The New York Times recently discussed the sustainability of modular housing.
The modular housing industry likes to say that it has always had a few characteristics that today might be considered eco-friendly — from reduced waste to a smaller construction footprint.
But it’s only recently — and increasingly amid the flagging housing market — that manufacturers of factory-built homes have realized that concepts like efficiency and sustainability can make for good business strategy.
Jetson Green recently shared pictures of an Adam Kalkin container house in Maine from 2003:
The beautiful home stretches the boundaries of modern design and is truly a work of art. It was created by stacking a dozen orange "reclaimed" shipping containers in a T-shape while replacing some of the steel panels with large windows looking out over the rocky peninsula to Blue Hill Bay.
For Massie, creating this “transportable” house proved inspirational.
For over a decade, attaching his computer to a laser cutter, he learned how to draw intricate shapes—such as jigsaw patterns for wood paneling—and have the machine cut them out seamlessly. He then bought his own computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling machine, which could drill down into a material to create molds. He was thus able to redefine how standard materials such as concrete, wood, and even rubber were used. They no longer had to be flat or rectangular—they could become sculptural forms.
The prefab part isn't really intended to be practical here:
When the house is moved again, some interior surfaces, such as the plaster ceilings, will, in Massie’s words, “have to be sacrificed.” Redoing them, and reinstalling the floor, will cost about $20,000. The total transport cost, apart from any work to connect the house to the site, will be nearly $45,000. The cost of the house itself? $750,000.
The core product is a 992-square-foot one-bedroom home featuring a detached “Flex Room” connected by an “Outdoor Living Space” or deck made of recycled materials. If you look at the floor plan ... the main structure looks a little bit like a lower case “i,” with the Flex Room as its dot. Hence the name.
RINCON is the moniker for their latest modular series, a line of homes that can double as a small prefab dwelling or ancillary living structure, you name it. The name is inspired by the Spanish word for "nook" -- an apt description for this little accessory structure.
Envision Prefab ... is bringing container architecture to a new level by creating complete modular housing out of these frames.
The home starts with the basic cargo containers. Factory technicians mark out the windows, doors, mechanical, and plumbing vents and cut through the corrugated metal walls. The interior wall is completely removed, and the containers are braced to prevent any deflections.
See the post for photographs of the construction sequence.
Back in November, Michelle Kaufmann released a new white paper (pdf) titled "Redefining Cost: A Beacon of Hope Shines through Housing Market Gloom".
In it, she says:
The convergence of the financial, energy, and housing crises has essentially become a perfect storm with the power not only to weed out the risky and damaging housing industry practices of old but also to encourage the promulgation of more economically and environmentally sustainable practices going forward.
While the paper doesn't address prefab specifically, it covers issues that could affect the industry. It's definitely worth a look.
In 2005, Dwell magazine launched a line of co-branded prefab homes with several companies. In October, Time Inc's This Old House (TOH) announced they were following suit (paid subscription required):
... to create the This Old House Home Collection by Bensonwood
Publisher Matt Turck said TOH will get an undisclosed share of revenue. The homes will be priced from $300,000 to $600,000.
Turck added that the pact extends his brand's reputation beyond home improvement.
"Factory-built homes are the future of home building," the publisher said. "We want to connect our brand with the future of home building."
This news comes as the This Old House TV series wraps up construction on a Bensonwood home that has served as the subject of the show's latest season. Further information on that project is available on the This Old House blog.
Carl Krave, president of Pocket Neighborhoods, a builder and developer in the Tampa Bay, FL ... recently won the coveted Aurora Award for his Glencairn Cottages project.
These green and energy-efficient model homes, which are built off site by Nationwide Custom Homes (Martinsville, VA), replicate the old, historic homes seen in Key West, FL, and Charleston, SC. The project won the award for the best development on less than 100 acres
... the 2+ Weekend House is a container house with a difference - it's made with containers manufactured expressly for housing (vs. cargo containers). "As opposed to the other container projects, which mostly feed on the excess of available cargo containers, ConHouse pushes the development of containers manufactured especially for housing and office purposes."
The company's Conhouse (container house) Web site has lots of details:
In the five years since she started her firm ... Kaufmann has made remarkable progress in achieving this mission. Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD) has built 33 green, modular homes to date, mostly on the West Coast.... Thirty employees buzz busily around the firm's Oakland, Calif., headquarters, which possesses the same design sensibilities as its houses: clean lines; simple, yet high-quality materials; and an overall sense of calm and order.
Since 2006, the firm has built many projects in its own factory, mkConstructs, in Lakewood, Wash.... "Now we're taking what we've learned in all the construction phases and applying that to our designs," says Paul Warner, AIA, a principal at MKD.
Orca Yapı began work on the design in 2006. A project request from Sudan required the company to design a steel-structured prefabricated home unit, with a two-year guarantee, that could endure temperatures ranging from plus 50 degrees to minus 50 degrees Celsius. The company added their own requirement of earthquake durability, making it more attractive in the domestic market. The design's first thumbs-up came from the Ministry of Public Works whose tests revealed the house to be durable in earthquakes reaching 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Sustainability and earthquake durability aside, the real draw for the unit is the cost.... The baseline cost for a unit, which does not include any alternative energy production methods like the active solar power water heating system that is installed on the show model in Kocaeli, is $295 per square meter.
That comes out to about $27.50 a square foot. That's in Turkey; I wonder how much it would cost to build the same home here.
The company website is in Turkish, but they do have a video page that's worth a look.
... uses wheat and rice straw that is normally burned or ploughed under, and builds it into a panel that delivers R-25, not as good as a styrofoam SIP but pretty good and in a form that gives you a tight envelope.
We're still catching up on news from last month. Here's a story worth covering:
Homes for Our Troops is a non-profit organization that provides homes to military personnel with severe injuries or disabilities sustained in active-duty wartime. Tidewater Modular Homes of Virginia Beach teamed up with Nationwide to provide the house for Bartlett, which will be set on its foundation in Chesapeake on Veteran’s Day Nov. 11.
Bartlett, who lives in Norfolk, came to Martinsville on Wednesday for a reception at Nationwide. He toured his future home in progress, stepping through the rooms on a $110,000 pair of prosthetic legs.
His new modular home is 1,475 sf and handicapped-accessible.
With partners, I own land in a remote part of California. It has wild beauty, and some need of environmental restoration. Our first years there were spent in basic infrastructure such as water and road. To be there on a more regular basis, though, we needed to not spend hours setting up and tearing down a tent each time we visited. My partners built a yurt. I am building a house framed by shipping containers.
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:
Overview, including a list of "not its", ie. containers that she did not choose
there is far more romance in the idea of a shipping container home than the actuality of building one. Working with metal is a pain. You need to know metal-working skills or someone who has them. It is dangerous to work with power tools of course, but angle grinders and welders are especially not for the faint of heart. I am of course happy with the result, but this has been harder work than I imagined, and I didn't do the hardest labor.
If you are interested in shipping container homes, or considering building one yourself, Kathy's site is a must-visit.
The winners of the second annual Lifecycle Building Challenge (LBC2 or LBC 2008) were announced recently. About the challenge:
Lifecycle building is designing buildings to facilitate disassembly and material reuse to minimize waste, energy consumption, and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Also known as design for disassembly and design for deconstruction, lifecycle building describes the idea of creating buildings that are stocks of resources for future buildings.
Given those goals, it's no surprise that the three winners in the Building category are prefab:
TriPod by Carnegie Mellon University
TriPod is a prototype house demonstrating the "Plug and Play" concept and is designed to provide an innovative alternative to the currently unimaginative housing industry. ... [A] mechanical "core" ... acts as a motherboard that is able [to] accept multiple "pods" that are living, cooking, and sleeping spaces. This modular design allows homeowners to change their homes by adding or subtracting pods to suit their needs over time.
The Workshop by Schemata Workshop
There are two units in the building — in the first iteration the first story is an office; the second is an apartment. The building is elevated on concrete piers and cantilevers over an existing structure on-site
For more than a century, architects and builders have strived toward a prefabricated, industrialized house, one made in a factory so that economies of scale would be realized and the product would be affordable to all home buyers.
It's worth remembering that the current "stick built" process was itself an important innovation, "prefabricating" the basic components:
Until the 1830s, most houses in America were built with post and beam framing. All the pieces were hand-hewn and held in place with complex joinery, and home building was a time-consuming, costly process. Around then, however, steam-driven saws that could produce large quantities of accurately sized building lumber and machines that made huge quantities of iron nails began to appear in the larger cities.
An enterprising Chicago building contractor, George Washington Snow, saw the potential for these new products to revolutionize the building industry. He devised a method of framing that was much faster and far less costly.
One step forward in the meantime: panels (6% of homes built in the US in 2007).
the 2-by-4 stud walls sometimes are assembled in factories and hauled to a job site, an approach called panelizing.
A bigger step: modular (3% of homes built in the US in 2007).
a method of building in a factory an entire conventional wood-framed house in sections, loading each one onto a flatbed trailer, trucking it to a job site and then setting it in place with a crane.
Read the whole article for a few details on pros, cons, and possible futures.
Here's an interesting modular development that was announced last month:
Haven Custom Homes ... and Sanctuary Communities have begun construction on the first home in Sanctuary Village, a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) located in the western mountains of North Carolina ...
Sanctuary Village will be a walkable, mixed-use village that will encompass 24 acres of multi-generational living with mansion flats, village houses, tree houses, mountain cottages and a civic/commercial component that will include shops, cafes, book stores, cultural events and community gathering spots a short stroll from homes.
a comprehensive planning system that includes a variety of housing types and land uses in a defined area. The variety of uses permits educational facilities, civic buildings and commercial establishments to be located within walking distance of private homes...
Haven Custom Homes emphasizes the advantages of building "in an off-site, climate controlled environment where the materials used in your home are protected from the weather."
Precision construction resulting in straight walls, square corners, fitted windows and flat ceilings.
Extra reinforcements in bearing walls.
Move in 16-23 weeks after execution of a contract and your approval of final drawings and finish schedules.
Two weeks ago, the Christian Science Monitor featured Everhouse, a simple design meant to address the post-hurricane housing shortage near the Gulf Coast:
700,000 homes damaged ... and 250,000 homes destroyed
The designer of Everhouse looked to the advantages of prefabrication to help.
To keep costs down, the components of an Everhouse are made by a factory in Palatka, Fla., and then delivered to the land where each unit will be built. And like a desk from Ikea, the pieces arrive with all the necessary materials included...
They opted for a “panelized” design, because the concrete panels are easy to transport and give both the designer and homeowner a good amount of flexibility in house plans.
Key benefit: the shell can be assembled in one day.
The company hopes to produce 1,500 homes per year.
designers: John Sawyer and Harold McKenna
size: 1,300 sf
notes: price is about half the cost of traditional affordable housing in the area
Sawyer also sees a shortage of skilled construction labor in the region. Read the article for his proposed solution.
Inspired by the house that Charles and Ray Eames created in 1949 from a prefabricated steel frame and doors, windows and the like ordered from a catalog, the architects took the project on the condition that they could pursue a novel strategy. Besides using acrylic, Panelite, recycled steel and Styrofoam, they would try unusual ingredients like sunflower husks for wall panels and bookshelves, and blue jeans (for insulation).
Some facts about the house:
4,200 square feet
30 feet high (due to zoning)
took 3 years to plan and construct the entire project
Final construction cost:
$528,000, only about a third of the going rate for architect-designed houses of this size in the Los Angeles area.
That comes out to about $125/sf. Not bad.
Check out a slideshow of the house (13 pictures). Read the entire article for more details.
Good Morning America's weather anchor, Sam Champion, recently reported from the Smart Home: Green and Wired exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Check out their video and pictures. Though not mentioned there, the Smart Home is the mkSolaire by Michelle Kaufmann Designs.
The exhibit runs through January 4, 2009. (See our earlier post for more info.)
Back in March, Swedish designer Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture and developer Emrahus presented six prefabricated "passive" homes at the Hem & Villa housing fair in Malmö, Sweden, with a second presentation last month.
Here's a paraphrase from Google's translation of the Emrahus home page:
The reason that we no longer need a heat source is that the house has well insulated walls and ceiling ... which retains the heat generated by household appliances, lights, TV set, and people who live in the house.
The Swiss Architecture Museum included the home in an exhibition last year:
The Casa Grossi in Monte Carasso (2000-04) is particularly interesting. It is a narrow, rectangular building, a dwelling on the fringe of the building zone. This minimalist structure, clad with prefabricated concrete elements, conveys an impression of being hermetically sealed to the outside world, but surprises us with an atrium inside - serving as both a stairwell and an access core - lit from a roof light on the 2nd floor.
Here's some background information on prefabricated concrete wall panels from an excellent reference site called the Whole Building Design Guide.
Architectural precast concrete has been used since the early twentieth century and came into wide use in the 1960s. The exterior surface of precast concrete can vary from an exposed aggregate finish that is highly ornamental to a form face finish.... Some precast panels act as column covers while others extend over several floors in height and incorporate window openings...
In general, prefabricated concrete wall panels can serve one of two purposes:
Precast cladding or curtain walls are the most common use of precast concrete for building envelopes. These types of precast concrete panels do not transfer vertical loads but simply enclose the space. They are only designed to resist wind, seismic forces generated by their own weight, and forces required to transfer the weight of the panel to the support....
Load-bearing wall units resist and transfer loads from other elements and cannot be removed without affecting the strength or stability of the building.
It's not clear whether the Casa Grossi wall panels are load bearing.
materialicious covers a different sort of prefab product that's been around for a while. From the company site:
The Igloo Satellite Cabin is designed to provide safe, reliable accommodation in remote areas. It has been used for over 25 years in conditions ranging from the tropics to polar icecaps. Units can be flown by helicopter fully assembled, and often fully equipped, to locations inaccessible by road transport. Igloos are ideal short-term accommodation for exploration and research, as well as an attractive alternative for eco-tourism.
Igloos can be lengthened to six or more metres by adding sets of extension panels, or interlinked by tunnels to provide a complete weatherproof base.
The Australian Antarctic Division has a bit more info on the history of the cabins:
2007 marked the 25th year since the first fibreglass Igloo Satellite Cabin was designed and manufactured in Tasmania. As at January 2008, 159 Igloos had been purchased by 45 institutes and individuals in 18 countries, with the majority for use in Antarctica.
Inspired by the natural beauty found in rural structures in the american landscapes, the mkHearth™ home is a sustainable approach to the modern farmhouse. With flowing spaces that organically open to one another, the mkHearth™ home revolves around the center hearth space, a fireplace/cabinetry that circulates up the 3 stories.
Kaufmann's signature touches are evident in the clean, modern lines, and the way each room seamlessly flows into the next.
The one thing we always love about each of Kaufmann's designs is that they look like the perfect place to throw a party. The kitchen always opens to the dining room, to the living room, to outdoor space. The mkHearth is no exception.
Bridgette Steffen covered the house for Inhabitat's Prefab Friday:
We always love seeing hot designers come out with their next hit– and Michelle Kaufmann’s new mkHearth is likely to be the new hot prefab design.
A real estate agent and a mortgage broker are co-hosting a seminar on modernist prefab next month in the San Francisco Bay Area:
This unique engagement will bring together leading professionals and experts in the field of building, design, real estate, and finance. Anyone who is contemplating the possibility of building a modernist prefab or custom home in Marin County should try to attend this event. Attendance is extremely limited and attendees will be selected on a first registered, first accepted basis.
Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article on West Coast Green's showhome, the Harbinger House from SG Blocks LLC:
What makes this year's showcase home different from the prefab modular model seen last year [MKD's mkLotus] in San Francisco is not all the green bells and whistles ... it's the actual framework of the house that is truly innovative. This year's showstopper is made from five 40-foot-long shipping containers that once roamed the high seas
The article repeated a comment we've seen a few times:
a layman can't tell that, underneath its sleek lines, Harbinger was once a collection of lowly shipping crates
The advantages of shipping containers?
They're made of heavy-gauge steel, which holds up nicely in a hurricane or earthquake, but is usually too expensive to use in construction. [SG Blocks] gets the containers cheap - $500 to $2,000 a pop - because the fuel costs to ship them back empty to China or other places overseas are prohibitive. Because of the United States' huge trade imbalance, there are many empty containers lying around.
made from 5 shipping containers
1,700 square feet
about 5% less expensive than building in wood or other conventional materials
can be built 40% faster
SG Blocks facts:
founder: David Cross
location: St. Louis
has built 6 single-family homes in the US (designed by Lawrence Group)
400-unit elder-care facility in Oceanside, CA will be unveiled soon
Each will discuss their unique modular programs and successes with this chosen method of construction, particularly as an affordable and environmentally-friendly solution to land vacancy and community revitalization.
Mini house is a “friggebod” concept which brings some fun and excitement to a dull and conservative market. The concept means prefabrication, flat-pack delivery and weekend-long build-up! Building a house should be fun and easy. Kind of like putting together an Ikea cabinet!
(As best we can tell, friggebod means garden hut or shed.)
Tonight (Oct. 16) from 7:00-10:00 pm is opening night for A Clean Break: "An exhibition of modern prefab architecture and high-design, low-waste innovations for the urban environment."
The full exhibition runs from Oct. 17-30. Their description:
... a pop-up neighborhood of modern and sustainable design with an emphasis on modular and prefabricated homes. The outdoor exhibition offers full-scale homes to tour, installations by architects, urban farming, transportation, environmentally-friendly furniture, public art and other high-design, low-waste products.
See our Oct. 1 post (linked below) for more details.
Green homes are in demand. Buying a green home, however, can be a mystifying, exasperating process. With all the various green home labels and certifications available, buyers want for a way to compare the sustainability of one for-sale home to another. Applying a universal sustainability label to homes, just as we apply nutrition labels to food, would answer this need and further encourage the growth of the green housing market...
By coincidence, we just read an article in Green Building Elements that suggests France already has a good start. The article covers the EvolutiV house by designer Olgga Architectes:
The media in France AND the architecture firm who designed the house feel compelled to advertise efficiency in terms of a single number that is easy to understand and can be used to compare this home to others one might choose. I’ve rarely if ever seen that in discussion of US prefab options (or other green homes) - outside of a LEED rating, we’re often left to guess exactly how eco-friendly that home is. We’d love to see this become more widespread in the US - information is power, and simple, objective numbers like this can help us separate the truly eco-friendly from innovative designs that are green in name (or advertising) only.
Clayton Homes is holding a Showcase of Homes at the Triad Center in Greensboro, NC this weekend, October 10-12. From the press release:
Literally, Clayton Homes constructs a temporary neighborhood in the parking lot of The Triad Center, fully adorned with sidewalks, landscaping, mailboxes and street signs. The Showcase of Homes provides an opportunity for people to tour a variety of manufactured homes and see how dramatically the homes have changed in recent years.
What to expect:
20 new, fully-furnished homes on display
hot dogs, drinks and popcorn
$100 gas card drawings each half hour
Clayton CEO Kevin Clayton explains:
Our unofficial motto is 'Best Home -- Best Price' and we take that very seriously.
It has been his mission since taking over as CEO ten years ago to produce manufactured housing that surpasses site-built homes in look, quality, and value.
Clayton Homes produces both "manufactured" and "modular" housing. These terms have a specific meaning in the industry, part of which is covered on their website:
Manufactured Home: Built entirely in the factory under federal code administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).... Covers single or multi-section homes and includes transport to the site and installation.
The industry stopped using the term "mobile home" (and presumably "trailer home") when the HUD code became effective June 15, 1976. Not mentioned: manufactured homes do NOT qualify for a traditional mortgage, in part because the homes tend to lose value every year.
Modular Home: Built to state, local or regional code where the home will be located. System-built homes are transported to sites and installed.
These homes are built to the same standards as conventional "site-built" homes and qualify for a standard mortgage. (In fact they are often somewhat stronger in order to survive transportation and installation by crane.)
At least one home in the Showcase had 2 stories (see above), so it appears that a mix of both types will be shown.
More about Clayton Homes:
owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway
recent news coverage outlines how they've avoided the current sub-prime issues
Inhabitat visited and gave a full review. I found this quote about containers particularly interesting:
The same local skilled workers who repair the containers are hired to repurpose them into house modules, which can then be easily shipped on trains. This process translates into a miniscule transportation footprint and blazingly fast build times: “when you deliver the finished components to site, you can install up to 12 containers using one crane in one day - that’s the equivalent of a 5,000 square foot house that is set in place in one day”.
West Coast Green had a contest in the naming of the house. The winner, Gregory Schaefer, came up with "Harbinger House", saying:
'By definition, a harbinger is something which allows us to see the future, a foretelling, a symbolic event or bridge. I think we usually are aware of these in hindsight, but here, today we can clearly see the future. The Harbinger House is a model of sustainable design that needs recognition for its forward thinking vision and creativity.'
A blog called Greenlight has some interesting news:
The Japanese electronics giant has assembled a strategic plan to start making modular homes in about three to five years that will combine green construction along with sophisticated electronics to curb energy consumption.
While the energy savings ideas are new, Panasonic "already has a construction division that makes modular homes in Japan."
Though not likely to be coming to the US anytime soon:
the U.S. could be the last market it approaches...
Sidekick specializes in ADUs, or accessory dwelling units. They're anti-McMansions, small — sometimes tiny — living quarters built for backyards of existing homes, typically for aging relatives. Hence, they’re sometimes called "mother-in-law" or "granny" flats.
That's a great niche for modular construction.
The article included some local details:
One complication for the backyard ADU business is that zoning rules vary among municipalities and neighborhoods. ....
"They’re promoted by cities like Arvada [Colorado] as a way to help with the affordable housing issue and the issue of housing the aging population, which are both coming together pretty strongly right now," Kephart says.
In Denver, ADUs are allowed only in neighborhoods zoned for mixed use, such as Stapleton...
price: $75,000 - $200,000
size: 400 - 1160 square feet
owner Michael Kephart launched Sidekick Homes early this spring
The best part:
They're ... pre-built and trucked from the factory to the home site with everything from the ceiling fixtures to the kitchen counters intact.
From October 17 to 30, a temporary prefab “neighborhood” in Philadelphia will offer an optimistic view of what a revitalized city might look like in the near future. A Clean Break, curated by Minima Gallery, will be a central event of DesignPhiladelphia, an annual series of lectures, studio tours, and exhibitions organized by the Design Center at Philadelphia University.
Last week, NPR covered MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition. The story shared many of the same details we've already reported. However, one new tidbit was the mention of a large prefab project going up in Brooklyn:
On a former landfill in the reedy seaboard of southern Brooklyn, where ocean breezes gently stroke the air, the sound of power tools splinters the morning silence.... the first phase of the Nehemiah Spring Creek affordable housing development.
Spring Creek looks like any construction project, built the conventional way. But the town houses lining these just-paved streets aren't actually built on site. They were trucked in, arriving at the site in almost move-in condition...
The town houses are prefabricated, manufactured miles away in a vast warehouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then they are brought here whole on a flat-bed truck at night, when they won't interfere too much with New York City traffic...
The online article and accompanying audio are worth a visit.
Earlier this month on her New York Times blog, Allison Arieff posted a well-argued commentary on MoMA's Home Delivery show:
The puzzling thing about "Home Delivery" is its focus on homes that you can’t actually have delivered. The exhibition is chock full of gorgeous and historically significant architectural drawings and models, but the curatorial agenda of the show is muddled.
...it’s hard to understand the decision to exclude from the exhibit the small but significant group of architects who are actually producing prefab homes on a significant scale today.
In contrast, Arieff liked the Whitney Museum's now-closed show on housing pioneer Buckminster Fuller:
Eccentric to be sure, this visionary couldn’t have been more prescient with his concerns about the way we live.... In contrast, "Home Delivery" has tons of cool stuff to look at, but it really does feel odd that a show about homes has so little to say about the experience of actually living in one.
I'm sorry that we missed that one.
Read the full post for more details; Arieff knows the field.
materialicious moved from materialicio.us to materialicious.com. They've been reposting old content and adding some new content.
Jetson Green's guest post on affordable, green prefabs sparked a few responses around the web. Treehugger's Lloyd Alter concluded:
If Jim Kunstler is right and the American suburban experiment is dead, then there will be lots of cheap labor about and prefab is pretty much dead too- it will never be competitive.
But at some point when the housing market returns and there are banks that lend money, people are going to demand the quality and consistency that comes from a factory. That's why cars aren't built in driveways.
Unlike Ludeman, I'm not ready to give up on prefabrication just yet. I still think there's promise in the idea of prefabricated green, especially in the mainstream and affordable housing markets. As for green modernist housing, the benefits of prefabrication may never come through for such a relatively small market.
If its ease of construction doesn’t amaze you, consider the aluminum frame and structural polycarbonate floor plates. Or the easy bolt connections that facilitated the easy assembly and the available built-in environmentally-friendly features, and then you just might be wondering if you covet the ingenuity behind these homes.
This month's Conscious Choice, "an enlightened urban lifestyle magazine," examines Prefab 2.0 in a recent article:
Judging by magazines, museums and word of mouth, you might think we were in a prefab housing Golden Age.
You’d be wrong — but not by much. Yes, prefab housing is getting more attention than it has for decades. And yes, beautiful prefab homes are on display at museums and design exhibitions. But just because they’ve built them doesn’t mean homeowners are coming in droves. Instead, only about 100 homeowners live in prefab homes in the U.S....
(One quibble: the estimate of 100 is only true based on a narrow definition, e.g. modernist prefab built in the last few years. We take a much broader view of prefab.)
The article included several profiles from around the US:
Prefab is an interesting idea and like any good academic, Chris Conley wanted to put the theory to a test. So when he and his family set out to build a weekend home in Libertyville, they decided to be their own guinea pigs.
Designer: the homeowner, Chris Conley
The one-story house has turned out to be the home of their dreams. The house came out on time and on budget.
Logistically, they were hoping that building the house in the factory would save time and money. But it didn’t quite work out that way, says Morrow. Getting the permits and doing the finish work, like building a screened-in porch and attaching the four modules to one another, took the same amount of time as any other house.
"We wanted high-quality and enduring style," says [homeowner] Haney. "What we weren't prepared for was the quality of the house. I have built several houses and this is by far the best quality home I've ever lived in. It's fabulous. When you build on-site, there's little quality control. The individual contractors are all supposed to do their jobs, but the overall aesthetic is almost left to chance. In a factory, you have quality control at every step."
Apartment Therapy Chicago looked at Werner Sobek's R128 and H16 homes:
These structures aren't available through a manufacturer; they're custom homes designed using lightweight, modular parts. The "prefab" part of these homes lies in their skillful engineering. R218 (shown above) is made from 100% recyclable, easy-to-assemble mortise and tenon joints and bolted joints, while the H16 is made from prefabricated architectural concrete...
And Apartment Therapy New York caught The New York Times' coverage of "high-style sheds":
The focus of the story is on the immediate gratification of prefab sheds ...
Prior to the New York Times' articles, Treehugger wrote about friggebods, or Swedish garden sheds:
Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter have designed a lovely little 100 square foot cabin/office/guest room prefab that is lovely to look at.
The dome offers individuals the opportunity to build their own high quality homes, coming with pre-built wooden sections, ready to assemble on either a concrete or timber plinth. Once on site, the dome houses take only one day to raise and seal, and for domes less than 50 square foot, no crane is needed to complete construction.
On Wednesday, The New York Times filed a pair of articles on small homes. The first, specifically covered prefab sheds:
Tiny, high-style prefabricated sheds like the Kithaus have received a great deal of attention over the last year, with admiring coverage in design blogs and magazines, and roughly four times more companies producing them now than five years ago. So far, the market is still small, though a tipping point of sorts may have been reached this year, when Design Within Reach began selling the Kithaus, along with furnishing packages to turn it into an instant office, bedroom, pool house or den.
... spaces that are smaller than 1,000 square feet and, in some cases, smaller than 100. Tiny houses have been a fringe curiosity for a decade or more, but devotees believe the concept’s time has finally arrived.
Michael Gibson recently finished a building prototype that utilizes prefabrication techniques in a way that has never been done before....
Gibson's plan included two standard prefab walls and two experimental walls he called lattice walls that were made of plywood instead of the standard dimensional lumber, which he said wastes materials. The lattice walls also used less material because of an assembly form called nesting, in which several lightweight boards nest together in a V-shaped fashion.
"The beautiful thing about the lattice walls and how they nested together was that they used less nuts and bolts," Gibson said. "They were also very lightweight, and the pressure from the roof was pretty evenly distributed, which prevented the structure from racking."
Most of the companies we track use a small number of accepted framing techniques. Some use SIPs:
Escape to the beach, the mountains or the trees in San Francisco-based Kyu Che’s sustainable Lifepod. Loosely based on the traditional Mongolian ger (or ‘yurt’ as the Russian translation goes), the Lifepod is at once organic and high-tech. Built to be highly portable, the Lifepod is a fully functioning, off-the-grid mini capsule for modern nomadic living.
Shedworking reported that Alchemy Architects are considering bringing their weeHouses to the UK:
Mark Ramuz from Garden2office is talking to them about the possibility of bringing over the smallest of their buildings if there is enough interest.
We have now included more and lowered our prices! 2,000 SF weeHouses with Good Stuff are around $125/SF or less, leaving you extra coins to put into your site.
Old pricing was in the $150/SF range, so it's quite a drop. Actual pricing depends on your part of the country.
Order a weeHouse SMALL with an off-grid Solar Package before November 1, 2008 for only $99,000 [$109,000 for CA and other states west of Colorado]. Outfitted with Fusion's 720W AC Energy Kit, you only need to provide the foundation, well, and septic to have a completely finished retreat.
Higher capacity solar kits are available for larger homes. For details: FusionModular.com.
Well, not exactly "this week", more like "the last two weeks." Here's all the news from while I was away on vacation.
Earlier this month, architecture blog Contemporist covered some minimal prefabs from Swedish company Arkitekthus:
Their goal is to bring good design to a larger market that otherwise could not afford an architect designed home.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at Travelodge's shipping container hotel in England:
The completed design uses eighty-six containers of various sizes that were retrofitted into bedrooms and bolted together onsite. The exterior has been clad and fitted with windows, thus converting the assemblage into a seamless 120-bedroom hotel.
The Washington Post discussed MoMA's Home Delivery show earlier this week, leading with a quite provocative line:
The architect who masters prefabricated housing -- how to make homes that are well designed, mass-produced, affordable and easy to build -- may well go down in history as the Last Architect.
Got my attention, at least. The article continues with the prodding:
As a fascinating and important new Museum of Modern Art exhibition, "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling," makes clear, they have mostly failed. But if anyone ever succeeds, perhaps the grand challenge of domestic architecture would be over -- time's up, pencils down.
The article makes many such observations and poses a few questions:
The paradox of the prefab dream, which began with proles in boxes, is that it lingers in the bourgeois craving for luxury goods and second houses.
And so does prefab turn out to be just another designer accessory, not so different from Louis Vuitton handbags or Prada shoes, industrial status symbols that are basically the same from unit to unit? Is it true once again that the blessings of modernism, supposedly a gift for the many, are really just a prize for the few?
Some specific thoughts on the homes in the show:
the ridiculously small confines of the Micro Compact House will [not] leave you with any desire to live there.
the System3 project ... is a compelling piece of architecture by any standard.... Stand in the System3 for a few moments, and you want to live here.
"Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling" will leave you honestly conflicted, dubious about where history has brought the prefab dream. And more than ready to move into a prefab castle, just as soon as you can buy a nice plot of land and muster the down payment...
What do our readers think about The Posts's observations? Have most of prefab's early practitioners failed? Is prefab just a "prize for the few?"
While reading the full article, be sure to check out the accompanying slideshow.
From Materialicio.us, here's a useful tip for those interested in MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition:
I just went to see the show myself this past monday, and I put the best of the photos I took up on Flickr the next day. I tagged them and yesterday decided to see who else had visited and tagged their photos with “Home Delivery”. I was pleasantly surprised to see many other photos on Flickr. A great way to get a photo tour if you can’t make it to the show.
Witold Rybczynski filed a slideshow report from MoMA's Home Delivery show. In his usually candid style, he gives his impressions of the show, inside and out:
Prefabricated houses have remained an elusive goal for architects, and the MoMA show is a stylish litany of second-place finishers, also-rans, if-onlys, and downright losers.
I'd dare to say that just being included in the MoMA show makes each of the featured projects a first-place, upright winner, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, back to Witold:
After considering some 500 firms, the museum chose younger, lesser-known architects, and the range of solutions demonstrates both a sense of enthusiasm and a variety of novel prefabrication technologies.
The design, fabrication, and construction are seamlessly integrated, and the various pieces are automatically ordered from the fabricator to suit the design as it is entered into the architect's computer. If there is a Next Big Idea in prefabrication, this may be it.
For the rest of Rybczynski's thoughts and some great photos, check out the whole slideshow at Slate.
The Christian Science Monitor took a look at modular homes last week, focusing on the green qualities:
This summer, two exhibitions of modular houses – at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – are putting a spotlight on how off-site building techniques can shrink the carbon footprint of a new house.
The article cites a number of reasons why building in the factory is a good idea:
finish construction usually takes a few weeks, not months, saving energy by requiring fewer trips to the job site by construction workers
by building indoors, workers can also more easily make sure that energy-saving features like insulation are carefully and properly installed for maximum effectiveness
individual home-building companies may not have the resources to keep current on the latest "high-performance building" techniques ... but modular homes can have state-of-the-art environmental design built into them at the factory
The unit was recently showcased in a Los Angeles event that explored its possibilities as a guest house, yoga studio, and home office. Want to make your new guest bedroom a Rincon 5? The basic unit costs $223,000 to be built, delivered and installed, plus the price of whichever upgrades you think your guests will appreciate most.
Materialicio.us noted that the price of the OMD showhouse in Venice has been reduced. The home (without the lot) was originally listed at $295,000, and then reduced to $259,000. Now:
At its core, the 1,700 sqft two-story home will be made of reused shipping containers, which will make construction, in any environment, sustainable, fast, and safe.
Being built right on the tradeshow floor, the home will open to a series of outdoor living spaces and decks, showcasing a dramatic outdoor kitchen ... and a stunning garden of native and naturalized plants and mature olive trees.
It's a 1700 sf container home, but you probably can't tell just by looking. Sustainability will be number one, with GreenPoint and LEED certification in the plans. Plus, it seems that ecofabulous will be doing the interior design work, so the home, you can believe, will be modish, posh, and green.
This year's West Coast Green building conference and expo comes to San Jose, California at the end of September:
You’ll find over 380 exhibitors showcasing the latest in resource-efficiency among a stunning array of green and healthy building products. Over 100 experts and visionary leaders will be presenting their latest developments, insights, and inspiration at the expanding frontiers of the field.
While there aren't many prefab-specific agenda items worth noting, the conference's educational agenda includes a presentation by Michelle Kaufmann on "The Art of Mass Customization".
everything in and about the 2,500-square-foot home on exhibit just outside of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has been designed to show the public how easy it can be to incorporate environmental sustainability into their own abodes.
Michelle Kaufmann commented on her hopes for the exhibit:
"We tried to look for ideas in every choice that we make in our homes ... hoping that everyone who goes through it will be inspired to make some change on some level.... Some people will walk away and want to do an entire new home, or some people will think when they go for their towels next and go for organic linens."
Some of the many features of the home:
half the energy of traditional homes
a third of the water of traditional homes
water from the bathroom sink is diverted to the toilet
a bicycle in the children's bedroom must be pedaled for 30 minutes to charge a battery to power video games
Visitors receive a resource guide that tells about the function of each feature, how they're assembled and where they can be purchased.
e-OCULUS, the blog for the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, criticized MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition:
Even though digital fabrication is interesting, I believe there is so much more that goes into prefab housing today than mass production. The eras represented in the exhibition are coming together to create contemporary prefabrication that exists out of necessity, invention, experimentation, as well as digital design. If MoMA had chosen to include examples of buildings that are built, or at least in planning phases ... the exhibition would have more relevance and urgency needed to put the many current prefab ideas into production.
Inhabitat had a double Prefab Friday. First, they linked to ScribeMedia's video from MoMA, seen above:
Chock full of interviews with architects and led by Chief Curator of Architecture & Design Barry Bergdoll, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in a current survey of the potential of prefabricated housing.
...it would be easy to miss this deceptively simple, yet elegant house nestled into the surrounding countryside. But once you have reached this beautiful abode designed by Sean Godsell it’s hard to forget it.
Through the use of state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM), the architects were able to streamline the design-build process. Thousands of parts were collapsed and integrated into a few dozen panels and blocks that slid into an aluminum frame set on wooden pylons. Consisting of 70 percent prefabricated components, the kit-of-parts house was assembled (mostly with a wrench) and lifted into place on-site in less than six weeks.
Marmol Radziner + Associates released a new monograph last month. Written by firm principles Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner, the book also features a foreword by Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker. From publisher Princeton Architectural Press:
If you design some of the most stylish and beautiful modern houses in the Los Angeles area, including many for celebrity clients, how do you ensure that the projects are built to the standards you, and your patrons, demand? If you're the highly sought-after firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates, you do what an increasing number of practices are doing: become your own contractor, building your projects with the same rigor and beauty with which they were designed, and, in the process, remake your firm into one of the most visible and successful design-build firms in the country....
[The book] explains in detail how this pioneering design-build firm — one of the few led by architects — has managed to integrate building–installation, construction, and fabrication into one seamless design process.
Very interesting -- though apparently not headed to the US. From an article in the Wall Street Journal:
Best known for its top-selling cars like the Prius and Corolla, Toyota is looking to apply its ecofriendly image and technical know-how to help boost sales of its small and little-known prefabricated-housing division.
Unbeknownst to most of us, Toyota prefabs have been around for awhile:
Since 1975, Toyota has been building steel-frame houses designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons and keep out burglars.
The tie-in with Toyota's vehicles is certainly interesting:
Toyota's aspirations as a home builder are also gaining new importance with the planned launch by 2010 of its plug-in vehicles, gas-electric hybrid cars with powerful lithium-ion batteries that drivers will need to recharge at home. The car maker is testing an electricity-monitoring system in its homes that would charge the vehicle during off-peak hours to keep utility bills low, while the car's battery can serve as an electrical backup, powering the home during blackouts.
I can't help but quote this imagery:
At the Kasugai Housing Works in central Japan, one of Toyota's three prefab-housing factories, an assembly line of robots, conveyor belts and helmeted workers produced a steady flow of rectangular steel-framed cubicles finished with staircases, kitchen cupboards, bathtubs and toilets.
The timeline sounds right:
Most Toyota homes are made from six or more of these large cubicles, which are assembled -- like Legos -- on the building site. From its start on the factory floor to its final completion on site, a Toyota home can be built in 45 days, less than half the time it takes for contractors to build a typical wooden-frame home, Toyota says.
Other than what it called a one-time "experiment" building a development of 50 homes near its truck plant in San Antonio in 2006, Toyota says it has no ambitious plans to build homes outside Japan.
The company's past sales leave much room for expansion, within Japan and abroad:
5,000 units in 2006
4,600 units in 2007
I couldn't find an official Toyota Homes Website, just this little tidbit from Toyota's homepage.
Read the whole article for some housing issues that are specific to Japan.
...I sell detailed designs, plus a list of materials that customers can have shipped from nearby facilities, including Trussway for building supplies and Ikea for cabinets. I was the general contractor for the first three homes, which will be on sale in Houston this summer. Eventually I'll charge $3,000 to $7,000 for the list and drawings.
But marveling at the architecture is not the point of BURST*. Ultimately, the structure puts the emphasis on nature: The house’s rear elevation unfurls in a cascade of bleacher-style seating, all the better to sit and enjoy the view—out.
When Sears started selling kit houses by mail in 1908, the company promised that a man of average abilities could assemble any of the models in the catalog — from a small gabled cottage to a roomy Dutch colonial....
Exactly one century later, Houston architect Brett Zamore is bringing kit homes back.
Zamore assumes that the average man or woman of today has neither the desire nor the ability to assemble a home. That's why Zamore Homes will gather the materials, coordinate delivery and manage the construction process....
Some homes are local:
Zamore is just finishing construction on three kit houses in Houston's West End, on Center near Thompson.
Mississippi native Karen Parker ... mother of six lost her Biloxi home to Hurricane Katrina ... selected Zamore's design and finally moved into her 1,400-square-feet home this past January.
The article provides a good working definition of "prefab":
In the strictest terms, prefabricated homes are built and assembled in a factory and then shipped to the property. In a larger sense, the term could also apply to homes with prefabricated parts that are assembled on site.
Zamore Homes models fall into the latter category.
In all, there are seven designs, in sizes that reach 2,200 square feet. But the KIT05 can grow as large as the homeowner wants.
Bloomberg Television's James Russell reviewed the exhibition:
... a wildly ambitious display of the pleasures and peculiarities of prefabricated houses. The prototypes, augmented inside the museum by a rich history of the genre, capture both the earnestness of architecture's obsession with industrial technique and its faith in technology as an agent of progress.
Read the whole thing for some specific criticism -- and possible upside.
The New York Times profiledBURST*08 and architects Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier. The path to realizing the home was not an easy one:
... arranging all the parts into the right piles so they could just be snapped into place at MoMA turned into a logistical nightmare lasting weeks rather than days. While they sorted, the 15 or so architecture students on hand were trying to reassure the contractors about a model that looked as sturdy as a collapsible fan. As for the architects, they were running back and forth to their offices, scrambling to update the drawings and struggling to raise money.
The full chronicle of the home's construction is worth a read, but sadly, it sounds like we won't be seeing future prefabs from the pair:
For the two architects, however, the success is bittersweet. After nine years their partnership has ended. “This is our last project together,” Mr. Edmiston said.
New York Magazine's architecture critic also reviewed the show:
This sporadically exciting but ultimately diffuse show begins indoors, on the sixth floor, and sidles up on the present by way of the past. It opens, brilliantly, with both....an exhibit that can’t quite decide whether prefabrication should be treated with irony or exuberance.
...Method Homes' first foray into green prefab is met with success as the home is complete -- it looks gorgeous and exudes the company's "Down to Earth Prefab" tagline. The cabin home is currently available for tours and, if you like it, you can place an order for your own.
The first prefab cabin by Seattle-based Method Homes (completed in 3 months) is based on a flexible template that allows for a full range of customization.
We'll take a more in depth look at both companies soon.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at two different unconventional prefabs. First, they covered strange treehouses from Our Planet Retreats:
Our Planet Retreats, an innovative UK-based company, is building eco-resorts in gorgeous pristine locations like the Phillipines, Vanatu, and Papua New Guinea. Visiting guests stay in simple floating spheres in the trees that are reached by spiral stairs. Crafted from fiberglass and built by locals, each sphere can accommodate up to 4 people.
HOME DELIVERY is an impressive narrative about both failures and successes of the concept. What is evident in the optics of the MoMA showcase is that prefabricated homes have evolved over the years and now come in astonishing variety and appeal to the most sophisticated expectations.
The blogs were mostly abuzz with news of MoMA's Home Delivery show this week. We'll provide a rundown of coverage early next week.
In other prefab news, Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at a community art center designed and built by Studio804 of the University of Kansas School of Architecture:
...this innovative building uses modular design with the length of long truck trailers as the defining width component measure - an outside the box thinking that makes larger prefab buildings possible.
The New York Times architecture critic provided a glowing review of MoMA's Home Delivery in this morning's paper:
"Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling," which opens on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, is a delightful surprise....In a tour de force Mr. Bergdoll [the show's curator] was able to build five full-scale model houses for the show in a lot just west of the museum. The effect is startling: expressions of a suburban utopian world surrounded by Midtown’s looming skyscrapers.
Mr. Bergdoll has not only managed to track down some unexpected gems, he has also arranged them in a way that allows us to see them with fresh eyes. He makes a convincing case that prefabricated housing was both a central theme of Modernist history and a dream that remains very much alive today.
We've provided extensive coverage of the full-scale homes; this review adds details on the accompanying exhibits:
[the show] presents more than 80 projects, from humble experiments in suburban living to stunning works of cretive imagination.
Here's a sample: (plus some external links we dug up)
wall fragments from architects Rahim, Hina Jamelle, Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto
One Week: "a 1920 Buster Keaton film in which fumbling young newlyweds try to assemble a prefabricated house"
the 1931 Copper House: "designed by the Modernist master Walter Gropius. It was conceived as a system of insulated copper wall panels that could be easily transported and assembled on site in 24 hours."
Each room once folded measures: 4.40m x 2.38m x .468m [14.4' x 7.8' x 1.5']
Compact loading of 18 foldable multi-purpose rooms per truck.
Each room includes most of the comforts one would expect in a hotel:
Ceiling hung with cloth, low voltage lighting, wood flooring, furniture in wood
Area of 12 Sqm [130 sf]
Thermal and acoustic insulation, individual heating and air conditioning system
Individual bathroom with WC, shower and hot water
Abilmo's concept seems to have applications beyond hotel rooms. The concept of reusability is becoming more popular; we've seen a few examples in the past couple years. Most recently, we've reported on the groHome, winner of last year's EPA Lifecycle Building Challenge andKieranTimberlake's Cellophane House. Both of these models embrace the idea of reusable building parts.
Last week, Lloyd Alter wrote about KieranTimberlake's Cellophane House ... which reminded me that we hadn't yet covered it in detail. The home is one of the five in MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition.
Referencing a talk given by Steven Kieran and James Timberlake a few years back, Lloyd explained why the Cellophane House is so exciting:
I saw that prefab wasn't just about building in a factory, but was about reinventing the way we build, not just where.
"Chunking" is what car manufacturers do; they have subassemblies that are put together into modules, and then put together into the finished product. Builders already do a bit of that, buying pre-hung doors and nail-in windows. KieranTimberlake take it to the next level on the Cellophane House.
Here's more info from the KieranTimberlake project page for the home:
Cellophane House is a five-story, offsite fabricated dwelling... The 1800 square-foot residence has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living and dining space, a roof terrace, and a carport.
Like their Loblolly House, this one is designed to be easy to put together and take apart.
Cellophane House relies on a system of customizable elements. An aluminum frame serves as a matrix on which other factory made elements like floors and ceilings, stairs, bathrooms, and mechanical rooms can be attached. The aluminum structural framing is bolted, rather than welded, allowing it to be taken apart as easily as it is assembled. Moreover, this frame allows any of the walls, floors, structure, or envelope to be replaced at any time, without invasive modifications.
They describe the concept using soaring rhetoric:
A building is, at root, nothing more than an assemblage of materials forming an enclosure. We recognize that these materials came from somewhere, are held together for a time by the techniques of construction, and will at some future time transition into another state. While we tend to think of buildings as permanent, they are in fact only a resting state for materials, a temporary equilibrium that is destined to be upset by the entropic forces that drive the physical universe.
I'll give Lloyd the final word (as I'm inclined to agree):
[The Cellophane House is] a demonstration of pushing the technological building envelope to the very edge; like so many things that came out of the space program that are now part of our everyday life, there are ideas here that in ten years will probably be part of every building.
MoMA's Home Delivery show opens a week from tomorrow so it's been getting a lot of attention around the web.
The New York Times added a little article blurb to the slideshow they posted the other day:
Even by New York City standards, it’s quite a sight. On a 17,000-square-foot vacant lot just west of the Museum of Modern Art, a mini-suburb of contemporary houses is being built — practically overnight.
Lloyd Alter of Treehugger wrote a series of posts on the exhibition:
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:
... all of the folks who have stayed so far have been superstars. John and Laura, our first guests, talked with me for an hour on the phone about their visit, and took copious notes. (And have already booked two more weekends!) Chris and Ritamary chipped in one of those wire brush scrubbers for the grill. Ross and Libby sent along a professional-quality blurb and a fancy corkscrew. And Jake, whose Herculean bicycle trip from Pittsburgh to our cabin really cannot be appreciated unless you are a biker.
We don't usually cover non-residential prefabs, but a quick blurb published in the The Times (UK) caught my eye last month:
Work has begun on Britain’s first flat-pack school, which is arriving in a convoy of 20 lorries from a prefab building specialist in Switzerland.
St Agnes CE Primary in Longsight, Manchester, will be built from ready-made wooden frames that cut construction time, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds. Six hundred computer-cut wooden panels will be added, to complete the three-storey building. The biggest panels weigh two tonnes and are 12m (36ft) long.
Manchester's Evening News provided a little more info and the above video:
The panels will be made in a factory near Lausanne in Switzerland which specialises in manufacturing pre-fabricated panels from sustainable forests nearby. Holes for doors, window and sockets are drilled in advance using precise cutting techniques.
Designers say the specially-treated timber joists are even more fire-resistant than steel, which can buckle and break under high temperatures.
Last year we covered a house in the San Francisco area that used a similar system made by Thoma Holz in Austria.
I'm a little obsessed with the progress updates over at MoMa's Home Delivery blog. Not least: several of the videos are great -- but some of their best are hidden behind a proprietary interface.
Try this. In the top right corner of their blog, move your mouse over the image. With luck, a control bar will slide up a bit from the bottom. Click the tiny square icon on the right and notice that the hard-to-read gray text on a light gray background changes. In theory, that means you switched to another video. In practice, it's hard to tell since there's not much action in some of them.
The time-lapse installation videos are definitely worth a look -- though it would be much better if each video was in a separate post that bloggers could link to.
MIT's news office described the work of professor Larry Sass for MoMA's Home Delivery exhibition. (We covered details of his "Digitally Fabricated House for New Orleans" and the MIT yourHOUSE project back in January.)
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday took advantage of the holiday to talk about prefab and migration:
How can architecture reconcile the transborder pressures of providing adequate housing with the inevitable tides of hyper-immigration? How can it help manage the increasing sprawl of the destitute colonias swelling between the two countries? And how can we bring new models of planning and infrastructure to areas of booming migrant settlement?
Materialicio.us covered a new community of homes, built by Wieler, a company which we will cover in depth soon:
Nathan Wieler and his wife were the owners of the original Res4a Dwell House who worked with Dwell to set up the original competition, built the house, tried to sell the house but remained there, and went on to promote prefabs...
Using a library of pre-manufactured components brought to a site and assembled efficiently, the structure is designed with a specialized bolted connector [joint] that allows for components to be unplugged easily and without damage. Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) can be embedded to take inventory and check the history of components.
The plug and play concept is taken from the computer industry. .... The chrysalis of this idea is in our joint, the groJoint. It is designed to receive a beam on four sides and column or foundation on the top and bottom. Connections are all bolted which allows for components to be "unplugged" easily and without damaging the component....
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:
... a design competition for students and professionals focusing solely on innovation regarding deconstruction and building material reuse.
And the Lifecycle Building Challenge was born! Submissions from architects, students, planners and builders poured in, ranging from de-nailer guns to radio-tagged, re-useable wall panels to design that considers reuse as it's primary function.
The awards were presented last year at West Coast Green.
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.
This stunning prefab in Colina, Chile, is the work of Santiago-based architect Sebastián Irarrázaval. Despite its unique form, it is not meant as a custom design but rather a housing solution that can take shape repeatedly. Constructed of concrete, steel and timber, the 120 square meter structure (1290 sq ft) lives large with a simple geometric that is at ease with the surrounding landscape.
“Everyone thinks prefab is just a big chunk of house you dump on a site and then you bolt it down,” says [designer] Gauthier. “Ours is a little bit more like an Ikea project. It’s thousands of pieces that can all be handled and stitched together on site.” Though the interior of the Burst*008 house will be modified to respond to the constraints of New York City and the MoMA’s specific building requirements, the structure will share many attributes with its Australian seaside counterpart.
With costs below those of conventional building methods, quick and easy assembly and no termite issues, prefabricated or pre-engineered steel buildings are finding a place in the residential home market.
Homeowner Thomas Small explains part of his reason for choosing steel:
"Most of the metal in this house is recycled and will be recyclable at the end of its use in this house," Small said.
"And there's also very little waste with metal. It was made at the factory and then shipped here. There was no sawdust. No cutting," he said. "And we didn't have to hire specialized builders. It was built by the contractor who built the rest of the house, and bolted together very easily."
Firm principal Whitney Sander describes the process:
"It fits together like an erector set," Sander explained. "And it goes together in three weeks. The inside takes longer, but the prefabrication can save you months and thousands of dollars."
Some numbers from recent Sander Architects projects:
Two projects completed within the last year cost about $130 per square foot or about one-third of traditional custom residential costs, which can top $400 per square foot, according to Sander.
Small's construction costs were about $175 to $200 per square foot, compared with $120 to $350 for traditional non-custom homes, according to construction experts.
These sounds like impressive savings, though finishes and other construction unrelated to the steel skeleton play a large part in determining final construction costs. Read the complete article for more about Sander Architects and steel framing.
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.
Several years ago, Unico lost some good downtown office tenants to outlying locations. Sperling says that when he asked the companies why they were moving, they told him most of their employees spent too much time commuting and couldn't afford to live in Seattle.
So, Unico turned to modular construction:
The company retained architectural firms Mithun and HyBrid to explore whether units could be built economically that might appeal to the design, environmental and technological tastes of young urbanites.
The result: the two Inhabit prototypes. The wood-frame units were built in a factory in Burlington, Skagit County, trucked to Seattle, and lifted by crane onto the plaza at the base of Unico's Rainier Tower.
[The Inhabit units cost] 15 percent less than a conventional project.... [and] the prototypes were built in just three weeks. Units could be put together while other work is going on at the site, and neighbors wouldn't experience as much disruption.
Features of the units include:
480 - 675 sf
studio - 1 bedroom
62 units total
floor-to-ceiling windows, a "green" roof to reduce stormwater runoff
Our previous coverage of prefabs being used for similar high-density developments:
Modular homes built in north Mississippi are the first in this state to receive a Fortified Home designation that qualifies the owner for...insurance discounts once the home is properly installed.
"The desire was to build a home that was very strong, but also very low-cost to maintain," said Dan Hobbs, CEO of Safeway Homes in Lexington, Miss. "The whole purpose was to build excellent quality work-force housing. It's cost-efficient housing."
Some specifics about how the Fortified Home program works:
Safeway Homes are designed to withstand 150-mph winds. While the design has received Fortified Home approval, the designation is awarded only after certified personnel have completed foundation and final inspections to ensure each home is properly and permanently anchored, and meets elevation requirements.
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.
Treehugger covered an historical, and quite unconventional, prefab:
Around 1960, Swiss artist Guy Dessauges wondered why we were so square. "The vault resists pressure much larger than the flat ceiling. For the same quality of materials. I wondered why we could not use the cylinder to build a home. The only problem was the diameter of the cylinder. It was necessary to have a diameter large enough to install two floors. The idea crystallized in ten minutes."*
process started with Alchemy in October 2007; site work (client started from scratch which means even putting in their own septic and well systems) and preliminary design happened throughout the winter of 2007-2008
house is due to be 'set' in Fall 2008
floor plan follows the weeHouse side x side PAIR that has two bedrooms and one bath; client added screen porch (great idea!) using Alchemy's additional design services and also worked with their general contractor to customize a walk-in basement...
total square footage (including exterior deck and porch) = 1250
(06/08): price for weeHouse PAIR in NY is listed at $189K; this house with additional design options/fees is still coming in at under $200K (about $160/SF); additional costs include site work, basement, transportation, and set/hook-up fees (many of these are priced differently by region)
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.
Combining their respective expertise and knowledge, LivingHomes and KieranTimberlake have developed the LivingHomes Building System [LBS], a proprietary platform that combines modules for kitchens, baths and utility cores, and "Smart Panels™", that integrate mechanical ducting, electrical and plumbing. With complexity and cost concentrated in particular panels and modules, this flexible building system allows for high-volume fabrication ... and easier transportation.
Last year, we discussed KieranTimberlake's earlier "smart cartridges" which were used in the construction of their Loblolly House. A bit more about the advantages of the system:
In addition to lower cost and faster production, the LBS allows for the unprecedented adaptability of previously 'fixed' spaces. The new "expandable" single family LivingHome by KieranTimberlake is designed to grow with the changing needs of its inhabitants and can be easily reconfigured from a modest 900 sf dwelling for a single person or young couple to a spacious 2,160 sf four-bedroom home for a growing family. LivingHome owners will be able to purchase addition rooms from LivingHomes, when they need them, and LivingHomes will assemble those rooms on site.
The LivingHomes by KieranTimberlake line features just two models, the KT1 and the KT2. The KT1 comes in three subtle variations, each able to be expanded differently.
For instance, the KT1.1 can grow from the 1 bedroom, 1,020 sf "small" version to the 4 bedroom, 2,160 sf "large" version by adding three additional modules. Difficult to describe with words, the extensions seem both logical and organic; take a look at the KT1.1 brochure (pdf) to see how the changes occur.
The LivingHomes KT2 line of single family townhomes feature three floors of living with attached two car garages, making them an excellent alternative to multi-story condominium developments.
This sort of expandability makes perfect sense with prefab structures and KieranTimberlake's "Smart Panels™" seem to be a key component. I for one am interested to see how this partnership grows. Something that should help them along: prices between $155/sf - $215/sf.
Dwell on Design visitors loved the prototype HOM Escape in Style. Kimberly Parker, head of PR for HOM, provided some details.
[It] is a comprehensive product line of fully manufactured, high-design modern homes and carefully crafted furniture, accessories and systems.
Designed by KAA Design Group in Los Angeles, the three different HOM models range from 1,000 - 3,600 sf and can include as many as 6 bedrooms! The listed price per sf is $200, though customization options will most likely push that number higher.
HOM is a manufactured home -- commonly known as a "trailer":
HOM is different from pre-fab, modular, or component housing in that it utilizes a proven 85-year old industry to build and transport the product while a North American dealer distribution network manages the entire process.
One advantage of the "mobile home" designation of HOM:
The HOM unit is towed to your site on its own axle and wheels by a semi-trailer truck. The axle and wheels remain in place under the HOM, disguised by skirting and the modular deck system, thus allowing HOM to be relocated in the future. HOM falls under the federal HUD code of manufactured housing. This category replaced what was formally referred to as "mobile housing" in the early 1980s.
There are a number of differences between the more traditional construction of most prefabs and the construction of manufactured housing. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before buying. We'll write more on those differences soon.
Because we couldn't be at Dwell on Design, we sent out some emails to see what attendees had to say. From Jonathan Davis at pieceHomes:
Dwell was a fantastic event, the pieceHomes booth was constantly busy with a stream of very interested, knowledgeable attendees. We launched two new homes along with our new line, extraPieces: modern, green, modular additions for existing homes.
A bit more about the two new homes:
...the Flat Wrap, another in the Wrap series, is a 1,765sf 3 bedroom one story home with expansive glazed walls allow for true indoor/outdoor living. The 1,900sf three story loft Cube House can be used for urban-infill where smaller footprints and higher density are appropriate.
With these two additional models, pieceHomes offers nine standard models, ranging in size from the one bedroom, 320 sf Container House to the 1,900sf Cube House. All of the pieceHomes models, including three custom projects, can be seen in their online brochure (pdf).
The extraPieces concept sounds intriguing:
extraPieces™ provide the extra space needed without having to build a whole new home. Add a family room or a master suite to an existing home, or build a new garage and studio in the backyard. Exterior materials can be customized to complement the finish of the existing home. Interiors can also be customized to meet particular needs and conditions, such as adding a kitchen and full bath to turn eP: studio into a guesthouse. Each of the extraPieces™ uses the same palate of green materials, energy efficient technologies and sustainable construction practices as the new homes by pieceHomes®.
The extraPieces range includes studio, master suite, and extension modules. This product is the first I've seen that offers such prefab solutions specifically for adding a room to your existing home. If they can match a traditional look, perhaps it could be Scott's prefab kitchen?
I got quite sick over the weekend, so I am playing catch-up. Sorry for the delay! There was a lot of prefab news last week; we'll cover the majority of it in other posts.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at the contest-winning Landscape House (a conceptual design):
In 2006 the AIA set forth an architecture challenge to create ‘A House for an Ecologist’– a home base from which a US Fish and Wildlife Service Ecologist in Residence could live and conduct field research.
George Maciunas Prefabricated Building System presents an exciting chapter in artist George Maciunas’ prolific oeuvre, focusing on his ventures in architecture. The exhibition critically examines a particular architectural project for a prefabricated mass housing system, which Maciunas drafted in the late 1950s and developed toward utopian ends through 1965.
Beginning at 10am on Saturday, June 14th, a custom Sunset® Breezehouse™ will be open to the public thanks to the Built Green Santa Barbara Expo, Conference & Tour being held that weekend. We built this custom Sunset® Breezehouse™ for an artist couple and their children so it not only reflects their family’s commitment to sustainable living but also their unique personalities and talents.
The Santa Barbara Breezehouse is unique in its construction. The units flanking the BreezeSpace were built at a factory in Tacoma, Washington – including the framing, insulation, electrical, flooring, tiles, walls and plumbing components – then transported to Santa Barbara on flatbed trucks and craned into place on the foundation. This process reduced the amount of on-site waste generated and the total construction time for the project. Site work was done by local green builders Allen Associates.
The 660 square foot Rincon 5 is the largest of our new series of single module accessory buildings. The Rincon 5 is designed to be used as a guest house, office, or vacation retreat.
Apartment Therapy posted their thoughts, with a slideshow.
One of the most popular (and cramped) exhibits was the 1000 sq. ft. HOM shotgun style pre-fab house. Personally our favourite of the homes showcased.
We'll cover HOM in more detail soon. Until then, Jetson Green provided some info:
Of the three models that HOM plans for production, the (smaller) 1000 sf design was exhibited throughout the weekend in LA. HOM designs cost in the $200 psf range, which calculates to approximately $200,000 for a 1000 sf house....
One interesting aspect of these manufactured homes is that they're characterized under the federal HUD code for manufactured housing. Similar to the modern designs we see with miniHome, HOM homes have an axle and wheels that are disguised by skirting and decking.
brio54 is a new prefab outfit started by architect Gernot Bruckner and partner Philip Macari. Their focus:
Passion for modern green design, and a simpler, more affordable building process.
We are committed to providing modern people with an environment that reflects their personal and functional needs.
While they are still working to build their first prototype, the plan sounds like a good one:
Aside from being the creators and the driving force behind the 'brio54|brand', we are in charge of product development. The production, delivery, and installation of our homes is handled by a team of national and international partners.
Specifically, Stock Building Supply, a company with 310 locations throughout the United States handles the supply of all materials to your site. The Brio54/Stock delivery system uses something called 'feature paks':
It combines on-site and factory based fabrication into one '[H]ybrid' solution....
'You-pick' offers a fast and easy way to customize your 'feature paks' to fit your needs.
Brio54 promises that their "owner-builder based construction system requires no general contractor..." and offers two options for project management, depending on your comfort level (and budget):
'Hands-off': Stock provides the overall project management between paks and the site supervision.
'Hands-on': You save, we advise. Overall project management and site supervision is your responsibility.
Currently, the website provides details for three different concepts, the H1, H2 and H3, ranging from 2,400 to 2,900 sf. The completed homes include interiors provided by Valcucine/DOM, insulated concrete foundation walls from Amvic Building Systems and windows and doors from SwissShade & Security.
Inside a 20,000-square-foot warehouse space in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood, about two dozen people gather most weekday mornings to work on a giant plywood puzzle. There are square-shaped pieces with oval holes in their midsection and jagged ones, resembling enormous saw blades. When they complete the 1,200-piece puzzle, they will have built a house -- or at least the skeleton of one.
Next week, that residence — collapsed into three accordion-like pieces — will be loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a vacant lot abutting the Museum of Modern Art. There, the design of the New York architects Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier will rise in June, alongside four other modern dwellings
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.
The students, with Dean Victor Sidy and Jennifer Siegal of OMD, designed a simple but elegant home with sustainability in mind. At first, they were going to prefabricate the structure, but later decided to go instead with on-site, panelized construction using SIPs for the walls, roof, and floor.
Last week, Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed a unique idea for Olympic stadiums:
Currently there are plans in place to dismantle around 70% of the proposed London Olympic Stadium, pack up the components, and send them to the host of the 2016 Olympics!
The Smart Home has been outfitted with some of the most sustainable and responsible options available for building and furnishing a house, while the landscaping illustrates many ways to sustain and replenish the surrounding environments we live in. It’s really spectacular to see the museum’s courtyard transformed in this way.
Finally, Dwell on Design started yesterday. We'll have a full review of happenings at the show this coming week.
It was a gray and rainy day in Chicago yesterday, but ... Michelle Kaufmann's newest prefab was still producing more energy than it used.
The mkSolaire marks Kaufmann's entry into urban neighborhoods. Designed to fit into a standard 25 ft. wide city lot, the home is seven modules – five for 2500 square foot home and two for the garage, which is designed for flexible future use such as conversion to a guest house when the car is abandoned for good.
There are a couple of wonderful things about what this exhibit is doing. For example, it is making this approach to design completely accessible to the typical citizen in a relevant manner. It isn't just the stuff of highbrow design and shelter magazines. The Smart Home is absolutely real and is made for real people. It honestly inspires folks to see what can be accomplished with a thoughtful plan and current technology. Another exciting aspect is the fact that a prefab home can be built in the Midwest.
Kaufmann's hometown newspaper, the Quad-City Times, reported on the home and filled in some details:
Admission to the house is $10, an extra fee for an exhibit celebrating the museum’s 75th anniversary and the 1933-34 "Century of Progress" Chicago World’s Fair.
The idea for the exhibit came about during a brainstorming session as museum staff members considered an attraction from 75 years ago called "Homes of Tomorrow."
"We thought how amazing would it be to build a fully functioning home on the museum property that honors the past but is forward-looking with green and smart technologies," said Anne Rashford, director of temporary exhibits.
Once the idea was set, it didn’t take long to find Kaufmann, 39.
Abōd was honored by the AIA this year with a Small Project Award. The AIA explained the concept: "[...]The resulting design incorporating the Catenary arch is simple and structurally sound but also aesthetically pleasing and can be built by 4 people in just one day with only a screwdriver and an awl."
The public exhibition opens June 7th (emphasis added):
Everything you ever wanted to know about modern design in one very big place: 200+ exhibitors, an entire neighborhood of full-scale pre-fab structures completely landscaped and furnished by Dwell. Plus you'll get hands-on, actionable advice and information from architects, designers and other trade professionals.
Prefab companies that are listed as exhibiting include:
Not-so-weeHouses designed for full-time living are now part of Alchemy's 2008 weeHouse line. We're introducing two new 4x (four-by) houses featuring 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths, and 2200 square feet of living space.
The two 4x models join eight existing weeHouse models from Alchemy Architects, and represent the largest weeHouses yet to be introduced. Some background on the designs:
One challenge in pre-designing one house for different people on different sites is that the design can compromise individual needs. With the 4x, we've taken a single, efficient-but-spacious layout and made it flexible enough to work for various needs. Whether your site is a narrow urban lot or a spacious rural one, whether it faces North, South, East or West, the 4x is adaptable. In an über-flexible solution, we can even turn the house upside down (¡) to accommodate second level entries on sloping lots.
The two options:
2x4 : 2 layers of 2 boxes with an overhanging top floor. There's an emphasis on windows on the long side perfect for wider lots.
4x4 : 4 independent sliding boxes create decks and overhangs on the ends, making this layout ideally suited for narrower or urban lots.
Both houses have a central storage core, two possible kitchen orientations and flexible arrangements for entries and large master suites.
Also worth mentioning: basic weeHouse pricing for any region in the country is now available. Kudos to the weeHouse folks for making that information so accessible!
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed the Method Homes Modular Cabin:
This month we’re welcoming a brand new builder to the prefab scene as Method Homes launches its first house!
Method’s prefab prototype is currently in the final stages of construction ... We can’t wait to see the finished product!
Jetson Green covered the Énóvo House, a modular from Montreal:
...from my research, the Énóvo name seems to represent something bigger -- the idea that a green, modular home can evolve with the needs of the owner. According to the website, Énóvo can be adapted to most any terrain, and because it's configured by modules, the design can morph according to the various particularities [of] an owner's life and needs.
We've covered the Empyrean NextHouse in Silicon Valley before; here's a new story about the home from the San Jose Mercury News:
The 2,400-square-foot house was built in panels by manufacturer Empyrean at its factory in Acton, Mass., shipped to the Bay Area and assembled on-site. It incorporates energy-efficient technology and sustainable materials and is the seventh in a series called the NextHouse; the project has been a collaboration with San Francisco-based Dwell magazine, which has 12 more under way across the country.
Lots of people think prefab equals one-size-fits-all.
"Prefab is somewhere in the middle between the builder home, which is like a pair of jeans that's made for the average person, and the custom home, which is like a couture item," says Sam Grawe, editor in chief at Dwell, which has been promoting modern prefab architecture since its debut more than seven years ago.
"Prefab gives you the opportunity to design your own home but also has the efficiencies of the builder's model."
...This Old House partners with custom homebuilding company, Bensonwood, to build a new timberframe home.... Cutting-edge techniques, including extensive uses of prefabrication and green technologies, will be implemented to construct a new home on property owned by the Favat family in Weston, Massachusetts....
As both the architectural firm and prefabricator on the project, Bensonwood will build 75 percent of the house in a controlled workshop environment. Entire wall systems and room modules will be built, outfitted for plumbing and wiring, with windows and finishes added, in many cases, right in the workshop. Additionally, the timberframe will be created using traditional hand-craftsmanship, as well as the latest computer-aided woodworking technology, providing a level of structural integrity that will last hundreds of years. Many of the home's components will be assembled onsite by crane over a three-week period in early June....
Thisoldhouse.com will feature progress of the Weston project 24/7 through four Webcams powered by EarthCam....
More info on Bensonwood is available at their website.
Also worth a mention: This Old House has a blog, Old House My House, which will be a great place to keep track of the progress of the Weston prefab.
...this one-bedroom, one-bath, 1,000 square foot rental is described as being a "stunning new 'green' loft on a tree-lined cul-de-sac in a beautiful residential neighborhood just blocks from downtown Culver City, Sony Studios, Helms District, and Hayden Tract...Cost: $2,300 per month.
...for those who like their homes clean and crisp with a modernist edge. These finely detailed, timber clad pavilions are based on a modular system offering the ultimate in flexibility...
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday covered a prefab cabin two weeks ago:
...the Clara Cabin from hiveMODULAR is a perfect solution. You get all the comforts of cabin life - a bed, reprieve from the bugs, and weather - while still being able to connect to the surrounding nature.
This week, Prefab Friday looked at a Swedish prefab:
...the Plus House embraces its Nordic roots and rural setting as a thoroughly modern take on the Swedish barn house.
Hive Modular sent out an email update and shared a Picasa page which shows many of their more recent designs.
Amid today’s gloom and doom in the housing industry, Vince and Stephanie Scuderi are happy — finally — to talk about building their dream home.
They chose a modular home design, an alternative construction method that can save time and money....
The house was together within hours, with all the major workings in place, including framing, drywall, roofing, plumbing, electrical wiring, cabinetry and trim.
‘‘The only problem sometimes raised by the homeowner is that they see it assembled in one or two days, then wonder why it takes another 90 to 120 days to finish,” Dean said. After assembly, much work remains, including well, septic and other utility hookups, porches and decks, driveways and landscaping.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday showed off a WIELER home:
Architect Dustin Ehrlich has created a custom prefab home near Chapel Hill, NC. Commissioned by his parents and constructed by WIELER, the structure mixes stone, wood, stainless steel and rusted corrugated metal to create an extraordinary first, and lasting, impression.
Jetson Green shared a video on container architecture:
In this super informative interview, G Living sits down with Peter DeMaria to talk about his work using containers in modern home design and construction. I was really impressed with DeMaria -- he tells you everything you ever wanted to know about container architecture...
The designer of the home was on site, and gave a brief introductory speech before we started exploring and snapping pictures. The home was built using re-engineered steel, concrete floors (natch) and eco-timber flooring.... The home took nine months to build and actually has a twin next door...
Technology entrepreneur Philippe Kahn has taken home construction, environmental stewardship and style to a new level.
Kahn ... had his new home near the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor trucked in from Los Angeles.
The prefabricated house was delivered last week in 18 pieces, each wrapped in white plastic and stored in the harbor parking lot.
By today, the pieces, made of steel and glass, will be fit together like a puzzle to make a 3,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home on Fairview Place....
Kahn's home was constructed by Marmol Radziner, a Los Angeles architectural firm that specializes in custom, green modern homes built with prefabricated technologies.
Read the full article for more details and additional photos.
Jetson Green got excited about a container loft project:
...the first, mid-rise container building in the U.S. is planned for downtown Salt Lake City. The project was designed by none other than Adam Kalkin, container architecture expert, and will be called City Center Lofts.
We received an email from Katherine Keltner at the offices of Gauthier Architects. She provided an update and correction regarding the BURST* model appearing in the upcoming Home Delivery show at MoMA:
BURST.003 was completed in 2006 under SYSTEMarchitects: Douglas Gauthier and Jeremy Edmiston.
BURST.008 is being installed at MoMA and is designed as a collaboration between Douglas Gauthier [now at his own firm] and Jeremy Edmiston.
We'll provide more information on the BURST.008 model when details are released. In the meantime, check out the other coverage we have of the exhibition:
On April 3, New York's Pratt Institute will hold a symposium on Prefab Futures:
The one-day conference will present research and scholarship related to the history of prefabrication, contemporary and emerging techniques and approaches to prefabrication, as well as the social and sustainable potential of prefab and prefab technologies.
LivingHomes is partnering with Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake Associates on an “expandable” single-family (pictured above) prefab green homes that can grow from 900 square feet to 2,230 square feet. All parts of the home are made in a factory--and owners can essentially order more parts of their home as their family grows...
Additionally, the home will be priced at $215 a square foot, but as the country catches on to the expandable home, costs are expected to drop to $155 a home.
As you marry, have kids, add in-laws to the household, etc., you’re either moving a lot or constantly renovating, which is time-consuming, expensive, stressful, and very wasteful from a resource perspective.... LivingHomes by KieranTimberlake introduce an important new capability to homes – the ability to efficiently and cost-effectively adapt to people’s changing lifestyle living needs.
As a cured architect and developer, I could only dream of what the result might be if one mixed the talents and innovations of architects like Kieran Timberlake with a business visionary like Steve Glenn and set them to produce small, efficient projects that don't need a Silicon Valley multimillionaire's income to own.
That's worth some research, and we'll share the details soon.
Yesterday, Dwell magazine announced an open house:
Modern prefab has arrived in
Mountain View, CA in the form of a progressive single-family home -- the
Dwell NextHouse by Empyrean. ... A unique opportunity
to tour the 2,400 sq ft prefabricated home will be available.... Dwell
invites attendees to become engaged in a dialogue about modern and prefab
Their site has a schedule and information on the speakers:
Joel Turkel, Designer of the NextHouse
Sally Kuchar, Interior Designer for the Dwell Home: Silicon Valley
Michael Sylvester, of fabprefab
Jhaelen Eli, consulting designer to Empyrean
Can't make it? Or want a preview? Jetson Green found this entertaining video tour from interior designer Sally Kuchar:
When James and Rui were ready to build on their lakefront land, they contacted architect Rocio Romero. The Missouri-based designer is well known for her minimalist prefab homes, which arrive flat-packed and can go up in a few months' time. James and Rui worked with Rocio to develop a standard LV Home (Rocio's trademark design) with a custom interior that would make the most of their incredible natural surroundings. The highlight of this home is definitely the views....
Read the post for more details or go directly to the slideshow (16 images).
The description for the vendor "Lucian T. Hood, Architect" on the CA Boom site isn't very clear. With no mention of prefab at LucianHoodArchitect.com, I emailed to get some details:
Skelly Oil bought the prefab manuf. co. and hired me to design and draw single family dwellings ... duplex, town houses, apartments, more... I am bringing my Skelly brochure we sent out nationwide and can chat about the product ...
He's not there just for prefab. He'll be at CA Boom to answer all sorts of questions on architecture and construction, a role he has some experience in:
I have done 4 Public Access TV shows and 3 months guest host (every Sat) radio show (call in to the Architect) so I am at the show ... to help, inform, guide, answer at no cost.
Abōd™ was created by BSB Design to provide affordable housing for families in Africa. Easily mass-produced and deliverable by truck, ship or plane, the “home in a box” includes the entire 120sf structure (unassembled) that fits into a box 4’ x 12’ x 2’...
Treehugger shared the RuralZED prefab from the UK:
We were very excited when Sami first showed us ruralZED, the UK's first commercially viable, affordable and ready to purchase zero-carbon home; now there is more information on the RuralZED website.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday featured two different homes this week. They also covered RuralZED:
...they claim [it] is Britain’s most affordable green prefab home and is also able to meet its strictest energy standards. Oh, and did we mention that it is a flatpack?
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.”
If you are ready to make a purchase (for instance you have land) and you need to choose who to purchase from, then get on a plane and get to CA Boom. Serious prefab buyers make their purchases at CA Boom.
As we stated last year, CA Boom's Prefab Zone has strict requirements for the companies present:
ability to provide real price quotes
ability to receive and accept orders
have at least one built dwelling
have a manufacturing process in place (not just a plan)
have knowledge of how to deliver and install the dwelling
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.
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.
You see a vacant east London building lot paved over with asphalt and used as a car park. Tim [Pyne] sees the site of a rack-'em, stack-'em prefab temporary designer boutique hotel.
An architect with years of experience designing temporary buildings for exhibitions, [Pyne] says prefab is the answer for a city like London, where quick development means a shortage of space, and shabby areas are suddenly chic.
His design is called the M-Hotel and it consists of a steel frame with trailer-style mobile homes fitted out with designer furnishings, stacked four high...
I love the possibilities and ideas ... it's cool and innovative. The m-hotel is designed as a series of steel-framed slot boxes that slide into the frame (which makes for easy dismantling in the future).
affordability is key. A lot of companies are selling their factory-built work at $400-500/square foot—and they are gorgeous, but very expensive. Our goal is to produce some homes at the $200/sq foot level….we’d prefer to sell more smaller, affordable homes to more clients than a big, expensive home to a really wealthy client...
We are working on several homes now….the first one is a custom design. It’s called Rindge. It started off as a conventionally built house. But we realized we could build it in modules with some minor changes to the structural engineering. We realized we could save money and time going that way.
Britain's first "Ikealand" opened its metal-panelled pine doors yesterday in an experiment designed to spread the company's off-the-shelf principle from wardrobes and sofas to entire houses.
The first of 93 flatpack homes designed and equipped by the household goods store went on show in Gateshead on Tyneside, where scores of would-be buyers are being vetted to ensure that their savings and income are modest enough to qualify....
Prices on the cul-de-sac off Marigold Avenue, where each unit comes with 22 Skimmia shrubs and an apple tree in the garden, range from £99,500 [$198,000] for a one-bedroom flat to £149,000 [$295,000] for a three-bedroom house...
Seen as a way for them to get onto the property ladder, these houses will sell for $260,000 for a two bedroom townhouse. Assembled in a factory nearby, they get to the site ready to be bolted together and take about 16 weeks from start to completion.
The system is called BoKlok (Ikea speak for smart living) and was developed in conjunction with Ikea.
I've been going through a bunch of old notes and found a link to PreFab Now. MocoLoco explains:
If any of Trulove's books are an indicator, PreFab Now should include the state of the art in contemporary prefabricated home design. The promo copy hints at this; "Architects are using new construction technologies and materials to create complex designs that make every prefabricated home look custom- designed.". The book also "addresses the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a prefab home over a custom-built one [and] covers cost, sustainability, and durability."
To help keep track of books we cover on Prefabcosm, we've added a new page: Prefab books.
Every now and then, we come across an item that isn't prefab but that we think is worth sharing. Here's one from Yanko Design:
Don’t you love the days following a rainstorm? The streets seem to gleam, the air is cleaner, and people are generally in a better mood to finally see the sun again. The only thing that sucks are all those wet benches and chairs. Fortunately clever designers (the Korean design gang) came up with a simple solution. The slats on these benches can rotate to the dry side by cranking the handle.
There are a few more details about designer Sung Woo Park over at Coroflot.
what: The Rolling Bench
designers: Sungwoo Park, Yoonha Paick, Jongdeuk Son, Banseok Yoon, Eunbi Cho & Minjung Sim
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed the Rapson Greenbelt:
Modernist architect Ralph Rapson has managed to reinterpret a 60-year old design with the green panache of a 21st century prefab...
The Greenbelt got its name from the distinct interior glass atrium that appeared in the original 1,800 sq ft design. The 21st century Greenbelt is available in seven configurations ranging from 576 to 2,660 square feet. Our favorite is Greenbelt 1, the design that most closely reflects the intention of the original.
CubeMe covered the modular Loq•kit, which was first mentioned on Inhabitat back in December.
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....
Resolution 4: Architecture of Manhattan...designed the Bronx house...
Joseph Tanney, a partner in the firm, was approached in 2005 by Regina Marengo, president of an engineering consultancy company, about putting a modern prefab on the Bronx waterfront property where she and her husband, William, had lived in a bungalow for two decades.
If you're heading out to the desert for Modernism Week and are curious about prefabs, you've got a chance to see a drop dead gorgeous one....
The Desert Prefab house has been called possibly the most beautiful prefabricated building this side of the Pacific, and it's for sale!
It is the house that won new respect for factory-built prefab housing: Leo Marmol's sleek, solar-powered, steel-and-glass Desert House in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. It has been Marmol's weekend house since he built it in 2005, but it is now listed for sale for $1.85 million....
The L-shaped house is the prototype for Marmol Radziner Prefab, an architecture and design firm based in Los Angeles. Framed with recycled steel, it features teak cabinets, concrete floors tinted the color of desert sand and glass walls. It consists of 10 modules in all -- four house modules and six deck modules, to encourage outdoor living. The three-bedroom house features a guest wing with studio space, partially shaded decks, a swimming pool and sweeping mountain views.
First Offering: The Desert House, 2005. Art, architecture and environmental awareness have been forged together in Marmol-Radziner's custom prototype for their burgeoning prefab division.... From the two-parcel, nearly 7.5 acre site on which the main house, guest house, studio and nearly 2,400 square feet of outdoor decks reside, broad panoramic vistas across the pool capture the all encompassing desert floor sweeping out to towering Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio.
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.
In the coming months, we’ll be blogging a lot about the Venice House (a.k.a. California House 6). This house is currently in our factory and will be delivered to a small, urban lot this spring. We designed [the] house to respond to the narrow, infill site by having the home look inwards towards small, private courtyard spaces. This allowed us to maintain an open, bright feeling that connects indoor and outdoor spaces despite the small lot.
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.
Jeriko House is based on a sophisticated high-tech 'kit-of-parts' building system providing high strength and incredible ease of assembly.... The heart of this system is its unique high-performance aluminum framing derived from the 'T-slot' framing commonly used in industrial automation applications. Made from aerospace-grade aluminum formed into precision shaped 'profiles' offering the approximate strength of steel with a great savings in weight, the Jeriko House frame structure is resilient, weatherproof, rustproof, and pest-proof....
Using special modular connectors, the Jeriko House frame is assembled in a classic post & beam structure. Houses as small as 240 square feet and larger than 6,000 square feet can be built. These unit shapes can be combined in a variety of ways....
It was discovered by Eric Touchaleaume who has been called the "Indiana Jones of furniture collecting". He has spent the last decade scouring remote parts of the world for valuable artifacts such as this house. Having bought 600 of Prouvé's chairs, he became obsessed with finding the house. Hearing that someone had seen one in Brazzaville, he travelled there and found two of them damaged by bullet holes and corrosion. It took six months to get the buildings out of the Congo because of the civil war and tribal conflicts.
The building is essentially a sixteen foot deep wall; ... the maximum width that can go down the road, and Martin Kohn took advantage of this to create the thin, long structure....
The terrain is rock, and quite steep. It was disturbed as little as possible, and tree removal was minimized. Because of the difference in grade, Kohn placed the living areas upstairs and the bedrooms below; this way one can change after swimming and then go upstairs to the living areas. One enters by crossing a long bridge from the parking area to the house.
This is interesting. A retailer called Design Within Reach (NASDAQ:DWRI) is now offering prefab:
Designed by Tom Sandonato and Martin Wehmann, this 9'x13' structure redefines conventional prefab with its proprietary clamping system that makes installation quick, economic and practically waste-free. What also caught our attention about Kithaus is how it can tuck into any area, even remote locations, without needing ultra-heavy equipment. All of the lightweight, anodized aluminum pieces are pre-cut and drilled in Southern California and shipped to you for on-site assembly. Installation is fast, taking only a few days, and Kithaus is built with eco-friendly components.
This is fulfilling the promise of prefab: Architecture as industrial design, available to anyone off the shelf at any time. Architecture as product instead of service, possibly the future and salvation of the profession.
To support the sales of the kitHAUS models, a number of in-store events will be held:
Design Within Reach is the source for fully licensed classics. Our business started when our founder tried to furnish his apartment with the mid-century classics he'd come to appreciate while living in London.
Design Within Reach, Inc. is recognized nationwide as a preeminent provider of distinctive modern design furnishings and accessories. The Company markets and sells products in numerous categories to both residential and commercial customers through the DWR catalog, website and studios.
The m-house is another small prefab home from the UK (we mentioned the home back in September):
...over 1000 sqft of beautifully designed and detailed contemporary house or office. It is entirely manufactured under controlled factory conditions, which guarantees both quality of build and delivery time. m-house arrives in two pieces, each 3m (10' approx) wide, which are then joined together on site, which takes about a day. It comes completely fitted-out and ready for you to move into immediately, and delivery is 12 weeks after order.
Periodically we like to look back at early prefabs. Architect and furniture designer Marcel Lajos Breuer (1902 - 1981) was a contemporary of Jean Prouvé (1901 - 1984). In 1942, Breuer designed the Plas-2-Point as "easily transportable, low-cost housing for returning GIs".
More details from a University of Oregon research paper:
This building was in fact never built, but is well documented as a pioneer in prefabricated housing types because of its ability to be mass produced with all the benefits this entailed in terms of cost improved quality, and above all, given post-war demand, rapid production....
The "plas-2-point" design was not the most aesthetically pleasing, but it was eminently practical. It owed this practicality to the fact that it was demountable, meaning one unit could be picked up and moved to another foundation with minimal effort, and conceived as an assembly line product that could easily be mass produced and shipped all over the country.
Two features make this house unique in its design and construction. First, it rests on two short piers (see foundation plan), thus avoiding the need for expensive foundation and cellar costs that are common to nearly all housing types.
Second, and probably most interesting, is that it is entirely supported by two vertical posts at the ends of the structure. These posts hold a central plywood girder that, in turn, supports cantilevered plywood trusses which form the roof and floor. The side walls are made of rigid plywood panels that are in tension, holding down the roof like a tent.
This construction system allows for all the forces to be resolved internally and transfered down to the ground at two specific points, thus becoming cost efficient in the reduction of materials needed in construction.
Those interested in the home's structure should read the full paper.
The Zenkaya is delivered completed, ready to live in, to your site right on the back of a flat bed truck.
Zenkaya is for the discerning people who value things differently. Those who appreciate their time and don’t want to spend that unforeseen time and energy to control and manage the construction and design process, especially when it is a far away place.
Zenkaya design was based on core sustainable principles. To start with, well proportioned rooms, efficient use of spaces and standard size materials were identified and drawn....
The wall panels feature Chromadek (coated metal) on the outside and either polystyrene or OSB (oriented strand board) on the inside.
In form, the Zenkaya models remind me of the concrete perrinepod.
Last year, Apartment Therapy New York called the homes "stunning."
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at a container home in San Francisco:
...there isn’t a shortage of uses for containers as shelter, especially for those who like that super industrial architecture aesthetic. Leger Wanaselja Architecture finished their Container House at the close of last year, bringing a more traditional look to the container composed residence.
The architect, Laszlo Kiss, has designed a four-bedroom prototype in Sag Harbor that he says uses the constant temperature of the earth and the power of the sun for heat and electricity. The house, which he is calling About Saving a Planet, or ASAP, was built in a Pennsylvania factory, delivered in three sections by truck to a quarter-acre lot in Sag Harbor and assembled there in late December.
The ASAP• house consists of three prefabricated modules which are set on a high strength concrete, also prefabricated, foundation manufactured by Superior Wall. The house modules arrive at the site 80% finished and requiring only final assembly and minor interior and exterior work.
Each of the three modules have their own functions. The center module contains circulation, closets and bathrooms. The garden side module contains one large room that is subdivided into three areas, the Kitchen, Dinning/Living Room and a Study, by free standing storage units. The third module contains the four Bedrooms and an Entry Hall. The ASAP• house is completed by two large porches that create outdoor living spaces and provide shade.
The ASAP• house has a full basement that is insulated and can be finished at a later date.
We admired the Minarc house by Tryggvi Thorsteinsson and Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir when it was in Dwell; now we learn that they are offering it in a prefab version. The designers...have wanted to design a high-tech modern home that only used materials "in their most organic form and that used recycled materials wherever possible."...They are offering three modular versions built from 2x6 walls, lots of insulation and radiant flooring.
land+living shared several images of a non-prefab prototype from a tour last year. The Minarc brochure (pdf) released at the time explained their eBOX series 05. It looks like the M3house will be quite different.
We look forward to more details on the new home. The image above is the only thing on the new site; what a tease!
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.
A few of our favorite blogs posted round-up posts at the end of last year. Materialicio.us listed their top 25 stories of 2007, including a number of great prefabs. Jetson Green covered his most popular articles.
We were inspired to review our posts, clean-up the tags and share some highlights -- even if a bit late. First up, our favorite prefab news articles from last year.
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.
Current research projects include studies on building performance, moisture control, toxicity issues in residential building materials, windstorm resistance, diversity issues in the architectural profession, and housing environments design and evaluation.
So I ask, after looking at the photos, does this Magic Box represent what's to come in the future? The Magic Box is cubic and versatile and small. It can go anywhere and be used as anything.
Not sure where The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday went, but they've been off since Jan. 3.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday discussed a strange "prefab":
Winter shelter in the Arctic can take form in an upside down hunting boat – a traditional Inuit practice. Covey Island Boatworks, award winning builders of hand-crafted yachts, power and sailboats, has brought that idea into dry dock developing a prototype wood and epoxy prefab that applies boatbuilding principles directly to an extreme Arctic home.
Jetson Green showed off the flexibility of shipping containers:
It's hard not to gawk at the images of this building.
(Posted on Monday, but dated Saturday to match the rest of our This Week series.)
From the steamy jungle of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to the January drizzle of London's South Bank comes a tropical villa for the people. This weekend sees the construction of an unlikely addition to the capital's skyline: a prototype Modernist house designed in the Fifties by French architect Jean Prouvé.
The historic colonial building, a kind of flatpack pioneer, has been brought to Britain for the first time by the Design Museum in partnership with Tate Modern. Today the gallery is halfway through reassembling La Maison Tropicale.... The Tate hopes the new house will be visited by as many as two million people.
MetroShed ... has launched a brand new livable 12 foot deep by 16 foot wide MetroCabin for sale in the U.S.
...adding square footage to ... existing property has become a realistic alternative to many more people looking to expand space for an art studio, home office, exercise room, yoga room or guest suite.
The 12x16 MetroCabin features curved steel roof beams (with available straight roof package), Duro-Last Roofing, Batt Insulated Pre-Fab SIP walls, Birch Interior Panels, Meta Floor System and Premium heavy duty slide and glide doors.
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.
The serving unit is a completely prefabricated box including all installations. All different trades, such as electrician, plumber, etc. do their work at the service unit factory and do not have to do any on-site work....
The solid elements such as wall, floor, and ceiling are made of solid slabs of wood. The producer uses CNC-technology to cut out all openings.
...the window producer prefabricates all windows.
...the skin producer prefabricates the building's skin that includes thermal insulation, waterproofing and vapor barrier.
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.
Venturo, a fiberglass prefab from the 1970's has been talked about quite a bit around the blogosphere the past couple weeks. Treehugger says:
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.
The "Venturo" is a modular, easily transportable building system, having excellent insulation, low weight and designed for minimum assembly on site.
It is built of high quality materials in order to ensure maximum weathering properties for use in arctic as well as tropical climates and is almost maintenance free.
Being of low weight and factory preassembled, the Venturo means very low erections and foundation costs, where heavy equipment can be avoided.
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 Futuro house was completely furnished and could accommodate 8 people. It was constructed entirely out of reinforced plastic, a new, light and inexpensive material back then. The plan was to mass-produce it, so it would be cheap enough to house all people around the earth. Because it was so light-weight, it was easily transportable by helicopter. Mobile living was the new possibility for the future. People could now take their moveable home with them, to wherever they went, and live like modern nomads.
Unfortunately the 1973 oil crisis spoiled all these plans. Prices of plastic raised production costs too high to be profitable. Only 96 Futuro houses were ever built. Besides the 48 made in Finland, also at least 48 were manufactured abroad on license.
The Good Human's Prefab Wednesday took the week off.
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday looked at a Swiss prefab that uses straw bales:
We’re quite taken by Strohhaus in Eschenz, Switzerland. Designed by Zurich-based architect Felix Jerusalem, this home masterfully combines prefab with sustainable materials, primarily prefabricated strawboard panels that provide affordable, environmentally sound insulation.
Jetson Green covered GreenMobile, an "ultra-affordable, modular green [manufactured] home":
GreenMobile was awarded $5.8 M from FEMA to further develop the prototype and roughly 80 units are in the pipeline right after that prototype comes through.
...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.
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....
“This is a special house, a very high-priced house; it has the best of the best. ... there’s a lot of new technology in there that’s one-of-a-kind that if it becomes accepted by consumers, like anything else, the price comes down of course.”
The system is based on the separation of a building into "serving space" and "naked space".
The "serving space" is a completely prefabricated serving unit that provides all staircases, kitchens, baths, installations, electricity, heating, and cooling systems for the entire building. The "naked space" (space that is only defined by the placed furniture, such as living or sleeping rooms) is formed by "naked elements": solid slabs of wood...windows, skin. All "naked" elements are also prefabricated and are delivered directly from factory to building site, where everything can be assembled in a few days.
Each unit fits in a shipping container, giving it the characteristic "long and narrow" format. Several units can be placed side by side:
Overall, an intriguing approach that I can't wait to see realized at MoMA. Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf have been experimenting with prefab since 1996. We'll look at their past work in more depth soon!
The Consumer Electronics Show may have the flashiest booths of any trade gathering in the world. .... So imagine my relief when I saw a modest prefab home built at the far end of one of the main halls. .... It was built inside the convention center for Olevia, a company that makes energy efficient televisions.
The traditional design, permit and construction process, compounded by skyrocketing construction costs, has necessitated a re-birth of the design/build approach to creating Architecture.... This project is a Recycled Steel Shipping Container based building that also employs a combination of conventional stick frame construction and prefabricated assemblies. These materials result in an end product that is affordable and nearly indestructable. The modified containers are mold proof, fire proof, termite proof, structurally superior to wood framing and along with various other “components” come together to create a system/kit of parts that is predicated on cost savings, construction timesavings, and energy/environmentally conscious priorities....
Systm, a web video series from Revision3, files a long, detailed video report from the WIRED LivingHome:
This $4 million home in LA isn't exactly what we think of when wanting to integrate more green, eco-friendly aspects to our lives, but it does offer up some great options. LEED certified and designed by architect Ray Kappe, this home offers a great, simple way of constructing a house without compromising the uniqueness of a custom built home.
The world is getting hotter and more crowded every day, and modular, prefab housing is just what the doctor ordered. When you go small, it's not just about energy efficiency and carbon footprints -- it's also about being strange, cool and beautiful. We've chosen our favorite houses that meld style with globally conscious living. Enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
This fabrication method reminds me of the yourHouse. The process is explained through images and text on the SYSTEMarchitects site:
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.
Mr. Horden’s Micro Compact House — Mr. Bergdoll [of MoMA] described it as “a giant livable Sony radio cube” — is topped with photovoltaic panels and has wind turbines in its walls, allowing the house to generate its own electricity. An aluminum-clad perfect cube, with about 76 square feet of living space, the tiny dwelling is intended for use as athletic or student housing, or as a miniature vacation house. Mr. Bergdoll met with Mr. Horden in one of his cubes, a space so compact that the architect managed to make espresso on the kitchen counter without leaving his seat at the dining table.
The house is commercially available — it recently went on the market in Europe — and can be delivered by helicopter or crane.
The micro compact home [m-ch] is a lightweight compact dwelling for one or two people. Its compact dimensions of 2.6m [8.5 ft] cube adapt it to a variety of sites and circumstances, and its functioning spaces of sleeping, working / dining, cooking and hygiene make it suitable for everyday use.
Informed by aviation and automotive design and manufactured at the micro compact home production centre in Austria, the m-ch can be delivered throughout Europe with project individual graphics and interior finishes.
The team of researchers and designers based in London and at the Technical University in Munich developed the m-ch as an answer to an increasing demand for short stay living for students, business people, sports and leisure use and for weekenders. The m-ch, now in use and available throughout Europe, combines techniques for high quality compact 'living' spaces deployed in aircraft, yachts, cars, and micro apartments. Its design has been informed by the classic scale and order of a Japanese tea-house, combined with advanced concepts and technologies. Living in an m-ch means focusing on the essential - less is more. The use of progressive materials complements the sleek design. Quality of design, touch and use are the key objectives for the micro compact home team....for 'short stay smart living'.
The m-ch has a timber frame structure with anodised aluminium external cladding, insulated with polyurethane and fitted with aluminium frame double glazed windows and front door with security double lock; graphics can be applied for sponsors, exhibition and business use.
two compact double beds...
storage space for bedding and cleaning equipment
a sliding table ... for dining for up to five people
flat screen television in the living/dining space
a shower and toilet cubicle
a kitchen area, which is fitted with electrical points and features a double hob, sink and extending tap, microwave, fridge and freezer units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves, cutlery drawers with gentle return sprung slides and double level work surfaces
thermostat controlled ducted warm air heating, air conditioning, water heating
fire alarm and smoke detectors
m-ch units are available to purchase for delivery to geographical Europe at a guide price of EUR 25,000 to EUR 34,000 (subject to contract).
This design of yourHOUSE is a reinterpretation of historical New Orleans style “Shotgun” Housing utilizing recycled plywood as the main structural material. The house will be fabricated and assembled entirely of friction-fit components, completely eliminating the need for mechanical fasteners such as nails and screws. This fabrication technique is made possible through the extensive use of computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines....
The goal of the yourHOUSE project is to exemplify a design process which utilizes cutting-edge technologies rooted in long term research efforts with the intent to illustrate a system that allows prefabricated housing to be low-cost and yet high-quality.
The processes include:
Digitalization is a 2-stage process which preceeds a materialziation process. First, 2-dimensional data was taken from the documentation and used to create elevation drawings. From this data, 3-dimensional data was extrapolated and digitally modeled so that the house facades could be transformed into solid physical models through a final materialization process.
Materialization begins by breaking down the digital model into a logic of component parts and assemblies. In the figure above is one such breakdown of a front porch column assembly
The final stage in the materialization process involves what is termed, 3D printing. This stage allows the researcher to examine the digital model as a solid physical body. In the figure above are 1:30 scale 3D prints of the four originally documented New Orleans 'Shotgun' house facades
The yourHouse concept also embraces customization:
One of the core strategies driving project yourHOUSE is the use of mass-customized as well as mass-standardized components. This strategy happens at multiple scales ranging from details to major structural features. As seen in the figure above, the main body of the house employs a standardized structural shell while the front porch of the house can be customized to suit the inhabitant's desires.
It will be exciting to see this concept realized for the MoMA show.
...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 five, to be announced today by the museum, are KieranTimberlake Associates of Philadelphia; Lawrence Sass of Cambridge, Mass.; Douglas Gauthier and Jeremy Edmiston of Manhattan; Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf of Austria; and Richard Horden of Horden Cherry Lee in London.
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....
The exhibition will examine this phenomenon through historical documents, full-scale reassemblies, and films that trace the roots of prefabrication in the work of architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Jean Prouvé, and Richard Rogers, corporations such as Lustron, and the imaginative systems of other influential figures, including Thomas Edison and R. Buckminster Fuller.
This contextual component of the exhibition will provide the foundation for a handful of full-scale commissions to be built in MoMA's vacant west lot....The fabrication and delivery of these projects will be documented in a special online exhibition, which will underline prefabrication's importance as a matter of process over product. Furthermore, the delivery and assembly of these projects will function as a real-time urban event that will be visible to the general public from the city streets