It's 20 years since Allison Arieff and Bryan Burkhart published "Prefab," the book that started the modern prefab craze. In her role as editor of Dwell Magazine, she ran the Dwell House Competition, won by New York-based Resolution 4: Architecture (res4), which has been building the best in modern modular ever since.
We have not shown much of their work in the last few years—here was the last—as many are large second homes, and readers will ask, "Why is this on Treehugger?" The usual answer is that there is less waste, greater accuracy and precision during construction, and there are not a bunch of tradespeople driving big pickup trucks for miles every day to get to the job site. It is a greener way to build. Dark Carbonized Bamboo
When I was in the modular business back in 2002, we never used the word "double-wide"—that's trailer park talk. To this day, most modular builders try to hide the fact that they are built out of boxes. Look at the homes from the company I worked with, and you would never know that they are modular because they are trying so hard to make them look like normal houses.
Resolution 4: Architecture, on the other hand, revels in it and is proud of the box. This makes their designs more efficient to build and probably more energy-efficient because there are usually fewer jogs and bumps. They will happily call the Lido Beach House II a double-wide made from four boxes.
The Lido Beach House is on Treehugger because it is such a good example of the benefits of modular construction. The architects describe it: "Sitting on a flag lot at the corner of Lido Beach, this 2,625 sq. ft. prefab home serves as a summer house for a professor / writer and her family. The home attempts to establish a relationship to the surrounding dunes and beach while still being referential to its cozy neighborhood."
The four boxes sit on a poured concrete base, raised up a level, likely anticipating flooding as water levels rise. you enter from the exterior stairs into what they call a "dump zone" with access to a big flex room, while two bedrooms can be closed off.
The living spaces are on the top floor:
I have always been fond of upside-down houses with the bedrooms down and the living spaces up. If you were building on-site, it meant that you had all those bedroom walls supporting the second floor, which you could span with a roof and get big open spaces with minimal structure.
There is no structural benefit at all in modular design. Here, they are doing it for the view. It is unusual to see it in what is essentially a three-story house; it is a big climb, but it will be worth it when you get there.
When I was in this business, the simplest and most economical houses we sold were the simple four-box designs where every box was as big as you could put on a truck, all about the same dimensions, coming out at about 2,600 square feet; this was the sweet spot that maximized efficiency of the system.
Twenty years ago, you could never get this kind of quality out of a modular factory; they were set up to do economical houses in the country where people couldn't find trades and wanted to save money. The modular revolution came with the realization that you could actually get higher quality and finish in the factory than you could on site. This is why they are so beautiful, and nobody does it better than Resolution 4.
It wouldn't be Treehugger if I didn't complain about something, so how about not putting gas stoves on islands with hanging exhaust hoods?
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