Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More Catch Up

The other big thing we've done this fall is decide on an architect. We love the Dwell House (who doesn't) but assumed something like that would be out of our price range (we're also committed to keeping this a small project size-wise - we're envisioning renters who are interested in see what a prefab project looks like from the inside, not groups that need a four bedroom house for a weeklong vacation). I was able to talk a bit with Joe Tanney from Res4 during the Building Museum symposium on prefab, and after explaining the intent of the project by email we set up an appt to meet in NYC to go over some options.

Res4's prefab designs are all premised on combining factory produced 16' wide (and as much as 64' long) boxes into whatever size/shape house you're looking for. They work with a conventional modular home manufacturer in Pennsylvania (Simplex Industries) that produces about 600 modular units a year (that's about 250 finished houses); after working with a few different manufacturers, it sounds like Res4 has settled on these guys as pretty good partners. We thought just a single 16'x 64' box would be perfect for us: 2BR,1BA, an open living space and lots of glass to take in the woods and view. Ideally, the box would be delivered as close to finished as possible for all the reasons that prefab makes sense: most efficient building process, defined build time and cost.

Joe and his partner Rob Luntz were both enthusiastic about the idea and had been curious to see just how much their module manufacturers could get done in the factory. They had already done some rough sketches for us, and we talked rough numbers for budget and $/sf targets (they ballparked a 90% completed manufactured unit at between $125 and $150/sf, which would translate to about $150K for the house, all inclusive - decks, appliances, floors, the whole house). They explained the timeline, which was a bit longer than we'd thought we might be able to get all this done in (we were being much too optimistic about that, something I'll take up later) - about a year, they thought, from engagement, maybe a bit shorter for our project (fewer permits - surprisingly, the manufacture time isn't really affected by the size/number of boxes involved). They also indicated that they were very excited about the possibility of seeing just how inexpensively they could get a simple project out the door, as well as in having a project to which they could direct potential clients ("go rent this house for the weekend; see what you think" kinda deal). We had a great meeting (nice to be back in NYC, even if just for the day); John and Rob said they'd get a formal proposal (scope of project, fees, schedule) out to us that week. We signed on and began the process of working with the Res4 team on a preliminary design (basically by phone and email).

(For those wondering about other options: I'd had some back and forth with the weeHouse folks, who were awfully nice (that Minnesota charm). We decided that their homes would be less appealing to potential buyers down the road should we choose to sell. We love all of Michelle Kaufmann's projects, but unfortunately she's not working out here on the east coast yet. I'm also a big fan of the LV and the Luminhaus, but it's a bit stark and there's already one of those available for renters just around the corner from us.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lots to catch up on

Well, it's been awhile since I've posted. I'll try to run through everything (I've been keeping good notes...).

We closed on our land in Lost River, WV in August (the top picture is a view from one of the potential building sites). There's a great state park (Lost River State Park) just a mile down the road and a fresh water lake with a white sand beach about ten minutes away (that's the picture on the bottom). About 2.5 hours door to door from DC. There's a pretty vibrant second home community in the Lost River Valley these days, with a lot of visitors drawn to the Lost River Guest House.

As I noted earlier, the parcel is 30 acres, with some steep grades and tricky access issues. It appears this was priced into the $/acre, though we'll see what access finally costs at the end of the day. We've met with three different excavators, all of whom say we'll be able to get a suitable road up to the good building sites. Access remains a question mark, but we're moving ahead with fingers crossed.