My belief is that the future of home construction is a blend between prefabricated elements and modular construction in conjunction with site built elements, useful where the limits of prefab begin to limit design and form. Quality pre-fabrication saves resources, minimizes waste and allows for a more strict control of costs.
When used properly it can greatly improve a project environmental and economic performance. But it can also drive a ‘sameness’ and rigidity in geometry due to the limitations of shipping and factory parameters. Modular construction paired with prefabricated elements like structural insulated panels, building trusses and the like all further improve efficiency but with less design rigidity. Yet there is also something special about the more labor intensive, site built, traditional methods of construction that can give a building ‘soul’. A proper blending of each construction family, for the right reasons, in the right locations, can result in a powerful and effective palette for construction.
For Heron Hall I designed the house to take advantage of the strengths of each. The first floor of the main volume of the house is built with Sirewall – a stabilized rammed earth system developed in Canada. Its durable, beautiful, non-toxic and both highly insulating, while keeping the thermal mass where most needed – the inside and outside layers. A strong durable foundation and massive first floor walls help the project feel rooted to place.
The second floor features prefabricated custom trusses that sit on the rammed earth walls and are then wrapped in SIP’s for superior energy performance. Along the north edge of the house are modular units that contain all the ‘systems’ and core elements and literally plug into the main volume. All bathrooms, the kitchen, pantry and mechanical spaces are integrated into these modular units.
The result is a harmonious whole, optimized for maximum beauty and sustainability.