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Flat-Pack Prefabs Could Make City Living Much Cheaper

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The YMCA of Southwest London is in the process of prototyping a 36-unit development of stacked prefabricated houses called Y:Cubes, and if this one goes well, more might be on the way. Designed by Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners, the Y:Cube fits a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bath into just under 300 square feet. Each can be assembled for about $50K on the quick at a nearby factory, and because the exteriors are made from timber-frame panels called Insulshell—the same kind used in the Velodrome for the 2012 London Olympics—they're so airtight that they take very little energy to heat. Units in this first neighborhood are being leased at below-market rates to young people who have been living at the YMCA's hostel and are currently enrolled in a two-year education and employment program, but because the homes cost about 40 percent less to construct than traditional buildings, the entire project is expected to pay for itself in about 15 years.

Ivan Harbour, a partner at Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners, told Co.Exist that the Y:Cube is "about speed and process... not reduced quality. The same money—probably actually more money—is spent on the quality of the materials and finishes." Another perk of working with a prefabricated design scheme is that once the YMCA's five-year lease on the land is up, the homes can be moved elsewhere by crane as simply as they were brought in.

Aside from designing the Y:Cube, Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners has configured the development to promote connection between neighbors, ideally making residents feel less "ghettoized." And if this project is a success, the underlying design should be simple to apply elsewhere. According to Andrew Partridge, an architect on the project, "this technology could be used for almost anything."

· Tiny, Prefab $50,000 Homes Could Make Outrageously Expensive Cities Affordable [Co.Exist via Apartment Therapy]
· All prefab housing coverage [Curbed National]