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Pre-Fab, Flat-Packing Architecture

TreeHugger’s affinity for flat-packable buildings — known also as prefab architecture, for its ability to be manufactured in one place and constructed in another — goes way beyond aesthetics, though we do thoroughly enjoy the modernity with which many of our favorites are designed. It’s also about supremely efficient use of materials, smarter way to ship, and can cost less per square foot than conventional construction, which can also make it easier to incorporate more green features into the dwelling. Here are some of our favorite modern prefabs.

1) Before getting too far, we have to weigh in on the “green” or “greenwashing” debate [www.treehugger.com] when it comes to prefab construction, and the verdict: 99.99% of prefab buildings look like crap, are wall to wall vinyl, use unsustainable materials and leak energy like sieves. From Fort MacMurray to New Orleans, prefabs provide substandard housing for millions who deserve better. Like any building, prefab is as green as its builders want it to be.
2) Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Michelle Kauffman, who has provided the world with mkSolaire [www.treehugger.com] (pictured above), Breezehouse [www.treehugger.com] and Glidehouse [www.treehugger.com]; between the three, there’s probably something that looks good to you.
3) Though they can be greener and more efficient, even some design heavyweights are weighing in: Frank Gehry [www.treehugger.com] even has thrown his hat into the ring.
4) BlueSkyMod [www.treehugger.com] is “an experiment in simplicity of design, construction techniques and relationship to nature,” says its designer, Todd Saunders.
5) A lot of the time we get so excited by the cool designs and vast possibilities of prefab that we forget about the kinks that still need to be worked out. Martin Moeller, a senior VP at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, rightly points out, “The vast majority of people still seem to want detached housing that is increasingly large and fulfills certain images about how to live comfortably.” In short, that means “not prefab.” [www.treehugger.com] But in our experience, these are often the same people who think Olive Garden is fine dining, the finest cup of coffee is served by Starbucks, and fine furniture comes from Pottery Barn. In other words, America’s already a country with a chain mentality: we like products that aren’t one-of-a-kind. Hmm. Though TreeHugger wishes we were all-knowing, we don’t have all the answers either. But there’s intriguing food for thought behind the walls of some other prefabs…
6) miniHome [www.treehugger.com], pictured below, essentially provides an answer to those who wonder why TreeHugger likes modern prefab so much: we think people can live with less and don’t need so much space. We think prefabrication generates less waste and more opportunities for greener construction methods and technologies. We think traditional land development restricts peoples choices and costs too much money. We think the miniHome is just about the best answer to the question that we have seen anywhere. Ever.
7) These examples are but the tip of the iceberg; TreeHugger has a whole category [www.treehugger.com] dedicated to prefab architecture to dig in to.