7 Efficient Prefabs That Prove the Power of Modular Design

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Resolution:4 Architecture creates astounding prefabricated homes that are tailored to their sites and the unique needs of their owners.

Founded in 1990 by Joseph Tanney and Robert Luntz, Manhattan–based firm Resolution: 4 Architecture (RES4) works on a broad range of architectural projects, but is probably best known for its Modern Modular design system, which leverages existing prefabrication technology to create homes that meet the specific needs of its owners. In 2003, RES4 won an an international competition for modern prefabricated homes. It’s winning entry, the Dwell Home, was considered the "holy grail" for modern prefab enthusiasts by the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post called it the "highest profile modern prefabricated home in America." The firm, which has won numerous industry awards, has designed more than 120 prefab residences from Maine to Hawaii, using modular, panelized, and hybrid methods. 

We take a look at seven remarkable prefab homes by this prolific and respected firm.  

1. Prefab Family Home on Fishers Island

The inspiration for this prefabricated, modular family home on Fishers Island, New York, were the views that Tanney and Luntz saw from a 12-foot stepladder, which was balancing on the bed of a pickup truck when they first visited the site.

"You’re surrounded by what appeals to most people on a small island, which is the sound of nature," says resident Mimi Parsons.

"You’re surrounded by what appeals to most people on a small island, which is the sound of nature," says resident Mimi Parsons.

The fireplace wall, a Resolution: 4 signature, is made of 14-gauge hot-rolled steel panels with storage components in one-eighth welded steel. On one side is a pivoting privacy panel that allows the guest wing to be closed off. Art attaches to the metal with magnets.

The fireplace wall, a Resolution: 4 signature, is made of 14-gauge hot-rolled steel panels with storage components in one-eighth welded steel. On one side is a pivoting privacy panel that allows the guest wing to be closed off. Art attaches to the metal with magnets.

2. New Jersey Prefab Lakeside Retreat

Debbi Gibbs' prefab home near Lake Iosco in New Jersey has a very permeable structure that allows the interiors to flow outdoors. The house has an open main living area, and a kitchen in the middle with low-level appliances and drawers down below. "I had a very clear idea of what I wanted design-wise, but Joe and Robert have such great expertise in terms of both the restrictions and possibilities of modular units. I don’t think your average architect could waltz in and design a prefab house like they do," says Gibbs.

A New Zealand expat and her son use their prefabricated lakeside New Jersey retreat as an outdoorsy counterpoint to city life.

A New Zealand expat and her son use their prefabricated lakeside New Jersey retreat as an outdoorsy counterpoint to city life.

"The old house was like a cave. I wanted this house to be the opposite: a pavilion," says Debbi Gibbs.

"The old house was like a cave. I wanted this house to be the opposite: a pavilion," says Debbi Gibbs.

3. A Long Island Prefab For a Family of Six

Tanya Wexler and Amy Zimmerman wanted their Long Island home to be durable enough to endure the wear and tear of young children trailing beach sand and dirt from the backyard in their wake. They were drawn to RES4’s system of "mass customization," in which prefabricated modules are inexpensively produced in a factory, trucked to a site, and configured to meet a client’s lifestyle and budget.

Architect Joseph Tanney says the house was designed as a safe haven for Wexler and Zimmerman’s children.

Architect Joseph Tanney says the house was designed as a safe haven for Wexler and Zimmerman’s children.

Honed granite was selected for the kitchen surfaces because its matte-like finish is easy to maintain and hard to damage. Eight-foot sliding glass doors bathe the kitchen and adjoining living room in ample sunlight.

Honed granite was selected for the kitchen surfaces because its matte-like finish is easy to maintain and hard to damage. Eight-foot sliding glass doors bathe the kitchen and adjoining living room in ample sunlight.

4. A Six-Module Connecticut Retreat 

Comprised of six prefab box modules, this 2,650-square-foot weekend getaway just outside the town of Norfolk, Connecticut, is fitted with floor-to-ceiling aluminum windows that flood the interiors with sunlight and present sweeping views of the countryside.

On both floors, large windows bring the outdoor scenery in, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior.

On both floors, large windows bring the outdoor scenery in, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior.

LEED-Certified, the house has sustainable features such as bio-based spray foam insulation, a 98-percent energy-efficient boiler, low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, FSC certified-ipe and cedar, recycled cement board panels, bamboo floors, radiant floor heat, and a green roof.

LEED-Certified, the house has sustainable features such as bio-based spray foam insulation, a 98-percent energy-efficient boiler, low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, FSC certified-ipe and cedar, recycled cement board panels, bamboo floors, radiant floor heat, and a green roof.

5. An L-shaped, Five-Module Cabin in Vermont

This five-module, 1,650-square-foot prefab home in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest is clad in a maintenance-free, corrugated Cor-Ten Kynar painted metal panel system to withstand the harsh Vermont winters. Its L-shaped form creates a small, outdoor terrace.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin has a communal space with a custom Baltic Birch bookshelf, and a bench by the window where the owners can look out to the surrounding wilderness, and fern meadow. 

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin has a communal space with a custom Baltic Birch bookshelf, and a bench by the window where the owners can look out to the surrounding wilderness, and fern meadow. 

The eco-friendly cabin includes a 3,000 KwH solar array with a back-up generator, a hybrid insulation system, and radiant floor heating that keeps the home airtight and warm during the cold months.

The eco-friendly cabin includes a 3,000 KwH solar array with a back-up generator, a hybrid insulation system, and radiant floor heating that keeps the home airtight and warm during the cold months.

6. North Fork Bay House

Designed as a weekend beach retreat for a Brooklyn family, this prefab beach house has a sheltered outdoor space below the house for parking, lounging, and woodworking, and full-height sliding glass doors that open to a large bayside deck that overlooks the Great Peconic Bay.

The homeowners approach via long gravel driveway; the Great Peconic Bay can be seen beyond.

The homeowners approach via long gravel driveway; the Great Peconic Bay can be seen beyond.

7 Efficient Prefabs That Prove the Power of Modular Design - Photo 12 of 14 -

7. Catskill Home With Ledgestone Wall

Located in a small clearing on the edge of a town in the Catskill Mountains, this rectilinear, 2,200-square-foot prefab house has a large Ledgestone wall, a two-by-two cedar slat wall that provides privacy from the paths leading to the hiking trails, and an ipe deck that wraps around the main living areas.

Entry court

Entry court

Natural ledgestone surrounds the fireplace in the living space.

Natural ledgestone surrounds the fireplace in the living space.