Residential Design

Vol. 2, 2017

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

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the time to focus firm efforts on devising a prototype. Then the real estate bust happened and the delicate house of cards tumbled for many in the avant-garde of prefab. The bust solidified into a deep recession, and even the best prefab businesses were in death throws. Alas, sometimes it's wise not to arrive early to the party. Idle Hands to the Porch House Workshop Lake/Flato's business also took a hit; work ground to a halt. Even clients who could afford to continue custom projects unplugged them as a precaution. No one knew how long this national nightmare would go on. Finally, the firm found time to nurture nascent ideas about prefabri- cated construction and to devise what a modular Lake/Flato house might look like. Not surprisingly, the answer was "more like a porch than a house." And the Porch House was born. Ted Flato and associate partner, Bill Aylor, AIA, led the internal team to design the system of modules and the connective tissue that would integrate the porches. "We began with the question of how can we make more thoughtful architecture available to more people," Ted recalls. "We looked at the common denominator of our previous houses. And they use the rooms in the house to create a variety of relationships to the landscape. The rooms, which became the modules of the Porch House, set the discipline, and the porches create the flexibility. And when we started, it was with the idea the modules should be built in a factory." The prototype went into production when a client came along who was willing to embrace the concept, largely for the faster timeline from design to delivery. Bill began to visit possible factories to see if they could handle the 1,500 square- foot Miller Porch project and, ultimately, future Porch Houses. He found a factory in College Station, Texas, to build the three modules that would eventually travel four hours by truck to Vanderpool, Texas, and become the Miller's master bedroom, liv- ing room, and secondary bedrooms. And the firm turned to trusted custom builders Glen and Henry Duecker, Duecker Con- struction in Stonewall, Texas, to finish out the modules, build the porches, and handle other site-installed components. The house was completed in 2010 and began to accumulate awards and client interest. But Ted and Bill struggled with the factory part of the puzzle. "Each time we would do a project there would be 6 months between projects, and we'd en- counter new people on the factory floor," says Ted. "We realized we needed more scale to have a well-oiled factory proj- ect." The other advantage that achieving "scale," or building more houses in fewer locations, promised was to lower the cost of the houses. The Miller house demon- strated that the factory model only saved time and not money over a site-built house. Prefab or Postfab? That's a discovery that every residential architect has made when trying to solve the prefab riddle. Building in a factory at a custom residential volume and pace does not lower the cost of the projects, and it may, in fact, add more complexity and unpredictability to the process. Some of that complexity came from the precarious- ness of the factories themselves. They had Above: 2001 Odyssey uses red-cedar panelled porches to connect and shade its three modules from western sun and views of the neighbors. Photo: Casey Dunn VOL. 2, 2017 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM 17

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