Affordable Net-Zero Prefabs Erected in South L.A. In Only Three Days

Photos: Art Gray/mnmMOD.

While Airbnb has been busy as of late plopping down tricked-out garden sheds celebrity-curated prefab pop-up listings around hip neighborhoods — and cemeteries — in Los Angeles, a trio of noteworthy net-zero energy prefabricated residences have also recently sprouted up away in the City of Angeles. And for what they lack in James Franco weirdness, these solar-powered homes make up for in affordability, efficiency, size, and a very much non-pop-up nature.

The result of a collaboration between award-winning, Santa Monica-based green design studio Minarc (Minimalism in Architecture), Habitat for Humanity, and local nonprofit Restore Neighborhoods LA (RNLA), the three homes were assembled on vacant lots in low-income South Los Angeles neighborhoods using Minarc’s innovative, American-made interlocking panel system dubbed mnmMOD.

As Minarc co-principal Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir explains in a press release, that while this isn’t the first time that a home has been built using her firm’s high-performance, high-quality paneling system in which structures can be assembled at a rapid speed with little more than “two conscientious workers with a screw gun,” it is the first time that the patented low-waste system has been used in a project specifically geared for low- and moderate-income families: "The mnmMOD system has been used for many high-end projects. Habitat for Humanity recognizes, however, that especially low-income dwellings can benefit from the quality materials, sustainable features and ‘net-zero effect’ of the mnmMOD panel system."

Adds Steve Sferrino, vice president for Habitat for Humanity:

The mnmMOD system is quite impressive. It allows us to offer a sustainable solution to our partner home owners that yields ‘net-zero’ efficiency—something that up until now we have not been able to achieve. In addition, we are able to dramatically reduce the manpower needed to frame each home. This alone makes this system a viable option for future Habitat for Humanity projects.”

In this instance, after the flatpacked mnmMOD systems arrived at the South L.A. install sites via flatbeck truck from the production factory in nearby Vernon, it took only three days for Habitat for Humanity staff and a team of contractors (in lieu of Habitat volunteers) to erect the walls — the precut polystyrene foam panels are essentially slotted into a recycled steel frame — of the three-bedroom homes that range in size from 1,200 to 1,375 square feet. As Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, Ingjaldsdóttir’s husband and co-principal of Minarc, explains to the Los Angeles Times, it would normally take around two weeks to erect homes of a comparable size using traditional framing/construction methods.

As for the prices for the three new prefab abodes, they’ll be sold on the open market and potential buyers will need to meet RNLA requirements and not Habitat for Humanity requirements. "Their income has to be below 120% of the area median income for the Los Angeles metropolitan area," John Perfitt, RNLA’s executive director tells the L.A. Times. "And they have to go through a home buyer education program in advance." He expects that they’ll sell for $300,000 to $325,000.

In addition to the RNLA houses and other prefabricated panel-centric buildings, Thorsteinsson and Ingjaldsdóttir have overseen a handful of deep-green residential projects (they’re huge on both energy efficiency and the use of recycled/reclaimed materials) in Santa Monica as well as in the couple’s native Iceland including the stunning Ion Adventure Luxury Hotel which is located on an active volcano near one of the country’s largest geothermal power stations and Thingvellir National Park. The couple are also responsible for a line of rather intriguing sinks made from recycled rubber.

Via [L.A. Times]