Articles With "Development" Tag

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]

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

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Platinum Genzyme Center

Anton_grassl_genzyme_rendering This building is a little old hat for many of the readers here (it was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2004), but I think there are some important aspects of the projects that can be remembered and applied to new green projects.  This building is in the highest eschelon of LEED ratings, the platinum standard (LEED-NC, v2), and if you follow the links below, they’ve been generous enough to explain how they received all the points towards Platinum certification.  You can even take a virtual tour of the building if you’re interested. 

The building is the corporate headquarters for a biotechnology firm and houses 900 employees in 12 floors.  Here are some of the many green features:  high performance curtainwall glazing system with operable windows on all 12 floors; steam from local plant is used for heating + cooling; about 1/3 of the building uses ventilated double-facade that blocks summer solar and captures winter solar gains; the central atrium acts as a huge return air duct and light shaft; air moves up the atrium and out exhaust fans near the skylight; natural light is brought in from solar-tracking mirrors above the skylight and reflected deep throughout the building; the building saves water use comparably by 32% by using waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, automatic faucets, and low-flush fixtures; storm water supplements the cooling towers and irrigates the landscaped roof; partial electricity generation is provided by the building integrated photovoltaics (PV); nearly 90% of the wood is FSC-certified; and the building materials were chosen based on low emissions, recycled content, and/or local manufacturing.  Not a bad list!

Anton_grassl_layers_photo_1 Roland_halbe_interior

Really, I think this enormous achievement required the collective efforts of many different players with a similar vision.  Architect and lead designer was Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner, executive architect – base building was House & Robertson Architects, tenant improvements architect was Next Phase Studios, landscape architect was Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects, and Turner Construction Company was the contractor. 

Extra Links:
USGBC Case Study Information
Top Ten Green Projects 2004 [AIA/COTE]
Genzyme Center Building Information + Facts [Genzyme Website]

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