Petaluma Pop-up Prototype: Affordable Kit House From HousePort

petaluma popup prototype prefab photo exterior evening

Hally Thacher is offering a "a new, clean, simple concept in architecture", the PopUP from House Port. Dwell includes it in their "Houses We Love" section, saying it addresses the demand for "low-cost, stylish, sustainable residential homes." Inhabitat calls it "stylish" and "an affordable, eco-friendly, pre-fabricated kit".

It is a clever mix of two systems; an inexpensive portal frame supporting a steel roof, a system commonly used for industrial purposes, and underneath, two boxes made from SIPs, (structural insulated panels), a highly energy efficient building panel.

petaluma popup prototype prefab photo dining exterior

I like the separate roof that creates shade and ventilation; sun will rarely reach those boxes and they will be cooler. And SIPs have a lot of insulation value; it is unlikely that this house will need much air conditioning.

I do have some issues; SIPs are not made from the greenest of materials. The OSB has formaldehyde and the styrofoam is full of HBDC fire retardant. I have suggested that Polystyrene Insulation Doesn't Belong in Green Building, but I also have been called nasty things by people who disagree.


Austin Residence, Pioneertown, California by Lloyd Russell, Photo by David Harrison

It also could have been a bit more efficient in its design; in an earlier house that used a portal frame roof as a sunshade by Architect Lloyd Russell, (shown above and seen in Dwell here) the enclosed living space is shifted to the north; the overhang need not be equal all around. Some of that roof in the PopUP is superfluous from a solar control point of view, as can be seen in the elevations below.

petaluma popup prototype prefab photo elevations

It might also be a stretch to call it a "concept that marries the image of Apple™ with the ease of assembly of Ikea™ and has a construction cost of less than $100 per square foot."; They are only providing a pile of panels. The framing of a home is only a small proportion of the cost of a home; the bulk of the bucks in a home are in other things. Houseport says on their website:

The PopUP House Package does not come with any finishing materials. Kitchens, bathrooms, door/wall/floor treatments, plumbing, lighting and appliances are the responsibility of the owner....The owner is responsible for the site preparation and foundation required to build the PopUP House.

As Preston points out, " a buyer is really getting the bare bones structure with a lot of flexibility in determining how green to complete the home."

petaluma popup prototype prefab photo exterior dining

There are definitely things to love here. It has always been good policy to put on a hat when it is sunny, for buildings as well as people. The double roof creates some very nice outdoor spaces, and definitely will keep them cool and comfy. I do worry that they call it modular in their introduction; it is a kit. I think it is a stretch to call it a house for under a hundred bucks a foot; they have not included any of the expensive stuff. And how does one define "green" these days? It is, I think, more than just saving money on air conditioning. But that is another post altogether.

See more at Houseport.