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May 27, 2014
While we fancy prefab as an option for building economically, out-of-the-way, and off-the-grid, a modular building system can work just as well in a city. Here, a handful of smart urban prefab homes.
modern multiunit prefab in Vancouver interior living area

Vancouver architect Oliver Lang maxed out a commercial lot to create a four-residence prefab tower that takes smart urban planning as seriously as good design. Each of the residences has outdoor space attached to it; the family’s unit has a roof deck. In lieu of a green roof is a galvanized tub filled with grasses—a collaboration between the architects and landscape architecture firm space2place. Photo by Kamil Bialous.

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Originally appeared in A Modern Multiunit Prefab Prototype in Vancouver
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modern multiunit prefab in Vancouver exterior

The architect's daughters, Fiona and Olivia, try out the central elevator, which is shared by all the owners and tenants and was designed, says Lang, “to encourage neighbor interaction.” The industrial facade of the 2011 building is now softened by the young clematis vines that are just starting to wind their way up a series of steel cables extending from the ground-floor courtyard to the upper-floor breezeways. Photo by Kamil Bialous.

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Originally appeared in A Modern Multiunit Prefab Prototype in Vancouver
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net-zero prefab in los angeles

A net-zero prefab prototype designed by Minarc with Habitat for Humanity is set to reinvigorate South Central Los Angeles. Components for the low-cost modular homes (roughly $150 per square foot) were trucked in and assembled over three days. Photos by Art Gray.

Originally appeared in An Innovative Net-Zero Prefab in Los Angeles
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Modular building system designed by Jose Maria Saez and Daviad Barragan

Quito, Ecuador, population 1.6 million, is home to Pentimento House, a modular residence designed by a pair of architects using stacked concrete bricks. “Your first impression is that the house is very closed,” says David Barragán of the building he designed with Jose María Sáez. Stacked concrete forms, used as planters along the front facade, offer privacy and integrate the building with the site. Photo by João Canziani.

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Courtesy of 
Joao Canziani
Originally appeared in An Innovative Modular Building System in Ecuador
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prefab japan tiny small house home interior exterior facade moriyama

On a double suburban lot in Tokyo, the Office of Ryue Nishizawa built a neighborhood-scaled, flexible-format minimalist steel prefab compound for Yasuo Moriyama and six rental tenants. Photo by Dean Kaufman.

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Originally appeared in Building Blocks
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The evening bath is a ritual in Japan, and public baths are still around, but this is a new twist. Moriyama curtains the bath during use, but won’t cover any other windows, “because it feels good to couple the inner space with the outside world.”

Here, social mores and innovation interweave to create a new kind of community. Every room is its own building—even the bathhouse, a Japanese tradition, is a freestanding box. Photo by Dean Kaufman.

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Originally appeared in Building Blocks
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Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie

Moshe Safdie, architect of the iconic 1967 prefab apartment building Habitat '67 in Montreal, says about his inspiration for the building: "One is about prefabrication, and the other is about rethinking apartment-building design in the new paradigm. I’m a believer in the technology of prefabrication and the efficiency it can bring, but it’s no guarantee of anything in terms of the quality of the environment. It depends on the design of the building."

Originally appeared in The Prefab Decade
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Modern home office with glass table and wooden chair

A gut-renovated apartment in the modular apartment building Habitat '67 restored small alcoves to rooms including the office and living room and worked carefully with the existing windows. Photo by Alexi Hobbs.

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Originally appeared in A Renovated Flat in Moshe Safdie's Habitat '67
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modern multiunit prefab in Vancouver interior living area

Vancouver architect Oliver Lang maxed out a commercial lot to create a four-residence prefab tower that takes smart urban planning as seriously as good design. Each of the residences has outdoor space attached to it; the family’s unit has a roof deck. In lieu of a green roof is a galvanized tub filled with grasses—a collaboration between the architects and landscape architecture firm space2place. Photo by Kamil Bialous.

Photo by Kamil Bialous.

For more on building smart when going prefab, check out Dwell's guides on the benefits of prefab, and what to ask your architect.

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