We love the work of Jennifer Siegal’s Office of Mobile Design, and our very own Emily Pilloton had the opportunity to talk to her in person about green architecture and her prefab designs. One of her standout designs includes the ShowHouse, which serves as a great example of efficiently and effectively executed prefab construction combined with a seamless integration of green materials and technologies. Read on or watch the video of Emily’s interview with Jennifer ahead!
Jennifer Siegal: Green materials and sustainability, alternative energies… It’s just a natural reaction that I have to building and the way that a designer should be instinctively.
INHABITAT: What are some of the basic advantages and concepts surrounding pre-fab construction?
Jennifer Siegal: In a pre-fabricated building, everything is built in a really right environment, controlled, clean and efficient, so everything that is used gets recycled back into the buildings, whether it’s steel or whether it is a fabric.
We live in a much more transient environment. We communicate in a completely different way than we did 20 years ago, and our building should be responding to that same kind of light, exacting habits.
INHABITAT: A big critique of pre-fab housing is that it promises affordability, but often ends up in a luxury market, so how do you see pre-fab housing becoming more accessible?
Jennifer Siegal: My region is southern California, and a typical, single-family residence, architecturally designed home is $400.00, $500.00 a square foot. I can offer people half the cost of that, so I think it is an incredibly affordable deal. At the same time, there are steel buildings that are built to a higher standard. When earthquakes hit, they’re not gonna fall apart, and it’s a more precise methodology of building. It’s a better built home. It’s not kind of – you get more for your money, not less.
INHABITAT: Do you ever design pre-fab structures for non-desert climates?
Jennifer Siegal: Well, we are working in very tight, urban infills in Southern California; I mean, Venice, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, but I’m also working with kind of multi-family units, and also, out here in the desert, I’m doing my own development and kind of thinking about denser, tighter relationships. So I see the pre-fab work that we do as being applicable to any kind of environment.
I got started in this work, looking at pre-fabricated classrooms, so I sort of come full circle, and we are doing schools now, which is really exciting to me, but the same method for building can be applied to a yoga studio. It can be a commercial, mixed-use, residential and retail space. It’s really no different. It’s just the way in which the buildings get fabricated and brought to the site. In a lot of ways, it’s more affordable for developers because they’re also looking at a condensed timeframe, and for many developers, time is money, and that’s something we can offer.