Blog Notes From Leo Marmol Lecture in Dallas (10/14/2006): Prefab + Environmentalism

Other_front On Saturday at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Leo Marmol was kind enough to spend an hour and talk about his firm‘s work in the design-build and prefab context.  I was looking forward to this lecture for about 2 months and was not disappointed.  Marmol lectured on his firm’s work with mid-century modern residences and the four standards (Secretary of Interior Standards) for renovation:  preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, + reconstruction.  Towards the end of the lecture, he started to get into his firm’s prefab work and environmentalism. 

Here are some notes…

  • As a site-build firm, we know very intimately how inefficient and stupid architectural processes are.  We live with that stupidity everyday.  It’s a really inefficient, wasteful, cumbersome process that we use to build today.  There’s a lot of reasons why we still do it, but it’s inherently wasteful, so our goal is to build as much as possible in the factory. 
  • We’ve seen lumber + steel prices climb, and even labor is a little strained.  Materials are getting more and more scarce, more and more, therefore, valuable, and more and more expensive.  That will continue in the future. 
  • We’ve seen the rise in design with the iPod and with Target enlisting Philippe Starke to create a toothbrush.  Design is a marketing opportunity to set your firm apart from the norm. 
  • With Prefab, the goal is to provide clean, simple, modern living and do it as cost-effectively as possible.  So prefabrication is a means to deal with the rising construction costs. 
  • If you’re an architect and a builder, and you don’t have guilt, you’re not paying attention.  We put so much attention on the auto industry, but it pales in comparison to the architecture industry.  Architecture is the greatest polluting force on the planet.  There is no other industry on the earth that uses more of our earth’s resources than construction and there is no other industry to releases so many polluting, bad things back to the earth.  Prefab allows us to deal with this guilt and be more efficient. 
  • Sometimes the media gets it wrong with regards to prefab, but they are enthusiastic about this technology.  That enthusiasm can lead everyone astray.  Prefabs are not manufactured homes.  Prefabs won’t save the world or deliver homes for under $100 a square foot.  Prefab is not a magic bullet.  They are cheap in comparison to custom, architect-designed homes (LA price:  $400-600 sq.ft.), but they are not necessarily cheap.  Building homes is difficult and takes lots of money + materials. 
Back_and_pool Kitchen_1 Bedroom

It should be noted that Mr. Marmol’s prefab division is making a conscious choice to be environmental in the construction of prefabs.  The prefabs are designed to receive LEED certification, made from recycled steel, employ Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), and use FSC-certified wood, low-VOC Green Seal paint, solar panels, etc.  Each prefab is designed with the site in mind so the structure can be attentive to natural light and shading.  And if you’re interested in seeing one, there’s an open house in California (instructions below). 

Open House of the Desert House:
October 28, 1 pm – 6 pm
Desert Hot Springs, CA
RSVP NOT REQUIRED
Navigate the Website for Map


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