Today, many buyers of modern prefab homes are seeking vacation homes. In the future, some say, buyers will include entry-level buyers seeking first homes. "I think the goal is to use this technique for affordable homes," Kappe says, "if you can get it down in price."
That's why some architects and developers, including Kappe and LivingHomes, hope to produce entire communities or prefab housing, including condos, to achieve economies of scale. LivingHomes is considering a community of starter homes, Kappe says, and so is Taalman Koch.
Yeh + Jerrard have a similar idea, Yeh says. "We're looking at building sustainable single-unit models that we can scale up, with the help of a developer. The payoff comes when you have economies of scale," he says.
Architect Ray Kappe remains hopeful but, like Krisel, cautious. "We'll see where it goes," Kappe says. "There's just a limited demand for high design modern architecture. Hopefully it will take off."
Sacramento's Streng Bros. dabbled with prefabricated homes in the 1980s, but without success. Why? See their 'Prefabricated Problems' story here.
Photos: John Eng, Barry Sturgill, James Watts, Benny Chan; also courtesy Clifford Public Relations, LivingHomes, Marmol Radziner Prefab, Maxx Livingstone Modern Homes, Michelle Kaufman Designs, Office of Mobile Design, Social Blueprint, Taalman Koch Architecture, Yeh + Jerrard. iT House outFIT
Illustrations: Conny Purtil, Barbara Bestor, Jim Isermann, Renee Petropoulos, Worthington/Kim
California's prefab crop: 7 modern models on the rise
Some of the most fascinating of today's modern prefab designs are emerging right here in California. Profiled below are seven of California's top candidates currently underway. Prices vary and do not include the cost of land or grading. Most of the houses have custom options. In general, the homes sell for $130-300 per square foot, which means a typical house would cost $250-350,000, without land, grading, utility hookups, or custom extras.
1. Taalman Koch Architecture: the iT House
What: The iT House
2. LivingHomes: the LivingHome
What: Ray Kappe designed the first line of homes for LivingHomes. "Not making it look like a prefab space was one of our goals," says Steve Glenn, the company's founder.
3. Marmol Radziner Prefab: the Desert House
What: The Desert House is a prototype for Marmol Radziner's modular homes.