Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Studio 804’s Modular3 Design


For over 10 years, Studio 804 at the University of Kansas School of Architecture & Urban Design has been churning out real projects through their design-build program. Many of these projects endevored to create prototypical housing for the surrounding community, potentially offering affordable housing alternatives. This year’s program was dubbed “Modular3,” after two previous completed versions. Like its predecessors, Modular3 was designed to be built in uniformly sized modules at a warehouse location, later to be joined together once relocated on-site.

This is a great example of how effective prefab construction can be when it is well designed. Although we have seen many great ideas for prefab projects, it is a small proportion that makes it off the drawing boards and into construction, much less into mass production. One of the (many) reasons for this is that it takes a lot of research- mostly empirical- to work out the logistics of a new system. Drawing on the experience of previous projects, Studio 804 was able to design and construct a home employing off-site, modular construction techniques as well as environmentally friendly materials, in a mere 20 weeks.

That is not to say that it was easy.

As with any project, even the best planning can’t predict all of the potential pitfalls. Six weeks into the project, the proposal was rejected by the State’s Historical Society, and the team was forced to find another site. The new location required many changes: different setbacks, exposures, and site dimensions resulted in a redesign of the project.

The new design still revolved around modules, which were framed, roofed, insulated, and finished out within the warehouse location. Once complete, they were temporarily braced, wrapped in plastic, trucked to the site, and lifted in place. The assembled pieces were then clad, HVAC and plumbing systems were connected, and the sitework was completed (sounds easy, right?)

Many sustainable principles were incorporated into the finished project: environmentally friendly products were chosen (water-based sealants, bamboo flooring,) energy efficiency was maximized (recycled cellulose insulation and efficient HVAC units,) and careful consideration was given to keep damage to the site at a minimum.

Check out the weekly diary of Studio 804’s Modular3 project.

+Studio 804 & Modular3


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  1. Monday Modular: Modular 3 May 22, 2007 at 12:49 am

    […] about Modular 3 via Inhabitat] Share […]

  2. Doyle December 28, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Why do all prefab “mods” look the same, except for the skin materials. I think your heart is in the right place – but- somehow – I refuse to believe that this is the new paradigm for “prefab” design. As an architect, I am a strict modernist – but – there must be more than four walls – flat roof with no overhangs and floor with some glass for “lots of light”. Where is the context ? A house in Georgia must be different than a house in Seattle or South Florida- The wood siding on a house with no overhangs in Florida will literally rot away in less than 6-8 years. If we are not careful, we are going to replace one souless “cookie cutter” concept – i.e. – the builder-developer stucco mini mansion with a newer – slicker version of mediocrity while patting ourselves on the back that we are solving a problem. If these “box” prefabs ever become popular, we will have gated communities of poorly conceived and poorly built boxes with a glass “wall” thrown in to complete the “modern” package. The goal should not be just “green” efficiency – A HOUSE MUST HAVE A SOUL!!!!!

  3. Evironment, Urban Devel... November 17, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    […] Inhabit has an article on a new prefab house from Studio 804, it’s a gorgeous house full of windows with lots of light, my style of house.  It’s also built with sustainability in mind (maximizing energy efficiency, minimizing site damage, and bamboo flooring just to name a few). […]

  4. shawn July 22, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    another great project by dan and the gang in kansas. while i love the modular tube, i hope the studio is able to eventually move beyond the skin the sausage paradigm and get back to the roots of the 804 allowing the class to design their project outside of a predetermined structural model. cheer. _s

  5. Tom June 14, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    I’ve been following Studio 804’s projects with great interest. I particularly like this one; the interior shots almost invoke “affordable Farnsworth”.

    However, I’m very disheartened by the disjunct beween academia and industry. Universities and schools of design across the U.S. do great projects in architecture, industrial design, and materials research but the fruits are rarely commercialized. It is puzzling why American business seems to turn a blind eye to research already paid for by their tax money.

    It seems that the Europeans do a much better job of commercially realizing research conducted in their schools.

  6. Leah June 14, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    We will be moving into the house in just two weeks. We are so excited and not the least bit threatened by potential natural dissasters or trailor park comparisons.

  7. leon June 14, 2006 at 1:08 am

    i wanna put a prefab on my commercial building in the heart of manhattan… Will this work? where can I get more info???

  8. Jeff Heath June 13, 2006 at 2:19 am

    The unit seems to be sound and an alternative to the homes built out of a bunch of little sticks. The sticks are young and not stable. With the high cost of materials and labor it would be a good investment and could also, be a great place in the woods, the lake or by a river.

  9. Julie June 9, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    While the simple lines make this beautiful, “double-wide” keeps coming to mind. Perhaps the ceiling on the end could be opened up to take away from the manufactured home feel.

  10. Arjun June 7, 2006 at 6:57 am

    An interested buyer was contacted roughtly 2-3 weeks before the modules were delivered. We referred them to our CDC and they should be moving into the house this summer (sometime in june or july).

    As for the tornado issue – there is a steel paneled storm shelter in the garage constructed to conform with strict FEMA guidelines.

  11. Eric June 7, 2006 at 6:55 am

    I imagine an earthquaike isn’t much of an issue in Kansas. Tornado though? Very likely.
    Does anyone know if the search landed a buyer? (this home was for sale a few months ago)

  12. Leopold Mak Ender June 7, 2006 at 6:54 am

    OK, Good design but will it stand up when the eartquake will com ?

  13. Brad June 2, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    It’s not pictured here, but follow the “Modular 3″ link and check out the moveable wall! Slick!

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