Design considerations (was Re: list of "waypoints" DESIGN comes first.)
From: ken (
Date: Sat, 20 May 2006 05:16:09 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks for bringing up so many good points.  I'm afraid I'm missing some
of them though.

By "containerized housing" do you mean "factory-built", the kind which
are built in a factory and trucked to the site for final assembly?
Being a do-it-yourself but getting on in years to the point where I'm
not sure I could build an entire house myself anymore, I've begun to
consider some evils which might be more pragmatic, like a
"factory-built" home or rehabbing a 19th- or 20th-century building.  Are
you saying that these latter two options are not viable at all?

Also, when you say I "could build it for $30K if your design process was
right", does this mean doing all the labor myself...?  Or would
subcontracting be possible for this price?  Also, what is included in,
meant by, the "right design process"?

An architect I met at East Wind and I hit it off immediately when we
discovered we both had considered using spray concrete on a geodesic
dome frame.  He'd done more research on it than I, but we both
understood it would be a fast way to put up the shell of a building.
The interior could be customized per the desires of the homeowner.  But
"fast" is just one-third of the fast-good-cheap equation (the maxim
being that, given fast, good, and cheap, you'll never get all three).
Any comments on this kind of structure?

Again, I appreciate your comments here.

Lion Kuntz wrote:
> --- Brian Bartholomew wrote:
>>>R. Buckminster Fuller wrote a dozen books and travelled the globe
>>>hundreds of times lecturing that design comes first above all other
>>>priorities. Nobody got it then, and you still are not getting that.
>>Let me see if I understand what you're saying.
>>I am in a forming cohousing group.  Most people have stated they
>>expect to spend $100-150K.  In my opinion, their energy-use feature
>>wishlist would make their houses Walt Disney EPCOT technology
>>demonstrators, and you can't build that for $150K.
> True, but you could build it for $30K if your design process was right.
> That's why design comes first. It's too long to 'splain how that $30K
> figure is derived, but I've had two CPAs check my math without flagging
> any serious errors in assumptions or equations. I'd like to have it
> more rigorously vetted, but it's still too early in the design process
> to have fixed concrete numbers on everything. Want to download some
> Excel spreadsheets and check the match? I can give you links to online
> files available for public download.
>>A few of us have said, let's not build even ordinary tract houses for
>>$150K, instead lets spend $15K and cut and paste houses from shipping
>>containers.  Almost all of the reactions have been: that's too ugly.
> Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. It so happens I just finished
> teaching an online seminar in architectural design principles to a
> small self-selected opt-in list of 17 subscribers. I still have the
> photo-study pages posted online which accompanied the text.
> One of them was on prefabbed containerized dwelling modules in Montreal
> built in 1967 for the Expo there (which also featured the US Pavillion
> of Bucky Fuller's Geodesic Dome).
> While it has a stark ugliness to it, it has appreciated in value.
> Intended to be "affordable housing" (at 1960's dollars), it has become
> pricy condos with people buying up multiple neighboring units and
> remodelling them into multi-story rambling mansions. Units now sell for
> upwards to $2M.
> The architect later took some of the best concepts and deleted some of
> the worst to make something in Cambridge which was designed as luxury
> condos from inception. These units are on the market upwards towards $4
> million, also merged adjacent units as McMansions. The very high
> turnover rate and numbers of units up for sale speaks about deep
> dissatisfaction with this building.
> Sorry, no enlargements available at this time.
> Both of these photo-studies are just part of a large issue of terraced
> building designs, offering private or semi-private outdoor patio space
> in taller building structures. For now I point them out to illustrate
> that "containerized" structures share much in common with what is
> thought of as perceived very valuable luxury homes.
>>Are you saying that, for instance, finding self-built containers
>>acceptable is the sort of design that needs to come first, because a
>>10X change in cost overwhelms most other decisions?
>>                                                      Brian
> Not exactly. My own explorations show me that containerized housing has
> no advantages and some disadvantages, and it has been tried, both in
> Habitat '67 and in millions upon millions of factory-built mobilehomes
> and "manufactured" houses that are towed to sites.
> The most expensive decision of one's life ought not be casually made
> without spending some serious self-education efforts in fundamental
> design issues. This is a decision you may have decades to regret that
> you didn't spend more time learning first before learning the hard way
> later. A wrong decision in lighting, heating and cooling may haunt you
> with three times the expenses over 30 years than the building your
> equipment is in cost in the first place for materials. Some different
> choices in materials up front might have changed that equation
> substantially. Some different choice in design might have made the same
> materials three times more effective.
> People's experiences are limited. Nobody can afford to live in every
> type of house and your experiences only equip you to know a very few of
> the total array of options. At least a design self-study group can talk
> through a larger set of options from a larger set of options
> experiences. The sad part is nobody will come to the meeting with
> experiences in the 21st century lifestyles at all, and you might settle
> with failed 20th century design already obsolete before the day you
> move in.
> That's why I conducted my online seminar. To give people views of
> architecture far outside their common experiences.
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> Sincerely, Lion Kuntz
> Santa Rosa, California, USA
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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