Pre­fab houses are the homes of the fu­ture

Author of books on pre­fab hous­ing turns fo­cus on small homes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kather­ine Roth The As­so­ci­ated Press

Author Sheri Koones be­lieves that pre­fab houses (or “pre­fab­u­lous,” as she calls them) are the homes of the fu­ture. She’s writ­ten five books about them.

In the new “Pre­fab­u­lous Small Houses” (The Taun­ton Press), Koones fo­cuses on mod­estly sized homes and cot­tages, be­tween 350 and 2,500 square feet.

“It is def­i­nitely pos­si­ble to live large but on a small foot­print with­out cramp­ing your style or bud­get,” she said in an in­ter­view.

Com­pared to the ba­sic mod­u­lar homes of a decade ago, Koones says, these pre­fab res­i­dences are more el­e­gant, eco-friendly and eco­nom­i­cal. Un­like tra­di­tional, on­site home build­ing, they can be put up in a mat­ter of days or weeks.

The book pro­files 32 homes across the coun­try, and ex­plains some of the lat­est tech­nolo­gies. In a fore­word, Robert Red­ford ex­tols the eco­log­i­cal virtues of go­ing pre­fab.

Ex­cerpts from Koones’ in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press:

AP: How did this book come about?

KOONES: I’ve been writ­ing about pre­fab con­struc­tion for a long time. If you’re go­ing to write about en­ergy-ef­fi­cient, sus­tain­able homes, it re­ally has to be pre­fab. The tech­nol­ogy has come so in­cred­i­bly far in re­cent years. And the more I trav­eled and looked around, the more I saw that there was a trend to­ward liv­ing smaller, and fo­cus­ing on travel and other things in­stead of pour­ing all your time and re­sources into your home. To­day, al­most any­thing that can be built on­site can be built pre­fab. In Ja­pan, most of the houses are pre­fab­ri­cated, and in Aus­tralia many of them are. We’re slowly go­ing in that di­rec­tion, too. AP: The homes fea­tured in your book look very small, pre­fab homes? KOONES: Pre­fab houses can cost from 5 per­cent to 15 per­cent less than an on­site built house. And we know that build­ing pre­fab saves time and en­ergy both in the con­struc­tion process and also in terms of main­te­nance. You wouldn’t want some­one to dump a bunch of car parts in your drive­way and build a car there, so why would you want a home built that way? It’s so waste­ful. AP: What de­sign el­e­ments do these homes use to help them feel com­fort­able and roomy de­spite their diminu­tive size? KOONES: High ceil­ings, lim­ited hall­ways and rooms used for mul­ti­ple pur­poses are el­e­ments shared by many of the homes fea­tured in this book. The em­pha­sis is on liv­ing well as op­posed to liv­ing big. AP: Could you talk a lit­tle about the new tech­nolo­gies that are be­com­ing avail­able? KOONES: I am wowed by the houses cre­ated by stu­dents for the So­lar De­cathlon, spon­sored by the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy ev­ery two years. ex­pen­sive. These are re­ally the ar­chi­tects, builders How eco­nom­i­cal are and man­u­fac­tur­ers of the fu­ture. Three of the amaz­ing homes in the book fea­ture im­por­tant So­lar De­cathlon in­no­va­tions. The SU+RE House, built by a team at Stevens In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, is de­signed to with­stand the next hur­ri­cane on the New Jersey shore, and be­cause it uses marine tech­nol­ogy in­stead of stilts, it’s eas­ier to ac­cess for a wider range of peo­ple. And the De­sertSol House, built by stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas, finds cre­ative ways to save wa­ter and use it for cool­ing.

AP: What are the big­gest mis­per­cep­tions about pre­fab hous­ing?

KOONES: Peo­ple still think of it as cheap and boxy. But if I were build­ing a house to­day, it’s the only kind I would con­sider.. All of the el­e­gant houses in this book were cus­tom-built and are any­thing but plain. Each is clearly unique and spe­cial.


This un­dated photo pro­vided by The Taun­ton Press shows a home in Vashon Is­land, Wash., fea­tured in the book “Pre­fab­u­lous Small Houses” by Sheri Koones. The Vashon Is­land house, built with struc­tural in­su­lated pan­els and a tim­ber frame was de­signed by FabCab and is 1,750 square feet.


This un­dated photo pro­vided by The Taun­ton Press shows a home in Sonoma fea­tured in the book “Pre­fab­u­lous Small Houses” by Sheri Koones. The 1,600-square-foot mod­u­lar Sonoma res­i­dence de­signed and built by Con­nect Homes looks over the Sonoma Val­ley.


This un­dated photo pro­vided by The Taun­ton Press shows a home in Tampa, Fla., fea­tured in the book “Pre­fab­u­lous Small Houses” by Sheri Koones. The home is just 352 square feet, but with space well de­signed by David Bailey and Stephanie Harrison, it feels much larger inside.

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