This series is brought to you by Autodesk BIM - Removing the Barriers to Better Business. Here's the second in a series of interviews with prefab architects and builders to take the pulse of prefab. This interview is with Bill Aylor, AIA, an Associate with award-winning San Antonio-based architects Lake Flato. Above (and below), the Porch House by Lake Flato Architects.
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The Lake|Flato Porch House is a prefab housing system based on a library of factory-constructed, modular living and sleeping rooms that "enables a design-conscious owner to have a custom, site-specific, and LEED certified Lake|Flato house with a predictable outcome of quality, time, and cost." By connecting different modules with "porches" the units provide larger, more dynamic spaces. The collection of units includes nine 17 foot wide modules that vary in size from 28 to 46 feet long that can be stacked on top of each other. Porches, breezeways, carports, and terraces serve as "connecting tissue" to create outdoor spaces and ensure each house is particular to its place.
Lake Flato was designing stick built homes before making prefab homes, what motivated the firm to begin making prefab homes?
It seems architects have been fascinated with factory production for as long as there have been factories. More specifically for Lake Flato and the Porch House, many of our projects have been in remote locations and building far from materials and skilled labor has always been a challenge.
In addition to the difficulties of long distance coordination the environmental impact of so many traveling so far over the time of construction was also a consideration that pushed us toward a prefab solution.
In addition to those issues many of our ranch houses consist of structures only one room wide which is an easy fit for modular production. Our design approach for the Porch House is not much different than a site built project... only faster.
One of the most oft quoted advantages of prefab is price, is that really the top consideration? If not, what is?
Our goal with the Porch House is to strike a balance between cost, design and sustainability. There will be a cost savings for the rural projects mentioned above. Just how much will depend on the particulars of each project.
So, clear advantages for rural construction. Any plans for urban prefabs?
While our initial focus is rural we also have some urban projects on the boards but the closer one gets to urban centers the more difficult it becomes to realize a construction cost benefit from factory production over typical site construction.
A major benefit of the Porch House for both rural and urban projects is time. As both site work and factory fabrication overlap the construction schedule is significantly reduced.