Living Home Features a Modular System
12 June 2017
Palisades News Contributor
By Libby Motika
Steve Glenn founded LivingHomes with one goal in mind. He wanted to construct housing that emphasized good design combined with a light ecological footprint. He learned that he could achieve his target most effectively with pre-fabricated modular construction, certain that if done right, you could have better quality and less cost.
Glenn’s own house in Ocean Park, completed 11 years ago, is not only the first LivingHome, but also the first in the nation, to be certified LEED Platinum (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design). An external point-based system, LEED measures performance in five key areas of human and environmental health. The LivingHome demonstrates the successful marriage of good architecture and sustainability in energy, water and construction materials both inside and out.
Admitting that he was not talented in design, Glenn turned to noted architects for inspiration in developing LivingHomes plans.
Glenn selected acclaimed Southern California architect Ray Kappe’s (BA Architecture ‘51) plan for his home and others in the 40-plus single-family and multifamily projects now completed. Kappe’s home in Rustic Canyon demonstrates the architect’s signature modernist aesthetic that incorporates state-of-the-art structural technology and materials.
Kappe founded SCI-Arc to explore a more experimental perspective than traditional architecture schools. Early on he was interested in construction systems and particularly ways of mass-producing housing other than the typical system. So, in the early 1960s he devised a modular system. Learning from Kappe’s solution, Glenn’s home consists of 11 modules, each averaging 10,000 pounds, which were assembled on the 50-by-100-sq.-ft. lot in just over eight hours. Three-and-a-half months later, the home was move-in ready. There are several types of prefabricated homes, including mobile homes, kit homes (pre-cut pieces assembled on the site) and modular homes (think Lego pieces), that are built off-site conforming to local building codes, then assembled on site.
An advantage of using a modular system is how adaptable it can be for rearranging inside spaces. “Homes generally change as your situation changes,” Glenn says. “Expanding and downsizing can be accommodated by movable walls and accordion-style walls. Instead of fixed closets, millwork building units can be moved around if need be.”
Having solved the design part of the plan, Glenn focused on a comprehensive environmental program. All the building materials are either recycled or, in the case of wood, harvested according to Forest Stewardship Council standards. Cedar cladding, tiger-wood decking and formaldehyde-free euro plywood for interior walls create an attractive palette of texture and color. The concrete for landscape features is recycled. The upstairs flooring is cork, which is a fast-growing material, sparing trees.
While Glenn finds the LEED program useful as an external measure, his ultimate goal is to create healthy homes with minimal ecological footprint: a goal all homeowners can achieve, he believes. Beyond taking measures to reduce energy, water, waste and carbon, Glenn believes that ignorance is a big hurdle. We all can become more conscious of our environment.