Prefabulous or Fad? - Page 4

Designers and builders of prefabricated homes go modern and green—but what lies ahead?

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
Type: Panelized kit house
Features: Constructed with a Bosch aluminum post-and-beam frame, a steel roof, and off-the-shelf parts, this 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom design uses inch-thick glass panels around most of the house. Vinyl, decorative panels ('outFITs') designed by artists provide privacy and filter the light.
Where: Based in Los Angeles. They are starting one model in Joshua Tree. Two other iT houses are nearing completion.

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.
Type: Modular
Features: LivingHomes mixes green building technologies with modern aesthetics, and was awarded the first Platinum rating by the United States Green Building Program's LEED Home program for the model home in Santa Monica.
Where: Based in Santa Monica
How many: A steel-framed, 2,500-square-foot prototype was built in Santa Monica. Ten homes are under contract in California and a LivingHomes community is planned in Joshua Tree. A second line of LivingHomes is being developed with architect David Hertz.
Check out: The prototype house can be visited, by appointment (via the website), at 2914 Highland Ave., Santa Monica.

living home

3. Marmol Radziner Prefab: the Desert House

What: The Desert House is a prototype for Marmol Radziner's modular homes.
Type: Modular, steel framed
Features: Marmol Radziner builds its homes, based on a 12-foot module, in its own factory, and designs custom prefabs. Models come with modular decks, use eco-friendly materials, and can be equipped with solar panels.
Where: Based in Los Angeles
How many: One has been built in Desert Hot Springs; two are going to Moab, Utah, and Las Vegas; 18 more are under contract.