News Home & Design Minima Is a Sleek Prefab Built With Cross-Laminated Timber This micro-house from Australia is constructed with high-quality design and materials. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated September 17, 2021 07:42PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Clinton Weaver News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Prefabs have been a fixture on Treehugger's pages for many years. And no wonder: Prefabs are attractive because they are constructed off-site in a factory, where things like construction waste can be minimized, and things like quality control can be maximized. Prefabs are therefore known for being less impactful for the environment, in addition to having a quicker turnaround than conventionally built homes. Prefabs are not often seen as beautiful buildings though, but some designers, like Sydney, Australia architecture studio TRIAS, are working to bust that stereotype. The studio recently debuted Minima, a prefabricated 215-square-foot (20-square-meter) module designed to be a flexible structure that can be used as a standalone tiny home, or as an addition that can be installed in the backyard and used as a home office or spacious guest room. Clinton Weaver Designed in collaboration with prefab manufacturer FABPREFAB, Minima represents TRIAS' aim to not only make architecturally designed homes more accessible and affordable but to make prefabs more widely appealing. As Trias director Jennifer McMaster tells ArchitectureAU.com: "We did a lot of research into the Australian and overseas markets. In Australia the emphasis tends to be on low cost, whereas in Europe the emphasis is on quality and longevity. This aligns perfectly with the philosophy of our practice. We wanted to create something consciously good quality, but also to explore how to make a prefab house not look like a prefab." Clinton Weaver Clad with a skin of cypress battens and a steel roof on its boxy exterior, the Minima presents a streamlined, modern profile that nevertheless feels warm and human-scaled. Its facade opens up with hardwood-framed glass doors that can slide over to reveal its minimalist interior, though it can still be partially closed off with a hardwood-encased screen door, or a translucent curtain. To reduce its impact on the site, Minima doesn't need a concrete foundation; instead, it uses a special type of ground screw that can ease relocation if necessary. Clinton Weaver Inside, the home's compact floor area is divided into various zones that group different functions together. For instance, "wet" areas like the kitchen and bathroom are relegated to one side of the micro-house, while the living and sleeping areas are amalgamated into one flexible zone in the center of the home. Clinton Weaver The interior walls, ceiling, and floor are covered with lots of cross-laminated timber (CLT), a sustainable engineered wood product that involves layers of fast-growth timber that are glued perpendicular to each other, resulting in a structurally robust and fire-resistant material that not only looks good but is also perfect for prefabrication. Everything in the home has been intentionally made to look seamless for a good reason, says TRIAS director Jonathon Donnelly: "Keeping all the joints and lines as simple and seamless as possible is important in a small space. We’ve lived in tiny apartment spaces, so we know how critical those lines are in making a space feel larger." In the living area, there is plenty of built-in furniture to help save maximize space, like this integrated seating bench, which also has storage space tucked below and above. Clinton Weaver Right in the center, we have this wall-to-floor cabinet that actually has a bed, table, and shelving integrated inside. During the day, the bed can be folded away, and a multifunctional table pulled out for eating or working on. Clinton Weaver During the night, the bed can be pulled down to reveal a sizeable queen mattress, as well as lighting and storage behind. Clinton Weaver Moving over to the kitchen, we see more of this minimal aesthetic—a pared-down countertop that nevertheless has all the essentials of the sink, stove, oven, range hood, concealed refrigerator, and plenty of storage. Cross-ventilation is helped along with the addition of another small door off to the side of the kitchen, and which also functions as a secondary entrance. Clinton Weaver Behind the kitchen and past a pocket door, we have the bathroom. Clinton Weaver The slate-gray tiles, in combination with the CLT cabinets, create a soothing, calming atmosphere, lit with help of a skylight over the shower. Clinton Weaver Minima is also a modular design: one can add an extra module in a T-formation to double the area. All in all, it's an impressive prefab that could fit almost anywhere there might be open space, whether that's in denser urban areas where infill might be needed, or in the suburbs or rural areas. As McMaster points out: "Something that’s always stuck with us is a finding from a 2018 Grattan Institute report into Australian cities: ‘The quickest way to double density is to add something small to every existing block.’ Small insertions can help retain suburban character, while adding enormously to social cohesion and housing." To see more, visit TRIAS and FABPREFAB.