Redevelopment amid Leader News neighborhoods picked up another housing style recently with the addition of a small-scale pre-fabricated unit. Its sliver-sized lot is adjacent to what’s left of neighboring pre-war bungalows and recent townhomes on a transforming street in Houston Heights Annex. Long-and-lean, the model home features a distinct “butterfly” roofline and modern style. While designed for dwelling, the prototype unit is serving double duty as the temporary office of architect Brett Zamore Designs.
Zamore’s residential and commercial designs span the full spectrum of square footage — and budgets — all focused on the client’s needs, design and sustainability. His smaller-scale home kit and now zFab designs are addressing such housing trends as downsizing, sustainability, the tiny house movement, urban scale lots and the escalating costs for construction and property.
“Having alternative living solutions is critical,” he says, particularly in cities as they become more densely developed.
The small-scale structure at 1501 Laird St. is an example of a new housing line by Zamore that he calls “zFab.” It’s meant to be pre-fabricated and delivered, fully formed, to a client’s property that has been site-prepped with a foundation and utilities ready to be connected.
Inside city limits and Harris County, however, current regulations, building codes and deed restrictions can prevent — or complicate — such ready-made delivery and installation. (Translation: higher costs, more hurdles and more headaches.)
That’s why the zFab plans are also available for those wanting a builder to make it happen on site, he says. In fact, the model home is a site-built example. It used, as much as possible, prefabricated structural components and finishes, such as the kitchen and bath cabinetry.
“The perception of manufactured or prefab housing is that it’s ‘cheap,’ but we’ve pushed the level of quality materials, design and long-term efficiencies,” says Zamore. He’s in his 10th year as an independent architect, after working with Carlos Jimenez Studio and Michael Maltzan Architecture in Los Angeles.
Take, for example, the prototype’s “V”-sloped butterfly roof, which collects rainwater. The pier-and-beam foundation, meanwhile, fosters ventilation and reduces the lot’s impervious area, helping protect the structure from potential flooding in flood plains or flood-prone areas.
Inside, the floor plans shows an open living area, kitchen, bath, laundry facilities and, the case of the “larger” unit (a whopping 500 square feet), a bedroom. As with custom-built homes, there are choices in terms of build-out, finishes and fittings, as well as options for LEED certification and a solar panel system.
“There is an audience that wants to be able to modify, customize or make it their own space,” he says. “They don’t want a cookie-cutter house.”
Weighing in at about $150 per square foot, as a minimum, the cost of an eco-friendly zFab unit is more than a conventional manufactured home (which run an estimated $70 to $90 per square foot, not including transport, setup finishing and site work), but less than the $200-plus per square foot of comparable-sized custom-built conventional structures.
And unlike the latter, a zFab unit can be lifted and moved to another property. They’re configured as 12 ft. by 30 ft. or 12 ft. by 42 ft.
A Kit That Fits
Launched in the spring of 2017 and featured on the AIA Houston Tour last month, the zFab line is another take on dwelling design for Zamore.
In 2003, he introduced a series of modern-minded kit homes — and kit home designs — for today’s use. With uses as varied as vacation home to “Grannie Flat,” about 30 of kit homes have been built around Houston, such as in Eastwood and Meyerland, and in Wimberly, Baton Rouge, La., Biloxi, MS – and Houston Heights.
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