weeHouse Architect and Plant Prefab Launch New Line of Wee Accessory Dwelling Units

A sunny living room with pale wood paneling and gray couches

Alchemy Architects

There is a lot of history here, and a great future.

Way back in the early days of Treehugger, our first writer, Meaghan O'Neill, wrote about the Wee House, with a wee photo and a wee paragraph. Around that time I was in the prefab biz and met Steve Glenn, who was just starting Living Homes; we covered it when the photos were just a bit bigger. He and Geoffrey Warner, founder of Alchemy Achitects and entrepreneur behind the weeHouse, are both true pioneers in modern prefab and tiny living, and are still at it.

Exterior of LH1 unit
Alchemy Architects / LH1 Exterior

Now they are working together and have introduced a line of wee accessory dwelling units (ACUs) ranging from 310 to 600 square feet, inspired by the weeHouse. Plant Prefab founder Steve Glenn says in the press release:

Since Alchemy has long been an expert in designing for prefabricated building methods and a pioneer in sustainable design, and we’ve already completed two projects together, it was easy for us to partner together to offer a set of unique, ultra-efficient, standard LivingHomes for the market.

Geoffrey Warner ripostes:

Having worked together to build two prior homes in California, we’re confident that Plant Prefab is the right partner to bring our ADU designs to this market. The lightHouse is intended to be a beacon for sustainable living; Plant Prefab has built up its reputation around sustainable building practice.

The specs sound appealing, with "thoughtful details, such as window nooks that double as seating and guest sleeping areas, laundry, and flexible storage spaces, provide utility where it matters most. Carefully-chosen finish options ensure that the units can blend in with their surroundings and adapt to different climates, a key consideration for building on the West Coast."

Unit M floor plan
Plant Prefab/ Alchemy Architects

But as is so often the case, it is the planning that makes these things a success or failure, and this is where Geoffrey Warner has been refining his designs for the last fifteen years. Here are 380 square feet of really usable space with a generous bathroom. I am also intrigued by this (2) bench + sleeping concept. It's shown as the same depth as the kitchen counter, which is camp cot width, but it's a lot less work than unfolding a sofa bed.

L1 unit interior with wood texture walls, a large window, and a bed in the foreground
Alchemy Architects

I wouldn't mind living in this 480 square foot unit, especially if it comes with that view. But it also has a very interesting plan:

Unit L1 floor plan
Alchemy Architects

My first thought was, why is the kitchen out in the living space when there looks to be enough room in (7) laundry/mechanical/storage to fit a galley kitchen? On reflection, I conclude that ADUs should be designed for universal accessibility, which that bathroom is big enough for, as is the open kitchen. A galley might be too tight. You can also never have enough storage.

Comparison chart of sizes small through 2X floor plans
Alchemy Architects

There are lots of options in size and layout: "Thirteen floor plan variations allow customers to achieve their ideal space, siting, and view, regardless of lot limitations. Configurations range from a compact studio to a one-bedroom unit atop a two-car garage, accommodating just about any end use." Plant Prefab has figured how to do it affordably, with entry-level units starting at $170,000:

Construction of all LivingHomes is made significantly more efficient with use of the Plant Building System (PBS), Plant Prefab’s patented, hybrid system for building prefabricated homes. PBS uses a combination of Plant Modules and Plant Panels, a new panelized construction system developed by Plant Prefab, which include plumbing, electrical, and finish materials. By integrating both modules and panels, PBS provides architects with greater design flexibility and reduces the complexity and cost of transportation and installation.

Fifteen years ago when I was working in prefab, Steve Glenn, Geoffrey Warner, and I were all trying to make "great architecture more accessible, affordable, and sustainable." I didn't have the talent or the discipline, but Steve and Geoffrey stuck it out, survived the Great Recession (a lot of others didn't), and are launching lightHouse LivingHomes at a very difficult and precarious time. On the other hand, the timing might be excellent; there may be a big demand for retirement downsizing, home offices, or rental units.

As for me, it is such a pleasure to see two people that I have known and admired for 15 years working together. They will do great things.