Seattle-based architecture firm’s “environmentally positive” prefab home
The Rise of Prefab Homes for Single-Family Residences
The San Francisco Bay Area’s affordable housing shortage and rent control laws have spurred innovation in the housing market, with prefab builders developing turnkey products that offer quicker delivery times and a more cost-effective way to increase housing stock. However, prefab housing has typically been associated with multi-family units or micro-dwellings rather than single-family residences.
Bay Area startup Aro Homes has challenged this stereotype by partnering with Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig to build the first high-end single-family prefabricated home to serve Silicon Valley’s elite market.
The Company Behind the Prefab Design
Founded in 1966 by architects Jim Olson and Tom Kundig, Olson Kundig has established a reputation for designing context-driven homes that emphasize a sense of place in Washington State, Vermont, and Costa Rica. The architecture firm partnered with Aro Homes to design this project, the first prefabricated home to come from the company.
Aro Homes was launched in November of 2022 after raising $21 million from investors such as Innovation Endeavors, the venture capital firm co-founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Aro Homes aims to build 1,000 carbon-negative homes each year using an off-site assembly and shortened on-site assembly approach that increases the speed of delivery and reduces waste.
The First Prefab Single-Family Residence
The Mountain View prefab home is the first single-family residence prefabricated by Olson Kundig, and the first built design by Aro Homes. Just 3,000 square feet in size, the flat-roofed wooden boxes extend over two levels and feature an L-shaped roof that maximizes exposure to solar arrays.
The residence is entirely powered by electricity, down to the appliances, and uses only acetylated wood siding and metal roofing, which was carefully designed for durability and aesthetics. The building envelope, HVAC system, and lighting were designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emission, making the home one of the most “environmentally positive” homes ever designed by Olson Kundig.
The Potential of Prefab Construction
Aro Homes claimed that its hybrid approach to construction (building parts off-site and assembling them on-site) could reduce the length of time it takes to build a single-family home to below 90 days with some fine-tuning. The project in Mountain View took off in the summer of 2022 and was sold by autumn.
By designing off-site at its Sacramento facility and assembling on-site, Aro has achieved energy efficiency levels that make its homes 67% more energy-efficient than the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Challenge baseline. The company estimates that its homes will use 107% less energy than the baseline once energy reductions from photovoltaic panels are accounted for.
Aro Homes’ prefab building approach is sure to test the limits of the housing market. With its aim to build 1,000 carbon-negative homes each year, Aro is acting on a clear demand from consumers who seek more energy-efficient, sustainable homes. With prefab building growing in popularity, it may only be a matter of time before the majority of new homes are built this way, rather than traditionally.
Read more about this topic at
Modular Homes: Find Your Perfect Home at ModularHomes.com