Great Homes Right Out of a Box

Great Homes Right Out of a Box

By Melissa Friedling, MainStreet
May 17, 2011
High-end prefab homes feature modern amenities and eco-friendly materials.
Photo: Resolution: 4 Architecture

Prefab is often synonymous with cheap and shoddy when it comes to homebuilding.

Houses partly built in a factory are known for their low costs and fast construction. You just need some land to build on. The manufacturer simply delivers the home in pieces and sets it up.

But like many construction advancements, prefab homes have come a long way in recent years, making them attractive to even affluent buyers. Prefabrication techniques reduce waste, making it a more eco-friendly homebuilding method, and factory precision keeps modern clean edges and angles all in line.

Here are some cutting-edge prefab home options:

Blu Homes Custom Prefab Eco-Friendly

Solar-power panels, bamboo floors and eco-friendly insulation come standard.
Photo: Blu Homes

This company builds its prefab modules in its 80,000-square-foot Massachusetts factory and “folds” them using proprietary methods to facilitate shipping in more compact forms. The modules are “unfolded” on-site, allowing for up to 12-foot ceilings and more than 20-foot room spans. The homes can also be “folded up” and moved if necessary.

A Blu prefab will arrive on a flatbed, 90% complete, in as little as five to seven months after your initial purchase is made. Blu has six basic designs that can all be modified for size and tweaked with several additions and options. The three-bedroom single-story “Element” model starts at $168,000 complete from the factory.

The base price includes standard fixtures, stainless steel Energy Star appliances and fittings, delivery and setting on your foundation and finishing by Blu Homes’ crew. The homes unfold with full kitchens, bathrooms and finished floors included. Cabinets, sinks, toilets and all sorts of fittings and fixtures are already in place. For this reason it takes only a week or two on-site to finish the home.

Marmol Radziner Prefab

Marmol Radziner homes have preinsalled tiles, fixtures and cabinets.
Photo: Jim Simmons

Marmol Radziner Prefab is a Los Angeles-based firm that builds modular prefabs and offers pre-designed models starting at $200/per square foot for its Locomo Series, which can be built from 800 to 2,200 square feet (not including delivery or the cost of foundation). Pictured here is the company’s Hollywood Hybrid home, located in the Hollywood Hills above Runyon Canyon. It combines prefab and traditional site-built construction that meets the needs of this challenging, sharply down-sloping site.

Marmol Radziner Prefab homes are delivered in nearly finished condition with most of the flooring, tiling, countertops, cabinets, windows, appliances and fixtures already installed. It owns its factory and is a licensed general contractor. Once delivered and installed, the modules typically require another two to three months to be “buttoned up” in preparation for move in.

Resolution: 4 Architecture

The interior of this prefab home is very contemporary.
Photo: Resolution: 4 Architecture

Resolution: 4 Architecture (RES4) designs its prefabs based on its Modern Modular concept – a series of modular typologies that can be arranged into nearly endless permutations. The concept allows the company to design quickly, make very accurate cost estimates and build prefab homes that are tailored to every design requirement, site condition, budget and local code restriction.

About 80% of a typical RES4 prefab home is built in a factory using a combination of modular, panelized and hybrid delivery methods, while leveraging the efficiency of factory prefabrication. Joseph Tanney, a Principal at RES4, says the method allows them to offer the “highest level of design and quality at the lowest cost.”

While construction costs vary across the country, RES4 recommends budgeting around $225 – $275 per square foot for a typical RES4 prefab complete with basic finishes, plus a 15% fee for architectural services. Complete finishes include Anderson windows, cedar siding, EPDM rubber roofing membrane, hydro-air heating/AC system, bamboo flooring, high-end kitchen cabinets & vanities, Ceaserstone and Corian counters, Kohler plumbing fixtures, Zuma tubs, Lutron dimmers and Lightolier light fixtures.

Bamboo Living

With a traditional, but thoroughly modern approach to building and materials, this Hawaii-based company produces the only certified all-bamboo living structures in the world. The company is committed to using bamboo because it is a renewable, ecologically friendly and extremely versatile resource, using one of the fastest growing plants in the world. The company’s panelized home packages can be designed, built and delivered in as fast as three months, but usually they will arrive about six months after placing your order.

Features include exposed bamboo rafters and vaulted ceilings.
Photo: Bamboo Living

The homes can be shipped anywhere in the world, but to date, most sales have been in Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America. Bamboo Living recently introduced a new “cavity wall” system, which allows the homes to be fully insulated, so now they can be built in any climate.

The David Sands Signature collection is designed by Bamboo Living’s senior architect and co-founder with artisan features, including exposed bamboo rafters, high vaulted ceilings and a wrap-around covered porch. There are six models that start at a base price of $80 /square foot for the kit. The base price includes timber bamboo structure and walls, sheathed roof panels, painted interior with bamboo trim, split bamboo exterior siding or painted/stucco-ready exterior walls, hand-crafted bamboo bolt covers and Feng Shui color themes. However, this doesn’t include construction and finishing costs.

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