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December 11, 2017

Article originally published in Dwell magazine

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*By Dwell – December 11, 2017

Here are the extraordinary prefabs that made the biggest splash this year.

It’s no secret that here at Dwell, we believe in the power of prefabricated homes. In search of a better, greener housing solution, prefabs have a lot of potential, as the examples below show. While we’ve covered plenty of prefabs in 2017, the following 10 projects made a special impression on our readers. From a modular shed that can serve refugees and homeless individuals to a lightweight home assembled in just nine days, these can’t-miss projects are sure to astound and inspire.

10. Southern Californian Prefab by a Pair of Icelandic Designers

A pair of Icelandic prefab pioneers deliver an efficient family home in Culver City.

9. Bright and Open Home Near Paris

This prefabricated home in France was built to embrace the neighborhood.

8. Wheelchair-Accessible Coastal Ranch

A home on Cape Ann’s rocky shore becomes a refuge that offers resilience in the face of an unpredictable future.

7. London Prefab Made of 7 Modules

Located on a site where two obsolete garages formerly stood is a 935-square-foot prefab home in London’s borough of Richmond.

6. Cor-Ten Steel House

Perched along the banks of the River Ouse near the historic English town of Lewes is a Cor-Ten steel house with a “carved-away” ridge that’s geometrically striking.

Though this 2,808-square-foot home in Lewes, East Sussex, England, used to be an old workshop, Sandy Rendel Architects transformed it into a beautiful modern home with a building shell that was made of SIPS (structured insulated panels), and prefabricated offsite.

5. Vipp’s Prefab Rentals

Danish brand Vipp allows guests to book design-forward rooms in the form of a lakeside prefab, an urban loft, and a converted industrial building.

4. SHED Modular and Affordable Housing

The collaborative team of Studio Bark and Lowe Guardians describe the SHED concept as “a flexible solution for the short term, a responsible solution for the long term.” The SHED works to combat the urban housing shortage, the high rental rates for young professionals, and the shocking number of some 600,000 properties that sit vacant across the UK. The concept will provide a safe solution for workers seeking short-term residence, and in the future, could be a crucial factor in easing homelessness and the refugee crisis.

3. The Cyclopean House

Called the Cyclopean House, it’s at once a home and a portfolio piece for Anton Garcia-Abril, a professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, and his wife, Débora Mesa Molina, a research scientist, also at MIT.
When the couple were hired by MIT in 2012, they bought a 30-by-40-foot cement-block garage for $320,000 from a former construction company, had it rezoned for residential use, renovated it into a three-bedroom home for $100,000, and then moved in with their four children the following year. With plans to eventually build a prefab addition, the couple honed their observations into a central inquiry: How could they make a fairly priced and lightweight yet solid house that was neither wood-framed nor made of bricks, stone, or concrete? Since 2011, the couple had been experimenting with lightweight construction technologies, partly in response to the tsunami and earthquake that had damaged 1.2 million homes in Japan’s Tōhoku region that March. The answer, they found, was to use EPS, short for expanded polystyrene foam—a common and extremely lightweight material whose composition is 98 percent air.

2.Updated Santa Monica Bungalow

Universal design and affordability were uppermost in the minds of TJ Hill and Jay Heiserman when they asked Jared Levy and Gordon Stott of Connect Homes to replace their cramped bungalow with a modern prefab. Since the firm’s modules are 8 feet wide, the house could only be 16 feet wide, but the architects used the remaining space for a large deck, creating a flexible and seamless first-floor plan.

1. The Frost House

Built with a steel frame, the Frost House features panels of styrofoam between aluminum sheets for the exterior walls and styrofoam between plywood for the roof and floors. Bold, primary colors accentuate its geometric form.

Shortly after Karen Valentine and Bob Coscarelli purchased the home in 2016, they began to unearth nuggets of information about its pedigree. Their realtor had provided a brochure that identified the prefab as designed by architect Emil Tessin for the now-defunct Alside Homes Corporation based out of Akron, Ohio, which had held a patent for the structure’s aluminum paneling. Their new neighbors provided a stack of Alside Homes sales materials, floor plans of various models, and even a script that had been written for salespeople during home tours. They determined that the Frost House had been a sales model for the company, and that Tessin had been the son of Emil Albert Tessin, the legal guardian of Florence Knoll.