Prefab? High Concept? Green?


Whitney Sander's House on left; Charles Eames on right

That is what the New York Times calls Whitney Sander's house new house for Thomas Small and Joanna Brody. Michael Webb writes that "Inspired by the house that Charles and Ray Eames created in 1949 from a prefabricated steel frame and doors, windows and the like ordered from a catalog, the architects took the project on the condition that they could pursue a novel strategy." The clients instructions were: "We want the greenest house you've ever designed, but we have almost no money."

sander exterior photo

It really does have all the green ingredients, from crushed sunflower husks for wall panels and blue denim insulation. It has natural ventilation, simple industrial materials and came in at $125 per foot, which is extremely cheap for California and for ceilings that high- on a price per cubic foot basis that is remarkable.

sander interior photo

But is it prefab?
as I said in our previous post on Sander, his definition of it is a bit absurd. "Prefab is anything that is manufactured off-site and shipped in. A lightbulb is prefab." which means everything and nothing is prefab. He trademarked the phrase "part prefab, all customâ„¢" so even he is ambivalent. The steel rigid frame is prefabricated in a shop, but so is the steel for all steel buildings.

Is it High Concept? Definitely, to get rid of drywall, to have such an Eamesian Case Study House aesthetic, to have 30 foot ceilings.

Is it Green? This is the toughest one. Certainly in terms of pounds per square foot, this is a very efficient use of materials, and many are innovative and unusual. If such a big volume was air conditioned I would really question it, but since it is naturally ventilated a case could be made.

But how I long for the day when these ideas and materials are used by such talented architects to create healthy green spaces for families "with almost no money" that are less than 4,200 square feet. ::New York Times
UPDATE Owner Joanna Brody informs us that the 4,200 square feet of area includes a rental unit. They also both work at home, all of which mitigates the size issue somewhat. I also really like her statement: "some of our greenest strategies came from just saying no - For example, we have no extra floor covering on the main floor - our floor is the concrete slab."
More Modern Steel Houses in TreeHugger
Sander Architects' Hybrid House
Happy 100th Birthday, Charles Eames

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