Collection by Jaime Gillin

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.
A closer view of the concrete block foundation wall and the back of the fireplace.
"When the fabrication of the house was completed, the ten modules were trucked to the site from the Marmol Radziner...
Here's a view of the shrink-wrapped modules staged at the airport, after being removed from the ten semi trucks that...
The next morning, a 300,000-pound crane arrived on the site.
Here's the first module as it arrived at the site early in the morning.
After workers tore off the shrink wrap, the crane lifted the first module off the semi truck.
The first module (part of the master bedroom) is lowered into place.
On to the second module.
Abby and Vinnie, the couple's rescue Bernese Mountain dog, watched from a nearby hill in awe.
After the kitchen modules are set in place, the diagonal bracing used during the transportation remains.
Here's one of the outdoor covered deck modules being lowered into place adjacent to the fireplace.
Another outdoor covered deck module being lowered into place.
Vinny supervises from his lawn chair with Bill (in the Nebraska t-shirt) and Bill's father (seated).
The last module arrived on-site late in the day.
Abbie, Stella (the Burton's other dog), and Riley, the project architect for Marmol Radziner, stand in the master...
At the end of the day, Abbie, Stella and some of the Marmol Radziner staff gathered in the kitchen.
A view down the length of the outdoor covered deck leading to the front door.
A view into the guest bathroom.
A view of the living room, with a portion of the concrete floor uncovered. All the floors were poured in the factory.