Magazine article Sunset

Meet the New Prefab: The Sunset Breezehouse Redefines Casual Indoor-Outdoor Living

Magazine article Sunset

Meet the New Prefab: The Sunset Breezehouse Redefines Casual Indoor-Outdoor Living

Article excerpt

The modern prefab is a hot commodity--again. But in this latest twist on the concept, popular assumptions about shelter are turned inside out. Walls fold away, corners dissolve, and rooms flow onto decks. The walk-in shower even has its own private pocket garden. Flexible spaces for work, rest, and play are illuminated by skylights and deftly placed windows. And on a beautiful day, there's a gentle breeze nearly everywhere in the house.

The Sunset Breezehouse--a collaboration between Sunset magazine and architect Michelle Kaufmann of Oakland, California--is a warm, earth-friendly modular home that celebrates the West's love of the outdoors. Part of the appeal lies in its factory construction, which significantly streamlines the building process. Select your design, choose your finish options (roof, siding, countertops, and flooring), and lay your foundation. The house arrives painted, with wiring, plumbing, cabinets, flooring, walls, and heating coils built in. Hook up your utilities and paint an accent wall or two. Four months after the factory takes your order, you can be sipping Prosecco in an herb garden off your kitchen.

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Affordable style

Think of it as a Gen-X version of the 1960s Eichler home. Developed in response to the demand for more affordable architect-designed dwellings and currently available in 12 Western states and British Columbia, the Sunset Breezehouse makes good design accessible: The two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,800-square-foot version shown here costs approximately $155 per square foot, or about $279,000, not including land, foundation, site work, or shipping. It's especially timely given that the median sales price of a single-family home in places like the San Francisco Bay Area is nearly $600,000.

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With every major room opening to a deck or garden, the focus is on a modern, casual, outdoor-oriented lifestyle. The home's simple, dramatic lines are contemporary--yet as natural as the Western landscape itself. "The idea was to offer an alternative to the inwardly focused McMansions that ignore the environment in so many ways," says Michelle Kaufmann. "The Sunset Breezehouse really embraces the environment--both in how it's designed and how it's built."

Green features

Old and new ideas converge for an ecoconscious approach--from kitchen and bathroom countertops made of Richlite, a recycled-paper product, to no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. Other green features include:

* Siding. Sustainably harvested Western red cedar clads the home's two factory-built modules. Corten steel, Galvalume (anodized alloy-coated steel) and cement board are other siding options.

* Insulation. A spray-in foam insulation fills wall cavities and covers the roof, helping bring the house to a high R-38 insulation value.

* Solar panels. All Sunset Breezehouse options are equipped with standing metal-seam roofing to receive solar panels. This house features a 2.5-kilowatt array of photovoltaic panels mounted to the Breezespace's metal-clad butterfly roof, the shape of which hides the panels' glare. Flat and sloped roofs are also available.

* Windows. Dual-glazed windows prevent heat loss and gain. Thoughtful placement of clerestory windows and hallway skylights reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day.

Design for the masses

The Sunset Breezehouse, installed temporarily at our headquarters in Menlo Park, California (see page 70), helped draw more than 25,000 visitors--a record attendance--to our Celebration Weekend in May. At times it seemed that all 25,000 were inside the house. "I think we've reached the tipping point," says Kaufmann. "People are much more educated and aware that we have choices in how we live--and that the Sunset Breezehouse can be one of them."

But beyond its prefab construction and green considerations, the Sunset Breezehouse is simply good design at work. …

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