Hybrid Construction: Confessions of an iMac Luddite

I have a challenge to make. It's time for prefabricated architecture to live up to its potential. The prefabricated building should be measured by three completely reasonable yardsticks:

- Economical cost to build and use
- Sustainably created
- Superior design/aesthetic quality

Prefab designers and companies should be able to achieve results that satisfy these three requirements at once. Especially given that the designers have, in theory, forever to improve their models. Yet it's arguable that no prefabricated product now available has yet been able to satisfy all three criteria in the same structure. Sadly, most achieve excellence in only one criterion.

- Prefab residences are at or (well) above standard construction costs in every section of the country.

- Factories are not centrally located, for the most part, and require long distances of travel to most construction sites. And the steel required by shipping stresses is often far greater than the house alone would require.

- Aesthetically many prefab residential models are sufficient but hardly superior designs.
Into this unsettled landscape over the last ten years, Sander Architects has introduced our Hybrid Construction process. This process, we believe, achieves excellence in all three criteria above. To wit:

- Our houses regularly cost under $200/SF. One, in rural Oregon, came in at $130/Sf.

- The shells of these houses are created by light-gauge metal building fabricators using recycled steel. SInce this technology is over a hundred years old, fabricators can be found near any likely building site across the country and in most of the developed world.

- Our buildings have won the Dedalo MInosse International Prize for Architecture three times, various AIA awards, and the Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Prize. They have also been extensively published in over thirty design-based books.
In essence, we have solved the new technology riddle by leveraging the efficiencies of one of the oldest and most mature industries in the world. This circumvents the achilles heel of most prefabricated endeavors: startup and tooling costs. These companies are ready to provide buildings of any size or orientation, provided one knows and understands the nature of these elegant, simple structures. We may draw beautiful structures with our iMACs, but we fully embrace the century-old technology of the prefabricated, light-gauge metal building. Why mess with a good thing?

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