Residential Design

VOL4 2019

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 15 of 87

a level of refinement such that it's diffi- cult to tell whether a house was built in the factory or on-site. At the same time, there's a current vogue among modern architects for the long-box volume that's completely unmoored from what can fit on a tractor-trailer. Stacked boxes solve a factory and transportation problem, for sure, but they also resolve idiosyncrasies of site. With an array of boxes, you can levitate the building over topography and rotate it to capture views, natural light, and ventilation. You can play with materi- als, solids, voids, indoor, and outdoor space. Those are great attributes no matter what the means of construction. Building this way on-site does add cost, however, and that's where the fac- tory delivery model shines. Although it isn't always the case, Joe still maintains prefab can be less expensive than full site construction—but there's a caveat: "You don't ask the factory to do more than they can do well." "It's important to understand their limits," he explains. "Many architects learn the hard way trying to design a domestic space and then get it built in a factory. It's not an academic design exer- cise. There is time and money involved, and they're just not aware of the costs. It's important to go in at the beginning and know what will be done in the fac- tory and what will be done on-site. You need efficiency of implementation to achieve a higher level of predictability. "We use the factory like a con- tractor, and we try to leverage the economies," he continues. "Our prefab houses are still specific to each site, client, and budget. We just happen to use the factory to build most things. Doing it that way, prefab can be faster, cheaper, and better than site-built. In our early years, we were limited to the products the factory had. But since then, we've established relationships with certain vendors, and we've been able to expand those connections to membranes, tiles, windows, and other materials. Clients' expectations contin- ue to get higher and higher." That said, Joe admits, there are not many factories that can deliver the qual- ity he needs for those high-expectation clients. And that's a perennial problem, even for the architects who solve the riddle of designing for factory con- straints and capabilities. It's in part what's driven some to try to start or buy factories—a precarious proposition. The big venture-capital-funded players entering the market in recent years don't address the right problems for RES4 and other high-end custom Top to bottom: Wedged onto a 25-foot-wide lot, this 2017 new construction townhouse in Park Slope employs RES4's talent for using every square inch of living space. A custom teak wraparound sofa defines the sunken living room and morphs into storage above. Above: The site-built, 2017 Hudson River House is elevated on a natural overlook for panoramic views. Photo: Emily Andrews Photo: Eric Soltan Photo: Eric Soltan Image: Resolution: 4 Architecture 16 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM VOL. 4, 2019 PRO-FILE DESIGN

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