Previously Fabricated or “Pre-Fab” housing is one of the most intriguing, energy saving ways to address the constant demand for homes and building. Traditional construction can be labor-intensive and consume a high level of resources. Pre-fab, on the other hand promises to be a hyper-local means to a sustainable end. Jeffrey Sommers, of Square Root Architecture + Design, is on the forefront of broadening the appeal and increasing accessibility to pre-fab housing in Chicago.
Sommers’ design, the C3 Home (C3 = Cube, Cut, Copy) harnesses some of the most desired and eco-friendly elements of pre-fab. Solar thermal panels and ductless HVAC contributed to a LEED Platinum rating. Additionally, Sommers included the possibility of installing a living roof and a photovoltaic system once the owners were ready. The C3 is admittedly, a hybrid model which utilizes a structural insulated panel (SIP) system which is a flat-pack system that lowers transportation and erection costs while allowing for inspections by the City.
In addition to time and cost-savings, pre-fab housing produces minimal waste. In traditional construction, 30-40% of materials can wind up as landfill; in a prefab that percentage can be as low as 2%. This will have an even greater impact in the near future as potential homeowners become accustomed to the idea of pre-fab and multiple houses can be produced assembly-line style. Sommers’ dream is to have a factory for pre-fab in Indiana and produce homes for the Chicago region. The City, as an influential player in regional development, would be wise to collaborate with Sommers on his seemingly lofty goals. One can simply look to the GOTO 2040 Plan to see how pre-fab could play a major part in providing access to housing options and move towards greater energy efficiency.