Prefabs are easier on the earth than most residential homes, but a handful of architects are pushing eco-smart prefabrication to a whole new level of sustainability
by Mimi Zeiger
In July 2008, a summer tainted with the early rumblings of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the Museum of Modern of Modern Art in New York opened Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. The exhibition chronicled the prefabricated house in modern architecture, and it included several homes commissioned by the museum and set up on an empty lot on 54th Street. A MoMA show often represents the summing up of an architectural movement, and Home Delivery was no exception. However, it was the global economy that proved the de facto capstone (if not the nail in the coffin) to the trend. By the time the show closed that October, the housing market was in free fall. “Modern prefab lives fast, dies young, leaves good looking corpse,” mused green architect and expert Lloyd Alter on TreeHugger at the time. And by mid-2009, Michelle Kaufmann, designer of the Glidehouse-an iconic modular home positioned as the poster child for the burgeoning prefab lifestyle-shut down her company, citing plunging home values (along with the closing of the factories that made her houses) as a key reason for bowing out.