitely fun to follow along.
From an article in the New York Sun last week:
Check out the full Home Delivery blog to see videos, images and tons of updates on each home's construction. Read the full New York Sun article for more detail on the Burst* project and the exhibition.
author: Gabrielle Birkner
publication: The New York Sun
length: 875 words
publication date: May 29, 2008
Last year's CA Boom IV show brought twelve prefab companies to Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA. I attended the show, spoke to some vendors and tried to get my head around others. We won't be able to attend this year's CA Boom V, but if you're in the area and seriously interested in prefab, it's well worth a visit:
CA Boom is NOT the place “to talk about the potential of and the maybe/someday value of prefab”, rather this is the Buyer/Seller event for you to “comparison shop” the leading manufacturers who “have delivered houses.”
I counted eight prefab vendors as of today:
As we stated last year, CA Boom's Prefab Zone has strict requirements for the companies present:
Also worth looking for (date and time TBA):
"THE FOUR WOMEN OF PREFAB" panel discussion featuring prominent prefab architects Michelle Kaufmann, Jennifer Siegal and Rocio Romero, and moderated by Allison Arieff, the former editor-in-chief of DWELL magazine.
name: CA Boom V
what: "prefab exhibition, design + architecture home tours and ... panel discussions"
where: Barker Hanger, Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica, CA
when: March 14-16, 2008 (March 14 is trade only)
time: 11am - 5pm (6pm Saturday)
price: $20/day, architecture tours extra
more info: press release (pdf)
Via Inhabitat on Feb. 29:
To date, more than 110 LV prefabs have become home to owners throughout 23 states in the US, with 40 more under construction. While prefab fans have been able to tour the Rocio Romero show home in Missouri for several years, this weekend marks the first time that a finished LV is available for viewing in New York. The first National LV Open House Tour kicks off on March 1st (tomorrow!) in the Hudson Valley!
Sorry that we posted too late for the New York open house, but there will be more! The Rocio Romero site fills in the blanks:
This event is one of four that will be held throughout the country. The 2008 National Tour will provide attendees the opportunity to see and feel the LV space. Ms. Romero, Rocio Romero staff, homeowners, and general contractors will be present to discuss the LV design features, custom design options, the build process, and construction costs. Since 2003, more than 6,000 individuals have visited the Rocio Romero show home in Perryville, Missouri. Our new national tours will allow attendees to view our newest homes and experience the wide array of customization and lifestyles available to LV home owners.
The open house featured four pre-reserved time slots, costing $40/person. We'll do our best to get the dates for the other three events with plenty of advance notice.
company: Rocio Romero
when: dates TBA
where: locations TBA
The New York Times reports:
The social event of the season in Locust Point, a quiet enclave of tidy family homes along the East Bronx waterfront, took place just over a week ago when a crane lifted two 18-ton halves of a prefabricated house off flatbed trailers and stacked them like Legos on an empty lot....
title: Legos for the Grown-Ups
author: Jennifer Bleyer
length: 425 words
publication date: February 10, 2008
(Hat tip: Prefab Dweller)
We hope to post regularly on a range of topics, including the various projects that we currently have in design and production, events around the country, or just interesting articles and ideas that influence what we do.
A recent post discussed putting a concrete floor in a prefab house:
We loved how the concrete floors in the Desert House looked, but we shied away from using them in our first few projects that we produced in our own factory. The Desert House’s concrete were so beautiful, but also so heavy, which made the installation quite challenging...
We'll keep track of any big updates over at the new blog, but be sure to check it out for yourselves.
In my previous entry I introduced Scott, my correspondent from Sweden. An American builder relocated to a suburb of Stockholm, he landed in an alternate reality where modern housing was everywhere, commonplace, even dare I say unremarkable. None of the stigmas or resistance we have come to associate with building a modern house were present. Every builder offered solid modern design in the range of homes they sold, and were more than happy to sell you one. On top of this prefabrication techniques were the norm. Sizable portions of the houses Scott saw being built were put together in the factory...
What did Scott find?
"...the majority of new construction is built like this. I would call the house panelized - but it is "way way panelized" and is a total package. The houses come on trucks from rural places in Sweden. The windows are in, the insulation, wiring, wallboard where possible - every thing - the pipes, the wiring systems, the doors, stairs ... everything has been engineered and rationalized to reduce labor, find energy and material economy and work with the method of construction where stuff is pre-assembled as much as possible inside a building and then "erected" or installed on the site under very compressed schedules...."
Read the full post for Greg's comparison to prefab on this side of the pond.
Core 77 reports:
Before pre-fab became so fabulously fab, the Small Homes Council at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois published Homes From Pre-Assembled Wall Panels in 1954.
A bit more about the Small Homes Council, now known as the Building Research Council:
For over 50 years, BRC (formerly known as the Small Homes Council) has conducted housing research and provided public service to residents, homeowners, builders, contractors, engineers, architects, and others in the housing industry. Today BRC continues to draw on the expertise of its own staff and a campus-wide network of experts to improve the state of our built environment.
We could not locate the book on AbeBooks.
The System3 home merges the idea of "units" with that of "elements":
Due to the separation into serving units and "naked elements", the building process is optimized.
To me, it seems logical: keep the production of the technical pieces, the "serving units", in the factory where quality control can be tighter; let on-site work be limited to assembly and nothing more. This approach would save both time and money, limiting the trades and expertise needed at the home site; it reminds me of KieranTimberlake's Loblolly House, which we covered last June:
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.(KieranTimberlake's Cellophane House will also appear in the MoMA show.)
Such a mixed-method approach compares to the two major types of prefabrication that we cover on Prefabcosm: SIPs (used by companies like CleverHomes and Jensys Buildings) and complete modules (like those from OMD and weeHouse). Using just SIPs leaves the majority of the skilled work for the site, e.g. installation of utilities. Complete modules are both expensive and difficult to get to the home site. Merging the two methods allows for greater flexibility, less cost, higher quality, and shortened construction time.
With 10+ years working on prefab, Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf are worth watching. While they have yet to translate their experiments into a mass-market product, their work lends much understanding to how the home-construction industry might best take advantage of prefabrication.
There is really nothing new about many of the modern prefabs that everyone is going gaga over; back in the 70's Finnish architect Matti Suuronen designed the Venturo, a bit less extreme than his wonderful Futuro House. It appears to have been used primarily as gas stations for BP.
More from Finnish blog Tuovinen:
The "Venturo" is a modular, easily transportable building system, having excellent insulation, low weight and designed for minimum assembly on site.
Nineteen Venturos were built:
First prototype of this model was designed January 9, 1971 and first production unit was built June 1, 1971. According to Museum of Finnish Architecture, BP was built in 1971. BP-Högmo is the second Venturo built according to MFA....
Capitalising on the Futuro´s international exposure, Polykem Ltd. soon launched a whole series of plastic buildings designed by Suuronen. The Casa Finlandia series included the CF-100/200 service station (1969), the CF-10 kiosk (1970) and the CF-45 residential/commercial building, better known as the Venturo (1971). All the buildings in the Casa Finlandia series were designed to be durable and convenient to mass-produce, transport and assemble. The numerical suffix in each building´s name indicates its floor area in square metres. Polykem strove to sharpen the international profile of the Casa Finlandia series by publishing stylish 4-colour brochures complete with vivid product descriptions and catchy slogans.
More on the Futuro House from enthusiast Marc Berting:
Matti Suuronen designed this UFO shaped dwelling in 1968, initially for use as a ski-cabin or holiday home....
The Michelle Kaufmann blog announces:
...we have been working very hard for the past few months to get to this point and are now finally ready and delighted to announce that MKD is going to be a part of the “Smart Home: Green + Wired, Powered by ComEd and Warmed by Peoples Gas” exhibit at MSI that’s opening this spring! The exhibit is going to include a full-size mkSolaire™ home to be built in on parkland on the southeast side of the Museum and will showcase the very best in sustainable living concepts and solutions.
A bit more from the museum exhibit page:
During its 75th Anniversary year, the Museum of Science and Industry will be building a functioning, three-story modular and sustainable “green” home ... to highlight unique home technologies for the 21st century.
The home’s module construction will be under way for two or three more weeks on one of the All American assembly lines in Decatur....
Jetson Green says:
I can't wait to see more!
what: Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit
builder: All American Homes
where: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
when: May 8, 2008 - January 4, 2009
A brief collection of thoughts on the growth of the green building industry. What's real, what's not and what people are expecting.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
what: Live Xtremely Green blog
These shots, taken last month, show the delivery of a two-story prefabricated home going up in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. The 2,200 square foot home is comprised of 4 modular units; these shots show the upper two being installed.
We previously showed the Travelpod, an experimental prefab from Travelodge, and thought it was an interesting one-off. We were wrong; the company is looking seriously at prefab hotels and is building their first in the west London district of Uxbridge, right now.
The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday was off this week.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday made a surprising architectural discovery at the the Consumer Electronics Show. We'll cover that model soon.
If these houses are supposed to be good, somebody should live in them during the show and the people who view the exhibit should be visitors in the houses.
Jaunted provided some new details:
Foundations will be laid in February and the homes will arrive in late May, popping up in next to no time.
The Chicago Tribune predicts:
Given MoMA's taste-making power and its location in the media capital of the world, the show could go a long way toward making prefab housing something more than just a glimmer in visionaries' eyes.
greenbuildingsNYC is excited. The Gothamist commented, as did Curbed. Treehugger mentioned the show. The Chronicle of Higher Education likes the idea that professors' work will be included in the show.
Update: The model appearing in the MoMA show will be the BURST*008.
Artdaily provides some details:
Designed to be assembled on site from laser-cut pieces, the Burst *003 house is a computer-designed remake of the typical prefabricated box. Working from a computer formula that automates the specific pieces needed to create the house desired, the project is based on a system that can be adapted to a changing set of criteria. The 2003 prototype of the Burst *003 project was built on Australia's Northeast coast, and won the Royal Australian Institute of Architects 2006 Wilkinson award.
Architecture Australia explains further:
Laying out the plywood pieces was achieved using the software program used in garment manufacture with very little wastage. While high technology is used throughout the design and manufacturing process, low technology is intentionally employed for assembly and for maintenance. Assembly requires fewer skills but intense cooperation and concentration. The building was put together by architecture students in something akin to a barn raising. The architects are fond of this image, yet recognize that the design’s reliance on numbers of enthusiastic and sympathetic cheap labourers will make it less desirable for some.
Plywood cut by a computer-controlled laser. Delivered to site in sheets with the ribs numbered, scored, and holes cut.
Laser cutting 1 of 400 sheets.
Sorting 1,100 pieces of laser-cut plywood.
Underside of floor structure.
Laser-cutting efficiency -- the total waste from the plywood sheets.
I can't help but be excited for the potential of the BURST* system and look forward to seeing the home at MoMA.
how: kit of parts
The New York Times reports:
...the Museum of Modern Art has commissioned five architects to erect their own prefab dwellings in a vacant lot on West 53rd Street, adjacent to the museum. Whittled down from a pool of about 400, the five architects are participating in “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling,” an exhibition opening in July.
The MoMa site fills in some blanks:
This exhibition will offer the most thorough examination of both the historical and contemporary significance of factory-produced architectures to date. With increasing concern about issues such as sustainability and the swelling global population, prefabrication has again taken center stage as a prime solution to a host of pressing needs. The prefabricated structure has long served as a central precept in the history of modern architecture, and it continues to spur innovative manufacturing and imaginative design....
A Prefab Project says:
Perhaps notable for the absence of any of the commercially successful prefab architects working in the US, still kind of a big deal...
Haute Nature also commented.
What: Exhibition: Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling
Where: MoMa New York City
When: July 20 - October 20, 2008
Here's a unique hybrid wall panel, sort of half SIP, half straw bale:
The Enviro Board panels offer a superior building product that is easy to handle and assemble. Today's Enviro Board Panels are solid "concrete like" fiber panels comprised of highly compressed straw fibers. Through the Enviro Board technology, panels are extruded through the mill in a continual process, covered with a durable waterproof paper membrane, cut to desired lengths and end-capped. Panel density and thickness can also be adjusted.
(Hat tip: Materialicio.us)
While visiting the LV Home Fans Yahoo! group the other day, I happened upon a site I hadn't seen before, Secret Fortress Hideout:
This blog documents the progress of our super-cool, pre-fab home "somewhere" in the wilds of Northwest Arkansas. Rocio Romero designed the home, model LVL, and incorporated our custom modifications.
A few critical path items jumped the track and will push us back about a week.
Like A Prefab Project, Secret Fortress Hideout provides a great first-hand look at the construction of a prefab home.
I came across ModularHomeChoice.com while perusing some news the other day:
This website is for those interested in purchasing a modular home or those considering one and wishing to learn more about them. I will share my experiences and lessons learned while acting as the general contractor on my modular home in the St. Louis, Missouri area.
The site is barebones, but informative.
The National Association of Manufacturers has a pretty nifty series of blog posts and accompanying videos of "stuff being made". This week, they focus on Excel Modular Homes of Liverpool Pennsylvania:
Ed Langley, the company's president and CEO, gives us a tour of the operations starting with sales and moving through design and construction....
Visit the original post for the link to the video. It's long, but shows many details of the modular home manufacturing process.
length: >15 mins
publication: Pennsylvania Cable Network via National Association of Manufacturers
Sears Roebuck & Co. weren't the only ones selling packaged home kits way back when. In England, corrugated iron prefabs were being sold in the 19th century.
From the UK Independent:
Cheaply erected, flat-pack corrugated iron homes and farm buildings were once common in the Highlands but most have been torn down. The three-bedroom Ballintomb Cottage is one of the last still standing. In Edwardian times, a local farmer ordered it from the catalogue of a London company and had it delivered by steam train, then horse and cart, to a site near the village of Dulnain Bridge in Strathspey. He assembled it by hand, so he could move his family in during the summer while he rented out his farmhouse to wealthy holidaymakers. It cost just £425. Now, offers of more than £175,000 are being invited but the selling price could reach as much as £250,000.
Here's more from the home's real estate listing:
The construction of these iron buildings was fully detailed in the catalogues. They quote that "sheets of standard Birmingham grade galvanised iron are used, truly and evenly corrugated, thickly coated with pure Silesian spelter, true and even in temper, and free from flaws and cracks." Floorboards were supplied of thoroughly seasoned deal in 1" thicknesses and lining boards in 1/2" tongue and grooved. The walls were insulated by a liberal use of felt....
author: Andy McSmith
length: 570 words
date: September 6, 2007
publication: The Independent (UK)
(Hat tip: Treehugger)
A while back, a commenter on Inhabitat posed what seemed like a radical idea:
"It occurs to me that the factory could be brought to the jobsite with a modification of this method of construction. Perhaps we need to borrow the best method from factory and on-the-job techniques, instead of thinking either-or. For example, why not bring a semi truck that opens out into an on-the-job manufacturing construction unit."
According to the Globe and Mail, a developer in Ontario apparently had the same thought:
"Megabuilder Mattamy Homes is constructing a subdivision of houses in Milton, Ont., that are, for the most part, assembled on the factory floor and then transported by truck.Read the full article for details on this revolutionary process.
'The chandeliers are hanging, the tiles are grouted, the hardwood is shined up,' says Ron Cauchi, president of Mattamy's Stelumar operation....
Anybody who purchases a new house from a builder wants two things: a sturdy structure and a predictable closing date. Legions of buyers have suffered through problems with both.
For years, Mattamy has been looking for a way to improve the quality of the houses it builds and the reliability of move-in dates by transferring some parts of the construction process to the factory floor....
The longest distance any house will travel is about one kilometre, Mr. Cauchi says.
He expects the project to be complete in about four years, at which point the factory will be taken apart and re-erected somewhere else."
Seems like the best of both worlds: factory-built on site!
Title: A new address, fresh off the line
Author: Carolyn Leitch
Publication: The Globe and Mail
Length: 775 words
Date: September 7, 2007
(Hat tip: Treehugger)
I learn new things about the prefab business every day. Altamont Homes is a builder of modular homes throughout the West. The company had representatives at West Coast Green. Also at their booth was a representative from Details, a manufacturer of modular homes.
In the time I've been reading and writing about prefab housing, I haven't fully understood the relationship between those two entities until the relationship was explained to me by Craig Rosenberg of Details.
Basically it works like this: the homeowner goes to a "builder" (in this case, Altamont) and wants to build a house. Altamont shares a number of design options with the homeowner, ranging from small, inexpensive homes, to larger and more finely detailed homes. The home designs they are sharing are sourced from a number of "manufacturers" around the country (in this case Details is one of many that Altamont buys from).
Altamont is responsible for interacting with you, completing site work, securing permits (sometimes that falls to the homeowner), setting the home and completing site work. Details is responsible for the modules that are shipped to your site. The way that Craig Rosenberg from Details explained it to me:
"Some manufacturers supply products like doors or faucets; it just happens in our case that the product we supply is the entire home."
Details designs the homes that they offer to different builders, whether Altamont or another builder. The arrangement allows Altamont to offer a wide range of product choices to their customers. For instance, the Details models are all LEED-certified and highly energy-efficient; they generally end up costing ~$275/sf installed. Altamont offers other, non-LEED options from other manufacturers for less than half that cost.
The key point is that the builder and manufacturer are two different entities, with two different specialities:
Bob Vila's Home Again on the DIY Network just finished a run of shows about a modular home under construction. I haven't seen the show, but it sounds like there were some good views into the factory and site process.
From the episode descriptions: Modern Modular:
"Bob Vila travels to western Massachusetts for a brand new project; the construction of a modular home in the Berkshire Hills. He goes to the Simplex Industries factory in Scranton, Pa., to see how the process starts. We talk with owner Pat Fricchione, Jr. about the history of the company, and how the image of modular construction has changed over the years."Wall Panels:
"Today, we learn about the manufacturing process for the precast panels for the walls. Next, we travel back to the Simplex plant in Scranton Pa., where Bob Vila explains how each module is framed. Back in the Berkshires, the assembly process is explained once the panels have been lowered into place by crane."Assembly:
"At the Simplex plant, several crews work as if on an assembly line to make fast work of each module. There's a lot happening, from spackle and sand, to insulation, wall and roof sheathing, house wrap, and interior trim. Bob Vila learns about the state-of-the-art wire boxes that are being installed, and we'll look at the staircase that's being built for the front hall from the stair shop."
A small picture of the home coming together can be seen on the Bob Vila web site.
Show: Home Again: Modern Modular
Network: DIY Network
Length: 13 episodes
The show house was set right in front of San Francisco City Hall, out in the open for all to see. And see it people did. Visitors lined up to tour the home and looked to be waiting upwards of half an hour on Saturday's Homeowner Day (due to the home's size, the show staff were limiting the number of people in at any one time).
While the home was small, around 700 sf, it felt plenty roomy. The home featured a window wall system from NanaWall that opens accordion-style to create a near seamless indoor/outdoor room. The bathroom was luxurious for such a small home. And the ample outdoor living space (decks, patios, courtyards) was a welcome addition.
Some of the features and details that I saw as I toured the house:
All of these add-ons and options push the home out of many folks' price range though. For instance, the NanaWall system runs ~$1,500 per single panel (the mkLotus had xx). My understanding is that the home starts around $150,000, but can venture past $225k with all of the add-ons featured on the show home.
A note worth mentioning, and one repeated throughout the conference: these homes may seem expensive, but much of that is due to their "green" features, from rainwater catchment systems, to solar panels galore.
Jill and Emily at Inhabitat loved the house:
"Above and beyond all the green, however, the house is just a testament to thoughtful, smart design. Every material, system and design choice in the house seems to be thought out, and have purpose. The high ceilings, skylights, gently angled walls, floor to ceiling glass and copious daylight all work to make the 700 sf house feel a lot bigger and more spacious than it actually is."They also uploaded a bunch of photos of the house to Flickr.
CBS 5 San Francisco offered a video report from the home.
With the mkLotus as the star attraction of the show, Michelle Kaufmann had a sort of celebrity aura to her. She spoke a number of times, on topics ranging from the show house to "Women in Green." She shows great enthusiasm for her work (and the work is prolific). The talks focused on the green aspects of the different MK products. Their work is separated into three categories:
I'll share further info on a number of developments and new products from MKD in the coming weeks.
More West Coast Green coverage in the coming days.
MocoLoco fills in the blanks:
"Amy's is the first production model, which took almost two years since kinks had to be worked out as the manufacturing process went along. Despite being the guinea pigs for the Flatpak experience, the final product is all that Goodwin hoped for and more."
Jetson Green took a look:
"I really like how the house is tucked into the enveloping landscape, almost camouflaged from the entry way."
company: Lazor Office
how: pre-cut frame, infill panels
West Coast Green is "America's largest residential green building conference". September 20-21 are limited to building professionals, but the general public is invited for September 22s "Homeowner Day":
"West Coast Green will host community leaders and visionaries, such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Hollywood actor Ed Begly Jr., environmental/civil rights leader Van Jones and many others. Homeowners looking to design and build a new, energy-efficient green home, or those looking to upgrade the efficiency of their existing homes, will benefit from walking the tradeshow floor, abounding with hundreds of products and services to build, remodel, power, insulate, clean, furnish and finance their green homes."
where: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
when: September 20-22, 2007
registration: $25 ($35 at the door) for Homeowner Day, September 22. $325/day 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
One gripe: I wish the webcam shots were all from a wider angle to show the big picture.
Treehugger's been watching:
"...sometimes watching paint dry is more exciting but then some big module flies in front of the camera."
Jetson Green also tuned in:
"All the main parts are supposed to be complete by September 7, and we'll be able to get a pretty good picture of what the final home will look like."
Curbed LA mentioned the home last Tuesday.
CNET has released a video (3:14) showing the mkLotus being built in the XtremeHomes factory. CEO Tim Schmidt mentions a key advantage of factory-built homes: reduced construction time with employees rather than contractors. Michelle Kaufmann discusses the green features and demonstrates the NanaWall.
(Scott adds two gripes: CNET's video player is flaky, and the pre-roll ad is annoying.)
Author: Michael Kanellos
Publication: CNET News
Date: August 30, 2007
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
Date: August 8, 2007
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
size: 1,344 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $210,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$180/sf)
model: JoT L
size: 1,370 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $260,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$215/sf)
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"
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.
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."
One post links to a cool Google map locating all of the Hive Modular models in Minnesota.
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.
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."
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.)
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."
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):
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):
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."
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
I received an email from my friend/colleague Michael van Meter the other day. He and other volunteers are building homes in Armenia for charity using a unique pseudo-prefab building process:
"The goal of the people I am working with is basically to revolutionize the affordable housing market in the 3rd world. We are here in Armenia to build 2 houses on a site administered by a group called ARDA (Armenian Relief and Development Agency). This is an NGO started by an LA businessman by the name of Steve Lazarian. He has spent 17 years and millions of his own dollars here trying to help the Armenian people progress from the conditions that prevail here after the demise of the Soviet Union...I've seen products like the Kiva Block before, so I did some research. The generic term for such products is Insulating Concrete Forms. Builders assemble the (usually) styrofoam forms into walls on site; concrete is then poured into the forms, which are left in place. The form acts as a quick and precise way to form a wall, AND as the wall's insulation. A durable exterior finish is required; ICF homes "will accept any traditional exterior finish including vinyl or wood siding, stucco and brick." Interior finishes match those of typical construction. This page has countless photos of different ICF products and processes.
One of the things that is desperately needed here is some type of affordable (and quickly constructed) quality housing. Enter my pal George who has many years of building expertise and has a heart for the poor of the world....George has been studying a product called Kiva Block for a couple of years now and has come up with a design that makes this product potentially viable. Kiva is made of Styrofoam of all things and goes together rather like Lego blocks. Think of a concrete block (CMU) that is 12 in high, 8 in thick and 48 in long....It is inexpensive, strong and quick. We have been working here 9 days now and are putting the roof on the first building and are going to start the roof on the 2nd tomorrow...pretty fast for a 2 bedroom 650 sf dwelling eh?
So anyway here we are setting a land speed record at building houses and perhaps there is a market for this thing in the world..."
The site is definitely worth a visit. It includes details on prefab homes that are completed or in progress. For example, here's a video (4:11 minutes, no audio) of the Pacific Palisades Prefab.
"...We're thrilled to see prefab systems being applied to more public and educational contexts!) While the construction isn't quite finished, we think this is a great opportunity to show the process and progress of an exceptional prefab project- and one of the best (and first) prefab schools we've seen integrate so many green technologies...Treehugger covers a prefab concept in the UK by architect Richard Rogers. The post includes over a dozen photos, and quotes a recent Financial Times article (subscription required) with a hat tip to Urbanity.
We find this project particularly interesting as it is an addition to an existing structure, which provides not only site-specific but aesthetic and programmatic context."
The San Jose Mercury News ran an article about prefab and price:
"Manufactured homes are no longer the boxy firetraps owned by the poor and elderly. Instead they are increasingly becoming the smartly-designed homes of the young, wealthy and educated.Materialicious (a blog all about building materials) points out that the Structural Insulated Panel Association offers useful information, "including a Green Building section".
About 1.4 million people in California live in manufactured homes, and the typical profile of an owner has become younger, more educated and more affluent...
...standard site-built homes cost about $250 a square foot whereas manufactured housing can be as low as $120 a square foot, a big savings for people used to paying top dollar in the Bay Area."
I've been seeing posts around the blogosphere (e.g. on Jetson Green) about the Sundance Channel's new TV series Big Ideas for a Small Planet. The series focuses on "the forward-thinking designers, products, and processes that are on the leading edge of a new green world." The second episode, Build, was about different green building techniques and one section, 'prefab', featured Michelle Kaufmann.
The episodes are available for download from iTunes for $1.99 each. The Build episode is definitely worth a watch, at least for a view inside the Michelle Kaufmann factory.