Recently, I blogged about Jennifer Siegal and Office of Mobile Design (OMD) and wanted follow up because I found this video of her Venice, California show house. It’s a short, 2-minute video packed with modern + green information and mentions the following products: Japanese recycled grass board called "Kirei" (Japanese for pretty or beautiful), radiant heating ceiling panels called "People Heaters," the in-wall iPod sound system called iPort, energy-efficient appliances by Sub-zero, a tank-less water heater, and industrial-grade flooring in the bathroom to withstand heavy use. Take a look at some of these products if you’re doing a renovation and enjoy the video if you’re interested in modern + green prefab.
I noticed this futuristic, yet realistic, home concept in the latest issue of Popular Science. It’s was designed by PB+CO (aka Philippe Barriere Collective) and "reflects the desire to create socially responsible communities with an environmental ethos. The idea is to converge the scattered remnants and residual land ‘vacancies’ mapped by the uneven contours of a disassembled suburbia, to reclaim them as Readymade Parks and, finally, to recycle the undefined ‘greenways,’ which will constitute inhabitable wooded Public Parks: Parkurbia."
The prototype is based on the desire for housing with a minimal environmental footprint. It incorporates recycled materials and translucent photovoltaic films that provide electricity and filtered natural light. I think it’s a nice idea actually: there are active windows for ventilation, two floors with a balcony, and intrinsic flood-protected design. It’s modern, too. What more could you ask for?
About one year ago yesterday, Hunt Consolidated Inc. broke ground on a new office tower, which borders on Akard Street and Woodall Rogers Freeway. You’ve probably seen it, it has massive cement beams curving on its northerly face. The building is being developed by Woodbine Development Corporation, which is partially owned somehow in the Hunt Consolidated Empire. I heard from a friend (hearsay, I know) that Chairman Ray Hunt, or some other c-level executive, was asked at a luncheon whether the building was going to be green and he equivocated saying something like, "Well, we’re not going to build green just to build green, but we’ll do it if there are tangible economic reasons to do it."
I did some research and it looks like Hunt Consolidated Office Tower is registered with the USGBC as LEED-CI v2.0, otherwise know as the green ratings standard for commercial interiors. If my understanding is correct, that building is to be 100% owner-occupied, so Hunt is going green inside? Not sure. Here’s what I know. It will be a $120 million, 400,000 square foot, 15 story building. Gensler, which is #2 in the US for having the largest number of LEED Accredited Professionals, will be doing the interiors. So they have the know-how to go green on the inside. The entire structure was designed by Dallas-based Beck Group and the general contractor is Austin Commercial. Looks like it may be going green, but if the decision is still in the air, here’s my two cents: what’s more economic incentive to build green than a $6.3 million tax abatement over 10 years? That abatement should cover the 1% premium (if that) required to go green.
Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017. Think about that. We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy. Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization. It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa. What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills).
In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles. The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything. Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored. The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent. Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place.
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000. Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in. To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government. After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years. Not bad.
So what’s the big deal? If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider). Which is better? Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air. This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family. If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!
Quoting 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.
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.
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!
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:
- Prefabs 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pricing – prefabs are 20-30% cheaper than custom homes designed by the same architect, but they’re more expensive than tract-type, suburban homes.
- 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.
Fabulous Prefabs: Save $ With an Upscale Dwelling [Kiplinger's]
Wrap it Up + Make it Home (10 Popular Prefabs Comparison) [Kiplinger's]