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Growing Greener Prefab
Sarah Rich, 4 Jan 07
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Out in the pictureque desertlands of Joshua Tree, California, artists, hippies, and other off-the-grid, out-of-the-city types have long been building homes and establishing communities. It's a dreamy - if harsh - location that in more recent years has also drawn the luxury, second home crowd.

Southern California is a known hotbed for both green building and modern modular design, so it's no wonder that one of the eco prefab architects du jour, Marmol Radziner, is developing a small Joshua Tree community of manufactured modern homes. Skyline Modern is starting out as a 5-home development on 1.25-2.5 acre lots. Mind you, these are conceived as retreat homes, so they are neither urban, nor highly affordable, but as we often say, these green consumer trends usually get their start amongst a more elite set, and eventually achieve a demand high enough to bring down cost and increase accessibility.

The standard floor plan includes two bedrooms, two baths, and a pool, with optional guest suite casita, solar panels, carport, and more. The homes feature bamboo flooring, Ipe wood decking, Zincalum metal siding, Caesarstone countertops, and Bosch appliances. The homes are fabricated in Marmol Radziner Prefab’s 65,000 sq.ft. factory in Vernon, California. By managing production in-house, the firm maintains greater control of the quality, details, and schedule of the homes.
Designed for LEED certification, the two homes employ green designs and materials such as recycled steel frames, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), FSC-certified wood, low VOC Green Seal paint, and energy efficient appliances. Floor-to-ceiling windows capture natural light, while expansive decks provide shade for passive cooling and promote the best of indoor/outdoor living.

What's perhaps more promising than green luxury appealing to an affluent crowd (that's a no-brainer: comparable decadence without the guilt of a 21-century consumption taboo) is that compact spaces are becoming more attractive to those who could afford thousands of square feet for their vacation homes. Metropolis Magazine this month ran a story about the increasing trend of living small. Inexpensive urban lots are being bought up and built up with smart, small residences that do what we need, and do without the excess. An exploration of Northwestern [North American] metropolitan centers revealed a fresh commitment to urban regeneration via smart urban planning and personal moderation.

Recently Portland and Vancouver established zoning and design guidelines to encourage the development of smaller houses, as long as they meet exacting design criteria. A new program in Vancouver that falls under the mayor’s overall policy of “eco-density? encourages the reconfig­uration of lots in certain single-family districts. In Portland a new set of ordinances and guidelines seeks to promote “skinny houses,? intended to fit lots less than 36 feet wide.

These are two trends we'd like to see merge -- the promise of prefab and the push for smarter urban residential design. Michelle Kaufmann Designs has been working to implement their modular model for multi-family developments in cities. As density and affordability meet off-site fabrication, we may see a rise on the compact modern sensibility.

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Great stuff. For months I've been thinking about starting Appropedia pages on this topic. This has inspired me (and given me a bit of material) to make a start on the pages for Prefabricated buildings and Housing affordability.


Posted by: Chriswaterguy on 5 Jan 07

This is great! Are these homes avalible for 1-3 month rent? Short term renting of eco-friendly homes may be a great way get more people thinking green.

Posted by: Jonny Pez on 5 Jan 07



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