Many of our readers have commented lately that some of the recent prefab, modular, and kit housing projects that we have written about do not address real living - whether in the context of lifestyle, environment, or price. This week’s Prefab Friday is dedicated to you; your concerns are not lost on our ears! We easily agree that many of the projects we have profiled do not reflect the initial rationale for utilizing prefabrication as construction process. For those of you concerned that the true spirit of prefab has gotten lost in all the hype - check out Rocio Romero, the original queen of affordable, practical prefab.
Rocio Romero’s first LV Home started in Laguna Verde, Chile, five years ago. What began as a vacation home for her parents became the prototype for her LV Home Series, founded on her belief that modern living should be an affordable and deliverable product. At 1150 square feet, the LV Home has two bedrooms, two baths, and an open living plan. And the cost? The basic package, which contains wall panels, structure, and cladding, will run you about $32,900. Once finished out, this clean, modern box totals around $87 per sq-ft.
The LV Home kit provides you with materials for the exterior envelope. You (or your contractor) will still need to supply the foundation, roof, windows, and the interior finish out. Neither plumbing nor electric lines are included, allowing for the home to be constructed in adherence to local building codes. Leaving these materials out also ensures that the entire kit can fit on a single truck. And yes, the cost of these additional materials will add up, however the price is still quite reasonable. For a complete LV home, including transport, labor, site preparation, finishes and equipment, Ms. Romero estimates that it will run just under $100,000. If you desire something larger than 1150 sq-ft, you can combine two LV kits, or you can upgrade to the LVL model.
It sounds like a lot for the buyer to be responsible for; however Ms. Romero provides exact specifications for how to complete the home, making it relatively simple for any good general contractor. Alternatively, a buyer who is experienced in construction can assemble their own LV Home. (testimonials are available on the website from those who have purchased and built LV Homes, or had them built by a contractor.)
Ultimately, Rocio Romero is all about making it easier to live in a modern environment, without making it more expensive. She encourages potential buyers to visit the prototype LV Home in Missouri and offers near unlimited consulting services to accompany her home sales. As she says, “You need to not only design but actually be directly involved with the building of the homes. It is the only way to work through every single detail, and modern design is all about the detail.” In addition to her LV Home series, Ms. Romero is developing her “Camp” series, which is a smaller dwelling for recreational use, or as she calls it, an “adult’s version of a tree-house.” The very cool Fish Camp utilizes a similar prefabricated panel construction system.
While it is true that many current prefab projects seem overpriced or underdeveloped, we would like to stress that some of these projects are academic in nature, conceptualized and (sometimes) built for the sake of opening a dialog and expanding one’s notions of what housing can be. Others are not yet able to take advantage of manufacturing potential and thus have not been streamlined to be cost-efficient. However, without the multitude of projects that are in development, none would ever become mass marketable. Rocio Romero has proved that it is possible, it can be done well, and that the possibilities are endless.