It’s fitting that the Kiss House launched around Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday; As an architect he tried to develop a line of affordable designs, the Usonian houses, that could be replicated easily, that were modern, efficient and comfortable.
The Kiss House is sort of a modern British Usonian house. (UKayhouse?) It is based on Adrian James’ award winning Sandpath House, described as “the best house in the UK under 2500 square feet" in the Sunday Times. Adrian James has teamed up with Mike Jacob of Trunk, a “chartered building consultancy” which is a very British form of construction manager. They are offering it as the Kiss House. Mike explains:
The Sandpath design has somehow captured people’s imagination – since completion people from all over the world have made contact. For some time Adrian and I had discussed our mutual desire to deliver an exemplar repeatable housing model, our key criteria being exemplary design, delivery and quality assurance.
The house is built to Passivhaus standards of energy efficiency out of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. Just like IKEA furniture, the house is flat packed out of CLT so that it can be shipped efficiently and assembled very quickly. So it is partially prefabbed and finished on site. They tell TreeHugger:
We use off-site where we believe it makes the most sense - which is CLT fabrication and densely / carefully packed lorries. The rest we pull together on site. It is our intention to explore degrees of optimisation in terms of what else we might be able to do to the CLT panels before the trucks are loaded, but we will always favour panellised vs. volumetric on environmental grounds.
This is an issue we have discussed on TreeHugger before; CLT goes together so easily that it doesn't make a lot of sense to ship it as a prefabricated box. Kiss finds that it is greener:
We are interested in the independent analysis which suggests that volumetric is more carbon intensive, plus it just makes no sense to transport air.
Kiss House comes in 2, 3 and 4 bedroom versions; the larger versions have a separation between the living and kitchen dining; the 2 bedroom is one big open ground floor plan as shown in the photos of the Sandpath house.
Architecture is sometimes a silly profession. It takes a very long time and a lot of money to design every house as a one-off, and it makes no sense if you have a really good replicable design. In the end, most clients want the same thing anyway. Kiss House notes:
Bespoke self-build projects are essentially a journey into the unknown and each house built is a prototype. Whilst this is challenging and exciting for the thrill seekers among us, the journey to moving in can be one fraught with pitfalls, unforeseen bumps in the road and changes in direction (not to mention the very real possibility of unexpected expense), so it is not for the faint of heart!
Kiss responds to this reality, and should be able to deliver a high quality house in a lot less time and with fewer surprises. Building to Passivhaus standards also has a learning curve; replicating the house should make it easier to get the details right and build it at a reasonable cost. Building out of CLT makes sense too; as we saw in Susan Jones’ house, the pieces get cut and put together with great accuracy and precision. Kiss House tells TreeHugger:
We come from the world of bespoke housing & know the pain involved in those projects only too well. We hope to make high quality housing more accessible, but only the right type of housing which is where the Passivhaus & CLT comes in.
This is exactly what is needed. I hope they print them by the dozen. More at Kiss House. I also hope someone does this in North America.