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There's a New Prefab in Town: Michelle Kaufmann Designs + mkSolaire

Mksolaire If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new prefab in town.  But if you’ve been following the modern prefab movement, you’ll recognize this newest installment comes from an experienced architect:  Michelle Kaufann Designs.  MKD is behind the glidehouse and sunset breezehouse prefabs that have become the talk in modern + sustainable building circles.  But these aren’t just prefab concepts or designs.  Recently, MKD finished building the first U.S. factory dedicated to sustainable, modular custom homes (www.mkConstructs.com).  This Washington (state) factory is wholly-owned by MKD and will serve California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. 

Solaire_interior The mkSolaire is an open, loft-like home designed for healthy, green living in the urban context.  The architecturally designed roof and windows allow a perfect mixture of air and light to enter the home.  Initial design to completion lead time is roughly 8-14 months, which varies depending on a variety of factors specific to your design and location.  Some of the things that will be available include solar panel roofing, geothermal system, wind generator system, hybrid system, icynene insulation, bamboo or reclaimed wood flooring, recycled paper countertops, recycled glass countertops, on-demand water heaters, water-saving dual-flush toilets, non-toxic paints, and formaldehyde-free cabinetry, etc. 

Solaire_roofSolaire_18  Solaire_17

Because the mkSolaire is built from a modular system, there are endless possibilities as far as layouts and floorplans.  The website has 5+ floorplan options, but it looks like those can be further customized.  And if you’re really interested in taking the plunge, MKD has tried to take the sting out of prefab costing by explaining how it all works.  This stuff isn’t cheap:  factory costs ($150-175 square foot), transportation + installation ($3,000 – $8,000 per module), site costs (depends on location), and miscellaneous costs (permit fees, architectural and engineering fees, sales tax for some states, appliance costs, add-on costs, etc.).  That said, homes do come with high-end Kohler  and Hansgrohe fixtures, Anderson windows + doors, and slate-tile flooring.

I could go on and on, so feel free to visit their site and see if this looks like something you’re interested in.  As far as modern + green custom architectural design is concerned, this is about as good an option as they come.  Source via Linton + Yahoo Finance

Fab-ulous Friday: October 14, 2006 Leo Marmol Lecture on Marmol Radziner + Associates

Marmol_home On October 14, 2006, the DME (Dallas Modern Expo) Modern Lecture Series will host Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner + Associates.  Marmol is set to speak on the following topic:  "From Design-build to Prefab:  The Process of Marmol Radziner + Associates."  This event is on Saturday from 2:00 – 3:00 pm, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum on Lemmon Avenue, and costs a mere $10 to attend.  Tickets can be purchased online, or at the door, but seating is limited.  For those of you that are die hard prefab enthusiasts, you can take a cheap Southwest Airlines flight into Love Field (right next door to the place) and attend the lecture. 

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This is a preview of what Marmol plans to speak about: "Bridging the divide between architecture and construction, Leo Marmol has created a unique design-build practice led by architects that combines innovative design, thorough research, and construction precision into a holistic approach to restore and create meaningful modern spaces. The firm’s multidisciplinary approach combines architecture, landscape, interior design, furniture design, construction, and prefabricated housing to create the ability to manage the execution of designs with the same rigor with which they were designed. Leo will explain how the firm’s experience in restoration of mid-century modern homes has influenced new residential projects as well as the design and fabrication of the firm’s new line of modern prefab homes."

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Marmol Radziner + Associates:
Marmol Radziner Prefab website.  As I’m writing this post, a Treehugger feed popped up announcing a Marmol Radziner Factory Tour. Treehugger calls their prefabs "the most beautiful prefab in the world."  In their factory, they produce steel-made homes that are easy to customize to modern + green standards.  Actually, they’ve been designed to achieve LEED certification:  they use structural insulated panels (SIPs), FSC-certified wood, low-VOC green seal paint, solar panels, natural light design, etc.!  These prefabs are the embodiment of everything Jetson Green espouses:  modern architecture + sustainable living.  This will be an awesome lecture event.

miniHome: Modern + Green Urban RV

Minihome

Introducing the miniHome.  Technically, it’s an RV, but it’s also designed for year-round living in extreme climates.  Ask the company, and they’ll tell you it’s perfect as a ski chalet, vacation retreat, cottage, guest cabin, or simple + luxurious home-away-from-home.  The base price is about $107,000 USD (max price $167,000), and if you’re thinking of hauling it around, you’ll need a vehicle that can handle a 14,000 pound haul.

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Linz, Austria Hotel Tubes – Dasparkhotel

Dasparkhotel

I was skimming through one of my favorite magazines called Architectural Review, and I noticed a really cool article entitled "Tubular Troglodytes."  I couldn’t find the article online, but I did some research on the architect and discovered a hotel in Linz, Austria with the name of dasparkhotel.  Some of the website is in German, so I found the Google Translator somewhat (not completely) helpful.  From what I understand, Dasparkhotel is a concept creation of Andrea Strauss. 

As far as accomodations, this place isn’t that bad!  You get a double bed, fresh blankets (or sleeping bags–can’t tell from the translation), lighting, moon/day light hole in ceiling, stow-a-way space beneath the bed, 220 V power connection, and an internet connection. Further, the surrounding area has toilets, showers, and a minibar & cafe. 

Each tubular hotel room was created with redesigned, standardized sewer pipes, with a diameter large enough for normal people to stand up.  Reservations for a "room" can be made online, and you use a code received via email to access the room.  Apparently, the pay rate is "pay as you wish."  I couldn’t discover whether the surrounding area services (toilet, minibar, shower, & cafeteria) were "pay as you wish"–meaning if you use it, you pay for it–or the actual hotel tube was "pay as you wish"–choose the amount and pay it.  Regardless, I think this is a great idea!

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LivingHomes Prefab in BusinessWeek

Livinghomes

This week’s edition of BusinessWeek has a feature on LivingHomes and entrepreneur Steve Glenn, founder of the company.  Glenn is a leader in the growing movement that is green prefab — modern, prefabricated homes built with sustainability in mind.  The BusinessWeek feature also includes a slide show of the first LEED-H Platinum certified home in the country, and some of photos are pictured above and below.

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Differentiation Strategy: EcoBroker, GreenHomesForSale, Etc.

Hawaiiprefab Applications for building permits have slowed down, some projects have been tosssed, and interest rates are inching higher. Homes sales will be ugly, to use the headline of one news article. All the while, real estate agents are scampering, trying to drum up business and continue the high life. I’m not a real estate agent, but from what I understand, the good ones make real good money and the bad ones make good money, so it hasn’t been that bad of a market…until, the Fed started to cool things off. Enter: EcoBrokers, GreenHomesForSale.com, and differentiation.

I noticed two articles on the same day about EcoBrokers, one on USGBC website and the other on MarketWatch. Becoming an Ecobroker means differentiating yourself from hundreds of other run-of-the-mill real estate agents, and it’s smart business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the 2005 green building market ($7.4 Billion) is expected to reach from $19 to $38 billion by 2010. The tipping point, or the point where more green homes are built than non-green homes, is supposed to be in around 2007.

According to the MarketWatch article, buyers are interested more in the energy-saving, cost-cutting, sustainable features than the "save the earth" rhetoric (go figure!). And while features can vary from home to home (read: there will be a green standards war just like the current standards war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray), these EcoBrokers are going to have a leg up in explaining to purchasers and sellers the best ways to market homes. Certification for EcoBrokers will cover topics such as energy-efficiency ratings, asbestos, VOCs and lead paint, and indoor air quality.

Even more interesting, at the website, www.ecobroker.com, there is a designation guarantee that says the following: "Earn the EcoBroker designation, and apply the marketing and sales skills you learn. During the first year of your designation, you will increase your personal commission income, or we will refund 100% of your designation fee." From what I understand, the costs are $395, so that should be money well spent. The market is heading that direction (as the NAHB quote urges), so it’s smart to get in early.

Hawaiiprefab2 Another website is www.greenhomesforsale.com. I like the concept; it’s kind of a DIY-type place, and looks like it can be an attractive place for home listing as the listings increase. I looked at some of the listings and they can hardly be considered green (McKinney, Texas home), but it’s a good start. I found a prefab in Hawaii, that I know I’m gonna dream about tonight–if only money was sustainable on my backyard tree!

What I don’t understand about this website, however, is why they don’t invest some money in design and get rid of all those convoluted google ads, etc., sticking up all over the place like a bunch of weeds. It’s hard to take a website serious with all those cheap pay-per-click ads all over the place…my recommendation: pick a strategy for cash generation and stick with it–drive that strategy home. Looks like it costs about $60 to list for 3 months, so stick it out while your making your way down the long tail of sales.

Overall, I digg the future of what’s going on in the green real estate industry. It would be a smart move for real estate agents to get on this and learn the jargon. As the demand for green homes increase, those that can’t speak the jargon will be left trying to catch up. And might I suggest, as a parting note, since buyers are interested in the cost-benefits of green, the jargon includes being able to calculate payback periods, breakevens, inflation, and discounted cash flows, etc.

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