In 2018, prefab houses are as relevant as ever—not just as an alluring means of modern architecture, but for their potential to address affordable housing needs and offer deeper integrations with sustainable and smart home technologies. Here’s a closer look at the prefab projects that impressed us this year for those reasons and more.
Flex House: A “right-sized”, eco-friendly smart home
Flex House—presented by Green Builder Media, designed by California-based modular housing company Shelter Dynamics, and shown at CES 2018—comes in at a comfortable 760 square feet. Inside, you’ll find two living areas: a main living room to the left, and a nook to the right, which leads to a bonus “niche” space before you get to the kitchen. The kitchen has compact Bosch appliances and cabinets from Ikea.
The model Flex House also integrates a full suite of smart home and sustainability-minded fixtures. These include: a Nexus eWater greywater recycling system, Rachio WaterSense smart irrigation controller that optimizes water use based on weather data, Sylvania smart lighting, Lutron smart shades, Wemo smart plugs, Sensi smart thermostat, and Kwikset smart lock. And all of this is integrated with the smart assistant Amazon Alexa, which can be controlled by voice or app. Intended for young families, professionals, and empty nesters, the base cost will be between $125,000 and $150,000 depending on specific fixtures installed.
The “Home of the Future”
In season 2 of Home of the Future, a video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge, we chronicled the buildout of a prefab home in Austin, Texas, designed with cutting-edge technology, sustainability, and innovation in mind. Assembled in the 265,000-square-foot factory of prefab builder Evolution Building Systems (and based on a design from Ma Modular), the house eventually got outfitted with seamless solar roofing, a wide array of smart home integrations, optimized home security, and high-tech entertainment systems. All in all, it’s a tantalizing vision of what future homes could be.
An A-frame from Bjarke Ingels
This Bjarke Ingels-designed stunner is the debut model for Klein, a new company founded by fellow Danish designer Soren Rose to develop prefab tiny home concepts with the leading architects. While the A45 is 180 square feet, it feels spacious with 13-foot ceilings. There’s a small built-in kitchen and shelving, cedar-wood bathroom, and a stove fireplace. The built model is also appropriately furnished in perfectly Scandinavian Carl Hansen pieces.
ADUs by LivingHomes
In 2018, amid an ongoing affordable housing, prefab manufacturer LivingHomes dove deeper into accessory dwelling units (ADUs), introducing compact designs that can act as a spare room in the backyard or a standalone tiny home. The AD1 is 400 square feet and packs in a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. It’s also LEED-certified with high efficiency lighting and HVAC system. The AD1, available in three different finish packages, starts at $99,000 for the base units, not including site costs and permit fees.
In November, prolific designer Yves Béhar introduced a line of prefab ADUs developed in partnership with LivingHomes. That series will feature customizable sizes, rooflines, layouts, and interior finishes. It will also be a lot pricier, starting at around $280,000 a pop; though the goal is to get it down to $100,000 in the future.
A Scandi dream cabin
Black exteriors have been in vogue this year, so it’s not surprise to see a few prefabs embracing the new dark ages. Designed by U.K.-based husband and wife duo Johnathon and Zoë Little, the Koto (Finnish for “cozy at home”) cabins range from a 161-square-foot studio to a 430-square-foot, two-bedroom house.
The interior is light and airy, and features details like a built-in window seat, bronze shower accessories, and concealed storage walls. The striking slanted roof also gives the space a more spacious feel.
A prefab powered by the sun
From Dutch studio RoosRos Architecten comes an update to the WikiHouse model of open source architecture. Petit Place is a kit of wooden elements that assembles into a variety of sizes ranging from 270 square feet to 10,000 square feet. The facade is constructed from a grid of wooden squares that have been insulated in a gore-tex foil that protects it from water and wind. The exterior also integrates a grid of solar panels that generates 9,000 kWh per year, about triple the amount of energy needed to power the home.
The stunning aquatic retreat
Designed by architects from the China Academy of Art for a lake resort in Hangzhou, these wooden “boat rooms” takes prefab construction in a more whimsical, adventurous direction. Jutting out over the lake’s shore and connecting to land via steel piles, the 540-square-foot prefab rooms have a sumptuous arched shape that’s reminiscent of a boat’s bow. French doors open onto a large deck that overlooks the water.