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Building a Prefab House

A highlight of reporting "A Simple Plan," my story about the Marmol Radziner-designed prefab in Ukiah, California (in our December/January 2012 issue, and online here) was sitting down with the residents and hearing about how the house came together on the site. Residents Abbie and Bill Burton worked with Marmol Radziner to design a two-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot house (with an additional 1,400 square feet of covered decks) for their rural site in Mendocino County. The house, made of ten prefabricated steel modules, took three months to build in the firm's factory—and just a single day to assemble on the site. The Burtons shared their snapshots of the on-site construction process, which they witnessed from lawn chairs on a neighboring hill. "It was instantaneous," said Bill. "We went from having just a foundation on our site to walking around our house a few hours later. You never see architecture come together like that." Here's a glimpse at the wonder of prefab.

Here's the site as it looked the day before the modules arrived. The concrete block wall foundation, fireplace, basement, and utilities are all in place. Previously, Marmol Radziner, their trucking company, and the crane company had all scouted the site "to understand the topography, road alignments and road grades, and to evaluate trees and natural features of the landscape which would potentially be obstacles to bringing the modules into the Ranch and to our site," says Bill.

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