April 6, 2009

The Music and Technology festivals that make up South by Southwest may have come and gone but that doesn't mean that innovation can't still be found in Austin, Texas. Austin based firm KRDB have recently created a prefabricated, modular home company they simply call ma, a name derived from the Japanese word meaning consciousness of place, or the serene space in-between.

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MA 3

Now available in 28 states, ma homes were designed to offer the "ingenuity and efficiency of prefab with the typically hefty price tag," which, at least in theory, were benefits of prefab as it was originally conceived. Unfortunately, the reality of modern prefabricated homes has yet to deliver on that promise of affordability. Ma's price tag? Around $125 per square foot, which KRDB claim is almost half the cost of most other modern prefab homes currently on the market.

The first ma structure, located on Luna Street in Austin, is a 1,500 square foot home that will achieve a 3-star rating from the city's Green Building Program when it is completed in September. Ma's standard sustainable features aren't so much about flashy green tech as practical solutions that have been integrated into the design: reflective metal roofs, R50 Roof insulation, low-e windows, and bamboo floors. For those looking to lower that carbon footprint a bit more, additional optional sustainable features include a geothermal HVAC system, solar panels, and rain water collectors.

"With ma, we're continuing the idea that was started with our design-build firm here in Austin, of building quality, modern space efficiently," says KRDB principal and co-owner of ma Chris Krager. At first blush, it looks like they succeeded. Except for standardized glazing, there isn't much to call out the ma as a prefab home. This is just a nice, contemporary home customized to fit your needs. "Ma enables us to expand our reach," Krager says.

At the core of the ma line are six basic building blocks: a 36'x15' module available with three different floor plans and a 60'x15' module also available in three configurations. These units can be linked together in a variety of ways to fit the site or the client's needs, giving the homes their eponymous "consciousness of place." Ma units arrive at the site complete with integrated plumbing, electrical, and appliances and require only minimum finish work - as evidenced in the assembly photos. Clients are responsible for permits, site work, and any foundation work that may be required. Ideally, this work would be completed while the ma modules (ma-dules, perhaps?) are fabricated. To make fabrication as efficient as possible, KRDB partnered with a traditional U.S. manufactured home builder capable of producing the modules on an assembly line system. The entire process takes between 150-180 days.

Also in Austin, KRDB are designing and developing a 5.5-acre community of 40 net-zero-energy, affordable homes called Solutions Oriented Living, or S.O.L. Ma homes will be included in the development and we'll keep our eyes out for its final phase.

Click Slideshow in the upper right corner for more images of design, construction, and completion.

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