2 or (3...) Questions for Marmol Radziner
by Harry / October 20, 2011


This series is brought to you by Autodesk BIM - Removing the Barriers to Better Business. The global macroeconomic context has changed dramatically since 2008 and particularly hard hit has been residential construction. That said, here at MOCO LOCO we've noticed a continued stream of prefabricated architecture news and developments. Here's the first in a series of interviews with prefab architects and builders to take the pulse of prefab. This interview is with Leo Marmol, FAIA, one of the principals of the award-winning Los Angeles-based architecture and construction firm Marmol Radziner. Above, Hidden Valley by Marmol Radziner Prefab in Moab, UT - photo by Joe Fletcher Photography.




(Click the images below for full sized images)


Marmol Radziner Prefab was established in 2005 and is dedicated to creating sustainable, modern homes built in a factory and delivered complete. The firm is "committed to the design, fabrication, installation, and delivery of its green homes". Marmol Radziner has incorporated prefab modules into large commercial projects since 1996 and began applying the technology to residential projects with The Desert House, a sustainable prefab prototype completed in 2005.


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Palms Residence, Venice, CA. Photo: Marmol Radziner Prefab.

Marmol Radziner was designing stick built homes before making prefab homes, what motivated the firm to begin making prefab homes? And is it still the same motivation today?

Our experience in site-built construction inspired us to explore ways to cut waste and optimize quality control in the construction process. We began experimenting with prefabricated modular buildings in a few of our early projects, including The Accelerated School in South Los Angeles in 1997 and a childcare center for the Los Angeles Airport in 1999. When Dwell magazine invited us to participate in their prefab design competition in 2003, we focused on designing high-end modern homes within the constraints of a factory.

Since then, we have completed a dozen custom modular homes and an affordable housing project of 20 manufactured home units. Our recent focus is to find other applications of modular prefab that could have the volume of multiple units.


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Hollywood Hybrid, Los Angeles. Photo: Jim Simmons.

One of the most oft quoted advantages of prefab is price, however judging from the size and quality of the prefabs Marmol Radziner has built, is that really the top consideration? If not, what is?

In our experience, prefab homes cost about the same as stick-built homes of comparable quality, features, finishes, and amenities. The main advantage of prefab construction is a more efficient and shorter construction schedule, as well as the minimization of material waste, decreased fuel consumption for transportation, high in-factory quality control. These advantages are especially pronounced when working on remote sites, where building infrastructure is limited, and on infill lots, where expedited construction schedules are ideal to spare the neighbors months of headache.


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Hollywood Hybrid, Los Angeles. Photo: Jim Simmons.

Is prefab at Marmol Radziner evolving? If yes, in which way(s)?

While we have fine tuned and changed technical aspects of our methods, our general philosophy and goal have not changed. We design and build for the specific needs of each client, and within the client's constraints and agenda, we strive always to create modern, environmentally sensitive, and beautiful buildings. We are increasingly evaluating opportunities where there are multiple units and repetition, such as the City of Santa Monica project that we recently completed.

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