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Semantics: Don't Conflate Prefab + Mobile Homes

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Prefab.  Prefab.  Prefab.  If you’re interested in the green building movement, you probably get pumped up when the usual rhetoric–green benefits versus money savings versus factory-built convenience versus design premium versus modernize-the-building industry–kicks in.  I do.  Prefab, which includes the modular and the panelized varieties, is an interesting industry phenomenon.  So, I wanted to share Amy Gunderson’s newest NY Times article, which I thought was very well-written and thoughtful.  I will say, however, as a warning:  this article walks on the edge of conflating prefabs with manufactured homes (actually, it pretty much puts them in the same boat and then parses them out by explaining the differences), but I think it’s handier to deal with prefabs and manufactured homes in separate discussions.  For example:

The_dwell_home VS. Palm_harbor_mobile_home_1

In the article, it is explained that Adrienne Shishko + Joel Sklar retained the popular Resolution: 4 Architecture to put the 3,000 square foot home on their vacation property.  Not a bad choice, I might add.  The modules are built in a factory and the home arrives at the lot roughly 70% complete, you just need to put the parts together + do the finish out (electrical, plumbing, drywall, painting, appliance installation, etc.).  The firm’s average building price comes out to $200-250 square foot, which is lower than a comparable, custom-built home, which averages $300-400 square foot.  The home has the potential to get built faster, assuming the permitting goes smoothly, and it qualifies as a residence (unlike mobile homes).  Plus, factory built homes incur less construction waste.  One additional caveat, shipping modules is not cheap (@$8,000 per module, I’ve seen) + so there is that pollution premium to think about, but … this is an exciting industry for the future of building.  Art by Nancy Doniger. 

Redondo Beach House, a Modern Container Dwelling [Video]

Redondo Beach House

If you’ve ever been to a port terminal, you’ve seen the mass quantities of shipping containers used to transport goods all over the world.  With the trade imbalance–US importing more than exporting, the containers that aren’t returned to their origin, waste away here in the US.  But there are a few creative architects such as Adam Kalkin, Jennifer Siegal, and Peter DeMaria (his home pictured above and below), who are using these containers as the basic structure for custom built homes.  The fact is, materials such as steel and wood cost big-time money and perpetually increase in price due to world demand; according to the video, Anna + Sven Pirkl are getting their 3,500 square foot home built at $125 square foot (a pittance for that area’s custom build price that ballparks at +$250 square foot). 

The LA Times also wrote an article about what the family is going to do with the home (think:  zip line + climbing wall). 

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London's Innovative Container City Video + Business Plan Question

[Total Time: 5:06 minutes] I found this informative, richly entrepreneurial video on Container City, which is a container-based urban development in London.  Here in the US, we have some work to do, to get to the point that we support this variety of innovative development.  Demand for a place to rent has been through the roof, so they added another level of container modules to rent out a few more funky flats.  The website is at the following link:  Container City

BUSINES PLAN QUESTIONS: 
I’m writing a business plan based on a container based retail enterprise.  If you have experience working with these containers, could you email me with information on the costs of acquiring a container (including transportation, rehab, + wiring for use)?  Any other information and experience that you may have with these containers is welcome!  Entrepreneurial architects, your expertise is demanded!!!

Green Prefab: The Vital House by Ulterior Mode

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If you’ve heard of the Husten-Haskin house (mentioned in NYTimes + SF Chronicle), then you’ve heard of the architect behind the the Vital House prefab:  Erin Vali of Ulterior Mode.  The Vital House is designed to be both economical (1,500 sq-ft. at $300,000) and eco-friendly.  Practically speaking, the firm is Brooklyn-based, so this prefab design will serve the east coast, at least in the near short-term, but this four-bedroom model was designed to adapt to virtually any location.  The prefab utilizes solar-power and passive heating during the winter (with double-height walls on the south + east orientation).  It also has water-filled tanks placed on the south + east spaces, which absorb radiant energy and distribute it through the house.  Interestingly, construction is raised slightly off the ground, which accommodates both flat and sloped land sites.  Another benefit of raised construction is that wind + air can cool the home.  Some of the other specifics on the Vital House are still in flux, but I think this is a good start.

Slope_rendering_1 First_rendering

OMD Prefab Video + Jennifer Siegal Interview

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. 

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]

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