Articles - October, 2006

Starwood Capital Group Announces New Green Hotel: 1 Hotel + Residences

Starwood_capital_group Early last spring, I was looking into the faces of 45 bored students, giving my 4 minute business plan pitch for a trendy, green hotel concept geared specifically for young professionals ages 20-40.  I had it all laid out:  kiosk integration for mundane tasks, high customer service, green shuttle service, LEED certified hotel construction interior and exterior, teamwork style cleaning, paperless everything, free internet, slightly smaller rooms with mega-style, modern art + photographs, etc.  People were like, "I don’t know if that will work."  "What’s wrong with the Hilton or La Quinta."  Well, it looks like my instincts were right:  Starwood Capital Group announced plans to launch a new brand, "1" Hotel and Residences, as a luxury, eco-friendly global hotel brand.  The first hotels will be in Seattle (late 2008), Mammoth Lakes, Scottsdale, and Fort Lauderdale (in order of opening).   

Let’s face it, the entire industry will head this direction because hotels are levered to the cost of energy in two ways:  (1)  people travel less as transportation energy costs rise and (2) hotel’s profit margin is squeezed by the energy costs of running a building.  Up until now, most hotels haven’t really attacked this problem by looking at the entirety of the situation:  by building green hotel buildings!  So trend-setting hoteliers like Starwood are going to make money because they are operationally smart.  I’m excited about this green development.  After the initial locations, "1" will expand to New York, Los Angeles, + Washington D.C., soon thereafter.

Sustainability:
The hotels will be LEED certified in and out.  Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will act as environmental advisor for the brand.  Each "1" location will donate 1% of its revenues to local environmental organizations.  The first four hotels, and most of the hotels, will be new construction, but Paris will be a renovation.  "1" emphasizes air and light, offering a fresh, invigorating, and alternative way to travel.  Inundated with the "richness, beauty and variety of colors, textures and materials," guests and residents (sounds like a multi-use platform) may not realize the myriad of ways that their building is stepping lightly on the earth.

Good Links:
++Starwood Plans Green Hotels [South Florida Business Journal]
++Starwood + Sternlicht Unveil Groundbreaking ’1′ Hotel Concept [Press Release]
++Starwood Capital Group [Official Website]

Jennifer Siegal, Office of Mobile Design, the Modern + Green Take Home

Take_homeQuoting Jennifer Siegal, founder of Venica, California-based Office of Mobile Design (OMD):  "I’m interested in how technology is influencing the way we form communities…because our lifestyles are demanding more lightness, our buildings shouldn’t be sitting so heavy."  Siegal was featured in the October 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine, and praised as a "fresh face from the front lines of design."  In a world where renderings are common and completed projects are not, aka, the prefab world, Siegal is really staking a claim in this ultra-stylish, sustainable chase for comfortable, affordable living. 

Fast_company_siegal

Siegal’s work includes the Mobile Eco Lab (1998), Portable House (2001), Seatrain House (2003), and the Swellhouse.  Her most recent work is a modern, modular home product line called Take Home.  Go to the website and take a gander at her captivating architecture.  You’ll find also that her work goes beyond the realm of aesthetics and mid-century modern vernacular and into sustainability.  That’s going to be where architects will make a huge difference, I believe.  In addition to that, I think OMD is taking pro-active steps to clarify the pricing of their prefabs and make modern + sustainable living more affordable.

Take_home_3 Take_home_2 Take_home_4_1

Sustainability:
Sustainability is a key issue in the design process at OMD.  Prefab presents the natural green benefit of avoiding all the construction waste that plagues stick-built construction.  With the Take Home, OMD also offers precision steel construction, high-end amenities (Italian Boffi kitchens + Duravit bathrooms), fully landscaped courtyards with pools, passive cooling systems, and AVAILABLE 100% solar power and water heating.  Also available is bamboo and radiant heated flooring.  Homes range in size from 800-5,000 square feet and cost $210-270 per square foot.  Not bad at all!

Extra Links:
Incoming! [Fast Company]
Office of Mobile Design [OMD + Prefab]
Siegal’s Desert Hot Springs Development [the take home]

The McGlasson Prefab by Alchemy Architects: Pricing, Financing, Building + Obstacles

Mcglasson_home_160k_1 The ultra-stylish bloggers at PrairieMod turned me on to a story in Kiplinger’s, which details the process that a couple went through to get their dream prefab home.  I liked this article for two reasons:  (1) they talk about the prefab process in terms of tangible, financial figures, and (2) they go through some of obstacles and intricacies particular to prefab purchasing and construction.  With many articles on prefab, authors glorify the design (which makes sense because many of them are extremely stylish) and harp on the price.  With prefab pricing, it seems that the common wisdom is that prefabs are cheap for custom-built, architect-designed homes, but they are expensive when compared to a traditional home. 

Regardless, I still believe that prefab has the power to revolutionize and commoditize site-build tasks that are wasteful, thereby producing cost savings in resource, labor, and design.  I’m brainstorming a business plan for this right now.  Here are a few points that this article makes:

  1. Mcglassons_kitchenPrefabs Require Unique Financing – as opposed to the traditional mortgage loan and its many variations, prefabs require a construction loan or a construction-to-permanent loan.  Why?  Some banks aren’t educated on the value of modular, modern, factory-built structures and they’re worried about the note collateral. 
  2. Factory versus Site Finish-outs – sometimes it may be more difficult to get contractors to do the work on site and they may charge a premium.  Depending, it could be more beneficial to get as much of the home built at the factory as possible. 
  3. Panelized versus Modular – there’s a difference.  Panelized prefabs have sections stuffed with wiring + insulation; they are trucked to the lot, more customizable, and cost a little more.  Modular prefabs are built in units of entire rooms or bigger and can be constrained by highway travel (12 x 12 x up to 64?).  Modular prefabs are likely to be less expensive. 
  4. Pricing – prefabs are 20-30% cheaper than custom homes designed by the same architect, but they’re more expensive than tract-type, suburban homes. 
  5. GIVEN – prefabs are not on the same planet as manufactured homes. 

The McGlasson Home:  Pricing
The McGlassons purchased an Alchemy Architects plan for a 780 square feet prefab.  Alchemy outsourced the construction to a Wisconsin manufacturing factory (6 weeks).  The actual home:  $95,000.  Delivery + crane costs:  $6,000.  Contractors connected the house wiring to the grid, dug a well, and did the finish-outs:  $59,000.  Total cost:  $160,000 (including fixtures + appliances, not including land).  Not bad. 

Extra Links:
Fabulous Prefabs:  Save $ With an Upscale Dwelling [Kiplinger's]
Wrap it Up + Make it Home (10 Popular Prefabs Comparison) [Kiplinger's]

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