LOFTCUBE: Prefab for Rooftops

by , 05/04/05


Being a young New Yorker and realizing that I am never going to be able to buy property in New York has got me thinking about prefabs. Specifically about buying an inexpensive prefab house and sticking it on a rooftop. This seems particularly appropriate to the vertical landscape of Manhattan, where there is nowhere to go but up. Apparently wealthy Londoners are taking to the idea of rooftop living. Treehugger reports on a company called First Penthouse that puts chi-chi penthouses on top of London roofs. Sounds lovely, but with the $3,000,000 for 2,000 square feet price tag, this is a little out of my price range.

The Loftcube, built by Werner Aisslinger, is more what I had in mind, at ?55,000. Its specifically designed for rooftops and is transportable by helicopter. Still this is a little too Jetsons for me. Aren’t there any companies out there doing inexpensive, eco-friendly wood + glass prefabs for rooftops? I know you are out there. I am waiting for you!

What I don’t get is why all these rooftop building ideas are coming out of Europe. None of their cities are as dense as Manhattan. Why isn’t anyone doing this here? There is a dearth of information about building on rooftops in manhattan, google it as I might.
If anyone has any more information, please drop me a line.

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  1. lovell elliott December 1, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Can you “plop” a LoftCube down on Cape Cod?
    And about how much would it cost?
    And where’s a floorplan?
    And are there options?

  2. wwj5510 September 9, 2011 at 2:42 am

    we all think it’s best.
    so If you like the aesthetic of modernist architecture but don’t have the budget for a custom-built home then perhaps modernist container house is what you’re looking for.
    you can go to,you will get so more info

  3. Cecilia November 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Has anyone taken up this task? If you have, it would be great to blog about it.

    This NYT article is interesting:

  4. anthony taylor January 11, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    What really are the logistics of living on a roof? Apart from the Loftcube, what should I expect to invest? Where do the water come from and the waste go? I was born and raised on the grid and don’t think well outside the box. Please help.


  5. anthony taylor January 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I’m interested in finding out about this in Manhattan and Minneapolis as well. How would one not savvy with the Manhattan andMinneapolis Real Estate Market go about finding a “rooftop” to purchase??? Please email me at:

  6. anthony taylor January 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I’m interested in finding out about this in Manhattan and Minneapolis as well. How would one not savvy with the Manhattan Real Estate Market go about finding a “rooftop” to purchase??? Please email me at:

  7. marc September 28, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    to eNlogic:
    Just saw your thread. Could you let me know who is doing it. M extremely interested in developing this idea

  8. eNLogic September 3, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I just started looking into this and guess what. People ARE doing this. Now. Construction seems very similar to high rise apartment construction. The apartment should be built pre-fab somewhere outside the city with cheap labor costs. Then shipped in and assembled on the rooftop like legos. The thoughest part would be drainage and pipework I think. I think you could probably build the prefab for about $200/sq ft. The expensive part would be the roof rights to build and getting building permits. Probably in the millions in manhattan. However, after the penthouse is built you could probably sell it for a large profit. I got a few bucks saved up, anyone want to do it?

  9. Calligaris March 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Just stumbled upon this wonderful idea. Hopefully it will be a reality in the near future!

  10. Joseph February 21, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Looking for anyone who owns air rights or roof top space in NYC and would be interested in working with our art gallery to install a prefab installation. If you have any info or are interested in information from us – please contact

  11. huck December 28, 2007 at 8:08 am

    hi lorenzo,

    if you want to live in the west suburb of Paris , i have a house to share and more


  12. Lorenzo Falzarano December 3, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    I am looking into roof space in London, UK. As I am sure you’re all aware the London housing market is too expensive for the average and even above average earner. A roof-top recently became available for £80,000 GBP in Camden but was suddenly pulled from the market.

    If there is anyone out there with a roof space I am willing to negotiate something. I have a Masters in Architecture:Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies and would love to put ideas into practice.

    Oh! and have somewhere to live. It can be London, NYC or Paris


  13. corinne May 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I’m interested in doing a documentary on roof dwellers and wondering how to find out about locations and how to connect the owners/renters. I’ve been n love with the idea since I sighted the whoie stucco ranches on the roof the corner building on 85th and columbus.I welcome your suggestions.

  14. Inhabitat » MILAN... April 21, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    […] Werner Aissliner’s Loftcube is a pre-fab, sci-fi bachelor pad which offers its inhabitants compact, stylish living in just 36 square meters. Though its materials – largely plastic and wood – don’t exactly rank high on our list of “green,” the environmentally-conscious customer does have the option to outfit the Loftcube with solar paneling. Plus there is something unbelievably cool about your house being airlifted to anywhere you want via helicopter. […]

  15. Julia April 1, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    A Canadian sitting here in Johannesburg imagining rooftops in Toronto and Cape Town and wondering if legislation is any lighter in these two states. Also Loftcube is not exactly cheap when translated into rands. Any more reasonably priced, really green prefabs would be great to know about!

  16. Steve Appel March 7, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Perhaps slate, preferably from Grafton NY, with green veins to provide a design accent as well as a symbolic statement, could be integrated into Dia Scholvinck’s roof structure. Surely, the NYC Building Department would approve.

  17. Dia Scholvinck December 23, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    I own the roof of my building. “Traditional” plans have been drawn by “conservative” architects, equally “conservative” engineers have done all sorts of calculations and all it seems to me is that they are multiplying everything by 10, including the price, to cover what they do not know about. I have been researching prefab, green and affordable ways of putting 800 sq.ft. on my roof, which I am permitted to do by my co-op’s alteration agreement, What I have not yet found out is what are the Building Departments requirements on all this. What about SIPS – structural insulated panels – are those to code. Thank you for any information.

  18. reality meister November 27, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    The reason this will never take off in NYC is that rooftops in NYC are tony real estate. put a cube on a roof in nyc, and we’re no longer looking at a 50k price tag or even a 100 k price tag, we’re looking at a 1 mill + price tag. living on a roof in manhattan with a 360 degree view? lets get real fellas.

  19. denise carbonell October 7, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    i own a smal(l 2 story) bldg. on the lower east side of manhattan…and i would LOVE to have a pre-fab placed on my roof…i’m interested in hearing from anyone who has any ideas on this subject..

  20. Christoper P. September 14, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    These are grand “hothouse” concepts, in the realm of the flying car. They are all extremely clever, compact, “small-is-beautiful/less-is-more”, liberated in their ingenuity. Out, standing in their field. Would that cities were as backpackable as a 20-something student-designer’s lifestyle! Basically, urban-scale environmental design is middle-class and legislation/litigation reaction-driven. Think of George Carlin’s riff on “A home is a place to put your ‘stuff'”. Think of fire marshalls freaking on how people have to get down to the street during the fire/earhquake/medical emergency. Think of building officials freaking about penetrating roof membranes, structural supports, windloads, safety rails, waste and plumbing runs, etc. on buildings built up and remodeled over several decades. Think of where to park the “skyhook” in Manhattan, hell, Los Angeles or St. Louis, needed to swing one of any of these off the truck, over the curb, past the trees (if you are fortunate to have trees associated with the site) powerlines (if you are unfortunate enough to be in a backwater neighborhood with an aging powergrid infrastructure) and roof clutter (architects are lousy at roof design – roofs tend to be the catchall for mechanical systems afterthoughts, like toilet vents and dish antennae…). Think of a building owner who needs to be willing to have you plant your pidgeon coop (this is a landlord, remember) on his depreciating but profitable real estate investment. Think of what the neighbors will say (yeah, “THOSE people”). Think of this as not just a one-off, but manufactured to 1×10 to the 4th power, relative to the 10,000 candidates -students, yuppies, urban slackers, homeless, etc. – in search of cheap housing. Occupied by people that you probably know personally or peripherally, that loosely define the spectrum of the service population within your immediate region on the planet who would live in each one of those units. Sure, these micro-homes are kind of “special”, like finding that pair of perfect used blue jeans, or the matched set of conversation-piece beer steins. But not as portable, and more of a fixture in the landscape – like trailer parks and used car lots. What is needed is something more component-driven, plug-in, blendable while being innovative (and subversive) within the URBAN world as we find it. An anti-“A”rchitecture architecture…

  21. KelticDragonFilms August 14, 2006 at 12:09 am

    I’m interested in finding out about this in Manhattan as well. How would one not savvy with the Manhattan Real Estate Market go about finding a “rooftop” to purchase??? Please email me at:

  22. Inhabitat » Blog ... June 16, 2006 at 6:24 am

    […] Like the Loft Cube or the Micro-compact Home, the weeHouse is a single module that can be plopped on just about any site, including a rooftop. The basic unit is framed with steel and wood, and comes with tongue-and-groove bamboo flooring, and Ikea cabinetry, kitchens and sinks. At present, the only “green” features it boasts are its extremely compact and efficient size, and off-site construction, but the company plans to incorporate more sustainable finishes and materials in the future. […]

  23. brian hankins October 15, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    is anybody in manhattan doing this yet?

  24. vineet_sc May 5, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    as i’m exploring this idea myself, i’ve become more aware of rooftops in new york city — development here is exploding, there’s lots of construction everywhere — but i’ve never seen a prefab being dropped on a roof. i’ve spoke with Lot-ek about such a project, they have had experience doing container prefabs on nyc roofs so that’s a positive thing… has been a great resource for prefab research.

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