Mod.Fab is a project at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture aimed at designing a prefab home that's both elegant and enables sustainable living in a desert environment.
Historically speaking prefab homes have received bad press: Reasons include social stigma associated with the low-cost housing solution, lack of understanding by the consumer, and low-quality mass-produced designs. And that's clearly been a spur for the students and staff at the FLW school.
The nearly-complete prototype is sitting on the Taleisin, Arizona campus. It's visually appealing right from the start, with its large colored paneling and asymmetric layout. The design contains eco-technology from the ground up, with wall panels that are both structural and insulating, photovoltaic panels that collect sunlight and provide power, and there's a combination of passive environmental control—suntraps and natural ventilation, as well as active elements. The active elements include a grey-water recycling system and a water catchment system. Ultimately, the goal is to create a design that is entirely self-sustaining in terms of basic energy needs.
The most interesting thing about Mod.Fab is that it indicates how our homes should be constructed in the future: Its combination of eco-power sources and passive environmental controls mean that the house places a significantly lower burden on the environment. In Germany, so-called "passive" homes, that utilize similar design elements, are gaining ground thanks to increased taxation on heating oil and natural gas. The strict "passive" requirements, that include super-efficient insulation and exploitation of natural light and heat, result in homes that typically consume only around 10% of the energy of "normal" housing designs.
Even President Obama stresses the need for designs like this: His first weekly address stated that the economic recovery plan would aim to save an average working family $350 per annum on energy bills, with the associated eco-friendly knock-on, by funding "weatherizing" of 2.5 million homes.
If we made our future eco-homes as architecturally interesting as Mod.Fab, perhaps the public would become enthused about the idea.