According to author Sheri Koones, prefabricated building is the best kept secret in America. She has set out to change that, and a home in the Moab area is helping to illustrate her message.
Her latest book, “Prefabulous Small Houses,” explores smaller-scale “prefab” construction across the country, including the “weeZero House” south of Moab. The term “prefab” has come to indicate a sense of efficient modernity in style, and encompasses seven types of prefabricated building, including modular and panelized.
“When people know about it, they’ll build this way,” she says.
The “weeZero House” was the first project of its kind for Alchemy Architects of St. Paul, Minnesota, which built the 1,200-square-foot vacation home for a family who live in a Minneapolis suburb.
The house has the potential to be a “zero-energy home,” with active solar thermal panels and passive solar design. According to the book, the owners intend eventually to move to Moab full time, at which point they’ll invest in photovoltaic panels. The solar power will offset the cooling and other domestic energy costs they now incur.
The house is also noted for its spatial modesty, off-site prefabrication and strong connection to the landscape.
“I’m really fond of that house,” Koones says. “The architect is terrific at designing houses that optimize small space and limit the need for heating and cooling … Instead of building this house with three bedrooms, as the homeowners originally wanted, to spare costs it was designed with two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms has a sleeping alcove to comfortably accommodate more people. This house, like his other 'Wee Houses,' are very attractive, efficient and cozy.”
“Prefabulous Small Houses” explores the variety, design and environmentally positive benefits of prefab construction through colorful images, useful data and detailed side bars.
Actor, filmmaker and environmental activist Robert Redford wrote the foreword to “Prefabulous Small Houses,” as he did for Koones’ earlier works, “Prefabulous and Sustainable,” “Prefabulous and Almost off the Grid” and “Prefabulous World.”
“I have great faith in the power of innovation and the ingenuity of people from all walks of life to solve this problem (of climate change),” Redford writes. “Technological advances are well under way – renewable energy, increased efficiency and innovation in building practices are gaining momentum.”
Redford advocates for the reduction of dependency on fossil fuels by designing houses that require less fuel to build, operate, and heat and cool.
“Building smaller, along with building houses prefabricated … is the sanest and wisest recipe for home construction, for now and for the future,” Redford concludes.
Koones says that her book has already been widely received by professionals and homeowners, and is intended for anyone who is interested in building, renovating or dreaming up a home.
“These books are meant to be not only inspirational but educational,” Koones says. “I started writing them for people like me who didn’t know anything about home construction. They’ve been a tremendous study.”
Koones says each and every home in the book is unique.
“I like all of them for different reasons. Every time I wrote another chapter, I said, ‘Oh, this one is my favorite,’” she laughs.