The construction industry is responsible for considerable pollution and waste. Builders are leaning into innovative designs and material development to curb the environmental impact through sustainable architecture. ARCspace, a modular building developer, is one such business offering a solution for wasteful traditional construction, while introducing a host of other benefits.

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ARCspace is a division of Sustainable Building Council Ltd., located in the Los Angeles Cleantech Corridor. As a parent company, the goal of Sustainable Building Council Ltd. is to bring together experts in construction, architectural design, engineering, building, environmentalism and innovative technology who are all invested in addressing housing needs around the world, starting with the crisis in their own backyard, Los Angeles.

Related: These prefabricated tiny homes are earthquake- and fire-resistant

crane lifting tiny home

Prefabricated construction

As part of this larger mission, ARCspace partnered with a variety of public and private interests to develop proprietary modular and prefabricated steel building systems. The mission is to work together to create efficient, affordable and long-lasting housing for a variety of needs that range from serving underprivileged communities to providing temporary housing. What began as a pilot program as a potential solution to the extreme homelessness crisis in L.A. has grown into several accommodation options ranging from 160 to 10,000 square feet. These units have been developed for residential and commercial use and as accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

The structures are prefabricated for highly efficient and quick builds. The process also minimizes waste. In fact, the company reports the buildings are “spec-built from the ground up in 40-60% less time and cost than traditional construction.”

wooden two-story modular home

Building materials

In alignment with another Sustainable Building Council Ltd. goal to focus on sustainable architecture, ARCspace relies on high-grade steel as its primary material. Steel is a strong choice for durability, so the ARCspace units are built to meet and exceed California seismic safety requirements for protection against earthquake damage. The steel also makes them resilient in high winds and highly fire-resistant. In addition, steel won’t succumb to damage-causing bugs such as termites, and it’s a material that can be reused or recycled.

white tiny home interior with blue sofa

Customizable tiny homes

During development, the team at ARCspace collaborated with top innovators in the housing industry in order to follow the guidance of leading GreenTech companies. As a result, ARCspace units come with a variety of options customers can select during the customization process. This includes fun interior design elements like flooring, countertops, fixtures and paint. It also means optional elements that provide off-grid power and water. For example, some homes feature self-contained atmospheric water generators called Hydropanels that are grid-independent and pull a few liters of drinking water out of the air each day. Affordable solar panels are another add-on option. However, the primary supply still comes from onsite plumbing and electrical systems.

The finished product provides all the comforts of home and the convenience of upsizing or downsizing with the addition or subtraction of units. Units can be linked end to end or stacked up to four units high with stairways connecting each unit.

white and blue bed facing wall of glass

Avoiding toxins

Although they look a bit like shipping containers, ARCspace pointed out critical differences. “We do not utilize or work with any form of used containers, not even 1-trip containers (those only used one time),” the company explained. “Shipping containers are manufactured with materials known to cause cancer such as LED paint, DDT wood flooring, and often have insecticide coatings, etc.”

In addition to avoiding toxins in construction, ARCspace puts a focus on smart home features that are energy-efficient and healthy. The company employs a variety of sustainable technologies such as environmentally friendly, vegetable-based spray foam insulation and specialized window coatings that keep excessive heat out while allowing natural light in. It also uses recycled materials throughout, including for decking and outer cladding.

aerial view of wood and black tiny homes with green roofs and outdoor patios

Temporary shelters and emergency housing

For temporary work sites or emergency housing needs, impermanent foundations mean the units can be relocated with minimal site impact. They can also be set up in as little as 24 hours once onsite with a small team using cranes to stack modules then following up with window installations.

The company said, “Last year, ARCspace collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to create an Emergency Shelter Project in the San Francisco Bay area using America’s first prefabricated foundation and worked with local trade schools to help prepare a new workforce with an understanding of emerging sustainable building technology.” This quick-build housing showed the potential for ARCspace to provide affordable housing but also served as inspiration for those considering a career in green design.

The ARCspace project was recently selected as a finalist in Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, a competition that recognizes “Buildings, landscapes, urban designs, and policies that make cities and living in them cleaner, more efficient, more beautiful, and more equitable for their citizens.”

+ ARCspace

Images via ARCspace