Erecting Eichlers Back East

Network’s online forum discussion raises concerns over Eichler style in cold climates
Fridays on the Homefront
"Most of the homes on the market do not excite me the way an Eichler home does," confessed a recent East Coast contributor to the Eichler Network's Chatterbox
Lounge online forum. "I'm contemplating building one of my own," he added,
perhaps like the one pictured above. But will climate and building code conditions cooperate? Photo: David Toerge
Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Megan Blaine (right) and family in their San Jose Eichler. Photo: James Fanucchi
Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Joanne Koch of Koch Architects.
Photo: Jonathan Braun

With few exceptions, homebuyers in the mid-century seeking a modern-style production home had only one choice if they didn't live in California: move here.

Joe Eichler was one of a handful of American developers back then building myriad tracts of modern houses, which is part of why Eichlers are so different than most homes today.

"Most of the homes on the market do not excite me the way an Eichler home does," confessed a contributor (with the tagline Slainte) from Pennsylvania to the Eichler Network's Chatterbox Lounge online forum. In a recent post titled "Is building an Eichler on the East Coast a viable dream?" Slainte dares to hope: "I'm contemplating building one of my own."

"Maybe I'm foolish, but the thought of living in an Eichler is a truly desirable prospect," wrote Slainte. "I'm a little surprised that there hasn't been more attempts to build in the East."

It's a post, originally on the Chatterbox and shortly afterwards on the Network's Facebook page, that garnered several responses from forum members, including the owner of a San Jose Eichler, architect Megan Blaine. Additionally, we consulted another architect, Joanne Koch of Koch Architects in Berkeley, who is part of the Network's team of Preferred Service Companies. They concur that Slainte's dream is achievable.

"Short answer is yes, it's absolutely possible to build an Eichler in Pennsylvania, and there would be a few key differences," Blaine replied through her tagline of Mbugsy.

Regarding how modern houses do in colder climate, Koch said she recently designed and built one in the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho. Citing the work in cooler climates by pioneer modernist Frank Lloyd Wright, she noted in a recent interview, "He built in Chicago, he built in Wisconsin. Certainly it's been done."

"You cannot build an Eichler home like you did in 1950," Koch clarified, however. Referring to the boatload of improved building materials available today, she added, "You get the look, but you get the thermal advances."

"A lot of it is [building] code-driven, frankly. That's really driving everything these days," said the longtime East Bay architect and California native. "Of course, California is on the forefront of this because we believe in climate change…It's so acute to your location as to what's required."

In her Chatterbox post, Blaine identifies four pertinent construction issues for an East Coast ‘Like-ler,' and Koch agrees with her take on some but not all of them. One fairly obvious necessity would be double-paned windows, which Blaine refers to as IGU (insulated glass units).