Home Biz 24-680 Real Estate Big House, No Cattle – Or Smaller Scale With Room To Graze?

Big House, No Cattle – Or Smaller Scale With Room To Graze?

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What should Alamo's latest park look like?

They’re smaller. More efficient. Architecturally pleasing – and they don’t eat up all your land. Add to that the fact they can go up for a fraction of the cost of a stick built contemporary and can be built according to specifications and assembled in a couple of days – what’s not to like about today’s prefabricated homes?

It has always been this writer’s dream to find that chunk of land, off the beaten path and far from PG&E, able to accommodate a small home built to specification, designed to ease into the landscape, and provide an off-the-grid existence to an off-the-grid former scribbler happy to share the land with critters and the occasional, pre-qualified human visitor.

The land has made itself available and now it’s time to settle on the type of domicile. Contrarian by nature and generally opposed to the “build-as-big-as-you-can-because-you-can” approach, we’ve been tinkering with the designs from the new breed of low-impact, self-sustaining and architecturally kind of cool prefabricated structures of the type pioneered by local architect Michelle Kaufmann. A number of potential solutions are available, some of them hammered out right here in the Bay Area.

We’ve partnered with no one, and have not tie or obligation to any of these firms, but we’ve been looking into Blu Homes, an offshoot of Kaufmann’s early effort with sustainable architecture. Initially based on the East Coast and currently working from a cavernous old machine shop on Mare Island in Vallejo, the firm offers a selection of modular offerings, all designed by computer with an array of upgrade offerings, which it ships to customer’s home sites across the country – but for the most part here in California.

I would presume the firm’s success here is possibly due to the fact there are a bunch of aging ex-hippies here, like me, who are looking for something just a little different when it comes to living in the modern age.

Blu Home’s products arrive, carefully bundled and ready to be unfolded as enthusiastic past clients have said – like “great big origami” – on home sites from the Mojave, to Tahoe, to Sonoma. They rely heavily on sustainable products, are built for efficiency and provide a co-existence with the chosen landscape clients seem to appreciate.

As with any business, the approach is not without its problems, with some public grousing on Yelp about less than satisfactory finish work or a lack of the “high-end” look and feel the posters feel they were promised. It’s also difficult to access those pre-built walls and ceilings once they go in, apparently. The company responds to every inquiry though, and although we never buy because of the slickly produced commercial photographs that usual accompany these offerings alone we were impressed by the high tech approach to designing a chosen model Blu Homes takes. There permitting and infrastructure issues, as you might expect with pre-fab construction, as communities of 50’s era tract homes sometimes look upon the newfangled newcomers with a jaded eye.

But the firm, and others, appear to be capitalizing on a current taste for modern, efficient design and sustainable living, with annual sales in the neighborhood of $60 million and the firm’s most popular offering, the Glide House, coming in at about $450,000. Factor in the cost of stick construction, time on site, change orders and other issues and the numbers line up for many.

What do you think? Could you live in one? Or is the mega-mansion still your cup of tea?