Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on June 6, 2010
In the world of Architecture, choosing to build your career and business on the leading fringe edge is a dangerous choice. Leaving the safety of the pack, just like in nature, might just prove to be unwise. So, when an Architect hangs out his shingle and declares, I will build my homes on a factory floor, he or she might just be committing business suicide. A few architecture firms over the last five years have done exactly that. They defined their business around a new way to be smarter, modern luxury custom homes, sustainably and most of all green. Predictably most of these companies have either failed already or are on the ropes. Higher start up cost, and the small pool of buyers is mostly to blame. This is why, when a company emerges successfully out of the start up phase and into full production, they definitely deserve a closer look.
One such company which has emerged out of the woods and seems to be on the road to success is Flatpak House, founded by Charles Lazor. Charles entered into the prefab housing market with a little more knowledge than most, since he is also a co-founder of Blu Dot, a flatpack modern furniture business. His approach to green prefab building is a little different than most of the other Architects as well. Instead of building the entire house in a factory, such as LivingHomes, and Office of Mobile Design, has done, he decided to build only the key components of the building. Using these components, the new home buyer could pick and choose which ones to use, like a giant lego set, to make their home. This flexibility is why Lazor calls his house “manufactured architecture” rather than prefab. (Also, like any good designer, he knows that naming, packaging, and marketing are essential to the success of a product.) “This way of designing is all about finding an answer to a problem,” he says, “rather than expressing the will of an architect. It’s the opposite of the individual genius model.”
A Flatpack House cost around $100 to $130 per square foot to build. The price point alone, helps his company leave most of the prefab green pack behind. For example a Livinghome factory built home will set you back anywhere between $400 to $500 a square foot and they only come in a few flavors.
Via Secretsofthecity: Prefab and modular designs, however, come with a basic requirement: Their components can be no wider than twelve to fourteen feet, or what can fit on a flatbed truck (thus the twenty-four-foot “double wide” mobile home, which comes in two pieces). The Flatpak House, as its name indicates, gets around that constraint with panels, not modules. Made of glass, concrete, metal, wood, or cement fiberboard, with different colors and finishes, the Flatpak panels are basically sheet goods, which are manufactured in the U.S. to a standard eight-foot width. The cedar cladding panels on the Flatpak prototype, for instance, are more commonly used for high-end garage doors, says Lazor.
The main advantage of the Flatpak House over prefab or modular designs, then, is that it maximizes flexibility. Like sectional sofas, modular wall or storage units, workstation components—or Legos, for that matter—the Flatpak House can be configured in any number of combinations to suit both a homeowner’s needs and the particular demands of a site. This flexibility is why Lazor calls his house “manufactured architecture” rather than prefab. (Also, like any good designer, he knows that naming, packaging, and marketing are essential to the success of a product.) “This way of designing is all about finding an answer to a problem,” he says, “rather than expressing the will of an architect. It’s the opposite of the individual genius model.”
Checkout the Flatpak House website at: flatpakhouse.com