Previously featured on Archinnovations for their Sustainable Prototype, Studio 804 is a design/build program at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Studio 804 provides students with critical knowledge that prepares them for their future work as young architects in a rapidly changing and challenging profession.
This is another tour-de-force by this program. Constructed in the spring of 2006, Modular 3 is a prefab house perched from the highest point in its local vicinity. It offers a magnificent view of the downtown Kansas City skyline, accentuated through extensive floor-to-ceiling glazing. Chosen not only for its view, the siting of Modular 3 fills in a once vacant lot, intended as a part of the solution towards the renewal of the city.
Modular 3 takes full advantage of the 1,200 square feet of living space offering two bedrooms and one bath, with a movable storage wall that creates a flexible design where a single bedroom can become an office and separate storage space. Careful consideration was taken in controlling and utilizing day-lighting in the floor plan.
Wood is the natural material of choice for building the prefabricated units, as it is economical, easy to assemble, and flexible in maintaining structural tolerances. Floor and roof trusses are made with TJI-230, used for their ability to span long distances, provide HVAC, electrical, and plumbing access, and their relative lightness which is crucial to the prefabrication process. This combination of wood components poetically utilizes and takes advantage of the properties of both natural and engineered lumber.
Each modular unit is constructed alongside one another in the warehouse to ensure that tolerances are maintained throughout the process. During transport, temporary walls are inserted between the units to prevent racking and provide closure. Once on site, these walls are removed and the units are ‘stitched’ back together.
The modular units are constructed structurally independent from one another. Once combined, the units perform as one structural entity. Plywood sheathing is left off at locations where bolt connections occur when attaching the units on site.
Considerable attention was given to the issues of sustainability and performance. Each module was set on two parallel wideflange beams supported by a raised pier foundation to minimize site impact and allow natural site drainage. Recycled cellulose insulates the wall, floor, and ceiling cavities of Modular 3 - an exponentially improved method of insulation over the industry standard of fiberglass.
Recycled wooden formwork was used for the concrete staircase leading up to the house. The wood was then reused for the construction of the FEMA approved tornado shelter, which was installed in the absence of a basement. FEMA regulations required a double layer of plywood applied to a steel reinforced stud wall to defend against severe weather.
Concrete formwork was also completed by the team of builders utilizing recycled and discarded building lumber. The interior spaces are flooded with light - never harsh and always diffused. As morning light is filtered through the tall trees on the east into the kitchen and living spaces, the dappled shading blurs the boundaries between inside and outside. This, along with a strong attention to simplicity and detail, displays a strong aptitude towards the traditions of Modernism.
The drama of the house’s form and siting is complemented by its cladding. Strips of vertical grain Douglas Fir highlight the exterior. Protected with a sustainable UV/water sealant, the entire system acts as an efficient rain screen, with careful consideration taken to account for air circulation around the assembly. By using a domestic breed of siding, overseas shipping costs as well as overall fuel consumption were drastically reduced.