Meet the Glidehouse, a modern prefab

You'd never guess this eco-savvy home was built in a factory in just 19 days

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  • 1. Module on the move. The two units rolled into Sunset's parking lot after a 1,300-mile ride from the Britco factory in Agassiz, B.C., an hour east of Vancouver. The route had to be planned to avoid power lines and overhangs.

    Module on the move

    E. Spencer Toy

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The design, one of several versions by San Francisco Bay Area architect Michelle Kaufmann, is simple and ingenious: Think Japanesque contemporary ranch house or modern California bungalow; don't think mobile home.

The Glidehouse is high-ceilinged and substantial, and affixes to a permanent, built-on-site foundation. In our configuration, two shed-roofed 14- by 48-foot rectangular modules are offset to create space for decks at each end.

The kitchen and living/dining area occupy one module, which stays bright and airy thanks to a wall of sliding glass doors.

The master suite, guest room, and guest bath are located in the other module. Big, rectangular wood screens on barn-door tracks slide across the windows of both modules to create shade and privacy without completely blocking natural light.

Kaufmann developed the initial plan after she and her husband, contractor Kevin Cullen, found they couldn't afford to buy a house in the Bay Area. They decided to design and build one instead.

"I was working on parallel tracks," Kaufmann says. "For our site, the most affordable approach was to use structural insulated panels (SIPs).

But I was also researching how a factory could make it, and finding maximum dimensions for shipping the modules on flatbed trucks. That's why each module is 14 by 48 feet."

Kaufmann eventually partnered with a modular design/build company, Construction Resource Group of Redmond, Washington, to develop the Glidehouse.

The Glidehouse is built to the Uniform Building Code, which covers new construction within the United States. Controlled factory conditions ensure minimal waste of materials and time while reducing the opportunities for weather-induced mold to develop. The house costs $120 to $160 per square foot, depending on the materials and fixtures selected.

While building costs vary by region, quality construction typically starts at around $250 per square foot and rises exponentially.



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