First off, how's business?
Business is good; we couldn't be happier. We've done close to 20 projects. We have 12 this year and about four or five scheduled for next year. We've also got a 29-module, five-story apartment complex for downtown Seattle.
What made you and business partner Brian Abramson decide to launch Method Homes in 2007?
I'd been reading Dwell since 2004 or 2005 and saw the potential of prefab. Then one day it just clicked. I was building custom homes and had issues with the process; there's a lot of conflict of interest between architects, builders, and homeowners. So Brian and I decided to go for it. We did market research to see how companies at the forefront were doing it and found that most others were architect-based whereas Brian and I bring a developer's background to the puzzle. The design's got to be good but you need to be able to execute. I've always been an advocate for innovation in construction and with Dwell having already done a good job showing what the benefits of prefab could be, we took that leap.
What is the advantage of a prefab system over the method with which you had been building?
For us it always boils down to cost. We're able to have a fixed cost on the modular side of things, which is about 90 percent of the project. Site work is going to be site work, and you're going to be building in different jurisdictions with different laws and in different regions with different soils and other unknown soft costs. We have a general contracting team that does our Washington, projects but we also talk to other contractors scattered throughout other areas we're not in control of. So it's fixed costs but also predictable schedules. I can't say enough about that: as soon as a project goes over schedule, it goes over budget and then homeowners become stressed out, contractors become stressed out, and things go downhill. For us, once we start into production, it's two to three months until we're finished, though we'll spend anywhere between one and six months with a client beforehand going through all the details and plans.
What different models do customers have to choose from?
We started with the Method Cabins, a series that developed into a few different models. It's all based around the idea of finished modules that are bedrooms or dining-living-kitchen rooms that have connectors like hallways and ways to get from the lower floors to the upper floors. We're confined to modular sizes, but we've done a good job making the house feel not module as far as scale and architecture are concerned. Every house is engineered and made specifically for each site and climate.
You're also partnering with architecture firms, like Balance Associates for the Balance S-M-L homes?
We started with Balance, who we were thrilled to have on board. We've built for three other architects and have a few more lined up. We want people to realize that we're a builder, not an architect, so bring your ideas to us, bring your project, and we'll see if it works, and hopefully we can do some pretty cool stuff together.
Join us at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles June 24-26 to see and here more about prefab today. Rylant will join Dwell editor Miyoko Ohtake and ProtoHomes founder Frank Vafaee on Friday, June 24 on the Sustainability Stage to chat about the Business of Prefab and will speak again on Saturday, June 25 with Ohtake, Vafaee, and Minarc architects Tryggvi Thorsteinsson and Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir for the Why Go Prefab panel on the Sustainability Stage.