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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an hour's drive in a 4x4 vehicle just to get to the site," says Bill. "Everything had to get there by single-axle trailer. And everything had to be of a scale to fit in the trailer, navigate those last six miles, and make the climb up the mountain. We considered a number of options, including delivering by helicopter." "We devised a hybrid of construction methods for The Prow," Ted continues. Some components were fabricated and trucked to the site; others were assembled on location. "Fire danger was a challenge. Getting utilities to the house was a huge challenge. So, we decided to build the house off the grid, with photovoltaics for power and a cistern for rainwater collection. And we built it out of steel sections bolted together. We spent a lot of time with the engi- neers to make the pieces small enough to transport. Shop drawings took six weeks." "We couldn't have a bunch of welders there, because of the fire danger," says Bill. "And there was no exposed wood at all; even the decking is fiberglass." Duecker Construction was the miracle worker again. The result is a house that appears to float above its rocky, earthy site. Its long, lean profile hugs the base of the bluff that rises above it, and a weathered steel exterior segues to the red-brown Texas clay below. Its light stance on the site makes you think the entire building could hitch up and decamp for another location at a moment's notice. Scaling the Porch At last count, Lake/Flato has designed and built 10 Porch Houses in various locations. There are urban versions, including the "Bel- laire Porch House" they did with architect Natalye Appel, FAIA, in Houston. Glass balconies become the porches in that project, and the modules turn inward to create private courtyards. Still underway, their latest Porch House is in Clinton Corners, N.Y., and was built at Bensonwood, Tedd Bensonwood's factory in Walpole, N.H. "If there were more factories like Bensonwood, we'd all be saved," says Ted. Bill continues to travel the country looking at factories to part- ner with, and the firm is stringing together as many reliable ones as they can. ("We were advised early on not to own our own factory," says Ted.) In the meantime, they're also exploring a partnership with an innovative home improvement dealer and service provider called TreeHouse, which is based in Austin but has locations un- derway in Dallas and Plano. Its focus is sourcing reliably healthy, sustainable, and high-performance building products. Lake/Flato is designing the new Dallas store, and there'll be two Porch Houses adjacent to it. "We're hoping to take advantage of their ability to buy products in bulk because they're a retail outlet. Their interest is in having a house that would use their materials and finishes. Even though we may not have construction scale, we'll have pur- chasing scale," says Ted. "We're really excited about this." TreeHouse offers a new promise of honing the efficiency and sustainability of the Porch House model, and of pushing down the costs of building them. Says Bill, "When we started with this whole thing, it started as a prefab effort. And what we have dis- covered is not so much a prefab story but a process story. The more we explored the specific aspects of prefab, we learned that when it works, it's great—but it doesn't always work. Each house has a different story and is delivered in a different way." Nonetheless, says Ted, "We're very bullish on doing the Porch Houses. They continue to be delightful and exciting. The adventure continues." —S. Claire Conroy PRO-FILE DESIGN Above: Located in remote Marfa,Texas, the recent Prow Porch House was site assembled and built off the grid with fire-resistant materials. Above left photo: Ryann Ford; above photo: Casey Dunn 20 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM VOL. 2, 2017

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