Since last we reviewed the evolution of home design, a number of new developments have surfaced, and several that were previously just CAD concepts have finally come to life.
It's particularly exciting to see a few of the most promising sustainable prefab designs of the last year, such as Living Homes and Sustain miniHome, finally taking shape as fully-built, habitable dwellings. Other possibilities arose from the creation of the Katrina Cottage and the giveaway of 58 post-war prefab relics in Virginia...disaster shelter anyone?
It's been a month of rapid progress for Living Homes, the Southern California company whose concept first appeared last fall, generating anticipation of a home that would take sustainable living seriously. With legendary architect and Sci-Arc founder Ray Kappe on board, Living Homes garnered a true pioneer as their first designer, finding an ideal balance of well-seasoned stylistic approaches and an enduring willingness to experiment.
Abundant natural light, FSC-certified wood, solar power, green roofs and smart technology all made the place sound great, but for months it was only pictures and words. As of this week, though, Living Homes is getting real, and inviting us to watch on a live webcam as they build their first home.
The miniHome appeared on our radar with much the same enigma as Living Homes - promise of unprecedented residential efficiency and sustainability, but little more than digital imagery to go on. Lucky for us, Treehugger's resident prefab maven, Lloyd Alter, got to see this baby live, and supplied some interior images (viewable here), in addition to confirming the validity of the company's claims. Architect Andy Thomson (a maven in his own right - of efficient, compact living) puts the aspects of a sustainable residence into a broader context.
The miniHome, designed for passive solar heating and passive cooling, is its own power utility, waste treatment center, rainwater collection system, and uses some of the most efficient technologies available. Through the use of highly energy-efficient systems and fixtures, like passive solar-heating, solar panels, composting toilets, and LED lighting, the miniHome will consume as little as 1/10th the water, 1/10th the gas, and 1/100th the electricity of a conventional home or cottage...Sustain Design Studio imagines something like the miniHome as an answer to the increasing need for affordable alternatives to infill development. One that doesnt place additional burdens on existing infrastructure.
Designer Marianne Cusato's Katrina Cottage aimed to respond to housing shortages with an alternative to FEMA trailers. The tiny, mobile prefab house was designed to resemble traditional homes of the New Orleans area, neatly painted and outfitted with a little front porch. Although it boasted a cost equivilent to the government-issue trailers, a host of bureaucratic obstacles made it difficult for the designers to get the cottage out to victims in need. This past week, however, hope seemed a bit higher as FEMA and local officials wrestled with possibilities of loosening restrictions on the type of housing they'll fund, and Cusato Cottages unveiled an updated model.
Finally, this week marked the last opportunity to obtain a free Lustron home from the Quantico Military Base. The giveaway was an effort to preserve a collection of "antique" prefab homes, avoid generating a huge amount of waste to make room for new development, and potentially provide free housing for nearly 60 families (minus the cost of transporting them from the site, which may be no small sum). For most of us, the giveaway draws a straight connection to the dire need for shelter on the Gulf Coast. I'm terribly curious who the proud new owners turned out to be.
Thought people might be interested in Loblolly House, a modular prefab house my firm is doing in maryland right now that incorporates a number of green technologies (green roof, tankless water heaters in modularized mechanical components, etc.) It's currently being built by Bensonwood and will be installed in August. It was blogged a bit a few years ago wen we first started working on it .We are currently mining the seam between prefabrication and sustainability and think that off-site construction may be one of the best ways to overcome some of the problems that have made wide scale adoption of sustainable technology in the homebuilding industry difficult.