Low Impact Living: Green Weefab Mini-Homes

September 1, 2008

In case you can’t tell, we like green prefab homes. Many are beautiful and innovative, and the best of them really push the boundaries of green practices. But for most of us they’re aspirational rather than practical. Most of us aren’t building green homes from scratch, and even if we are the number of green prefab providers who can deliver cost-effective complete green prefab homes is still quite small.

Which is why we decided to write about small green prefab rooms or homes – “weefabs” – so small that you actually might be able to put one in your backyard. They could serve as a “room-away-from-home” place for the inlaws, a quiet office or TV room out back, or simply a comforting, tranquil place to just hang out and relax. While not affordable compared to pre-made sheds at Home Depot, you can still secure most of these models without having to take out a new mortgage. Which is good, because at least right now most mortages harder to come by than a protest license in Beijing!

We’ve always liked Modern Shed – whether you live in a Mid-Century Modern home or a traditional Cape Cod style in New England, Modern Shed makes a model that will fit in with your design. They have many green features, and you can get several models for less than $10K. Shipping is included in the price, and they’re designed and shipped so that a relatively handy D-I-Y-er can do the install.

Shipping containers are all the rage in prefab (check out this hotel made out of them – pretty cool!), and they’re about the right size, but do you really want one in your backyard? If it’s designed by pieceHomes you do! The Container House is actually a small home with a kitchen and bathroom, but it only takes up 320 square feet (it is the same dimensions as a shipping container making it easy to transport, but it’s not actually made from one). It also comes with a covered deck and lock-down shutters, so you can just close it up when you’re not using it or when that next hurricane approaches. They’re a bit more expensive than a one-room weefab, but wouldn’t you pay a bit more to avoid running into Aunt Edna using the bathroom at 6AM in the morning?

kitHAUS also makes some pretty interesting small structures, specifically the K3 (117 ft2) shown above and the K4 (187 ft2) units. The K3 falls below the 120 square foot threshold of most building codes, so it qualifies as an “accessory” structure and doesn’t require a building permit (this can vary by location, though, so check with your local building department). The K3 also doesn’t need a foundation and can be outfitted with solar panels, making it the perfect option for your own off-grid eco-escape.

If you’re looking for something a little less permanent, consider an Ecoshack Nomad yurt. While many folks associate yurts with a taste for yak butter or Grateful Dead singalongs, these aren’t your traditional yurts. They provide 160 square feet of living (or relaxing) space, they’re made from eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, and they employ some high-tech fabrics to ensure durability and water repellancy. They’re also relatively easy to install, move or store.

With the LifePort system from Envision Solar, you get a DIY carport structure that comes with integrated solar PV panels. As with most solar PV projects, these aren’t cheap, but you get two benefits for the price of 1.5: solar electricity for your home, and either a new carport or shade structure for a covered deck in your back yard. You’ll have to hire an electrician to connect this system to the grid, but aside from that you can do it yourself.

Last, a bit of weefab eye candy. Check out these amazing rolling huts from the architecture firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects (brought to our attention by Olivia Chen at Inhabitat.com). These were designed for a custom home project, but it’s not too hard to imagine a herd of rolling green weefab huts dotting a landscape near you. You might not be able to tow these behind your biodiesel pickup, but at least you can tow it farther into your backyard if Uncle Otis’ snoring wakes you up on the first day of his two-week visit!

Visit our prefab directory for more prefab options, or this previous post on why prefab homes can be such great examples of green building.