Why do respected environmental metrics like LEED for Homes, Energy Star and NAHB Green prefer manufactured homes? Because with pre-fab: material conservation typically results in less than 2% waste; tighter construction and shorter travel costs prompt energy conservation; fewer trucks and deliveries reduce degradation and pollution of the site; OSHA regulations and a controlled building environment provide healthier work conditions; and better construction methods means a longer life cycle. And naturally, pre-fab can deliver sustainable homes at lower prices! But, this new approach to building light on the land requires new design strategies. Students will learn to use SketchUp software to prototype a green, factory-friendly design for fast pricing. We cover how to “shop” manufacturers, and factory visits provide insight into their methods. At the end of the course all students will have a design with a strategy to maximize this affordable green architecture.

Course start time: Sunday, 5pm
Course end time: Friday, 5pm


  • Competency Level: All Levels
  • AIA credits: 35 -- Qualifies for HSW and SD requirements.

As in all Yestermorrow curricula, this course will focus on both design and building (construction). Within a few overloaded days, we will present a design/build technique that you can use to create your own custom, green, prefab home. It is important to remember that the prefab delivery method is presented entirely as a method for realizing your design vision - not the other way around.

Design is not linear, it's reiterative. We arrive at final design solutions by cycling through variations; assessing each alternative and then moving forward. It is not likely that the design solution accomplished in this short week will be your final design. That is not the point of the studio. Rather the main take-home from your time here will be a process that you can repeat and review as much as needed to arrive at your final, "perfect" design. If we can cajole you through this process just once in the few days we have, you will be able to build on it for months and years as you go forward.

Manufacturing houses and house parts off-site is not a new idea. The first prefabs were timber frames shipped by British missionaries all over the world. Since then, large and small parts of residential structures have been manufactured and marketed in every imaginable format. Sears & Robuck made a successful venture of prefabricated homes in the 1800s. After the WW2, the U.S. government funded Operation Breakthrough which spawned dozens of manufacturing initiatives, some of which are still with us today. Prefabricated kitchens have become the norm in most homes built today, prefab or otherwise. And virtually all windows and doors, originally built one at a time, are now sophisticated products from the assembly line.

The combination of passing time, shrinking resources and a new generation of homeowners has led to the current resurgence in this house making approach. This is currently the very best way to get a green, custom home that fits your site and your lifestyle while maintaining an affordable budget. But it is not "free lunch". It will rarely reduce first costs by more than 20% and the lead time is often about the same as that for a stick built home. What's most distinctive about prefab delivery is the predictability. Once designed, the price does not increase and the schedule does not creep.


Course Schedule -- (Subject to Change)

Sunday - Meet & Greet

Optional SketchUp coaching and design review on a first come first-come-basis starting around 4pm.

Dinner for all.

Digestion Discussions - set goals, expectations, Q & A

Monday - High Design Panelization

AM - Design overview - why PreFab? why Green? why Yestermorrow?

1. A Delivery Method is Not a Design Vision

2. Big Pieces for value; Small Pieces for flexiblity.

3. Communicating Design - who are you talking to??

a. Sketching - siting and programming

b. SketchUP - massing and sun

c. Models - sales

d. CAD, CNC, Energy Modeling (separate course) - bricks and mortar

e. Other software and hardware

PM - Top Shelf Architectural Panelization

1:30pm at Connor Homes (call ahead to give head count)

PD (post dinner) - Site Planning and Foundation Systems

1. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)

2. PreCast Concrete Walls (Superior, New Castle, etc.)

3. Smart Panels – Bensonwood System

Tuesday - Traditional Modular

AM - Bob Provost: The Modular Process from Start to Finish

1. The Basic Components making up a Modular Manufacturing Process.

2. Modular Myths - "Almost Free" Lunch

3. Actual Truths - How they really think inside those factories.

4. How to present your design for the best consideration.

5. How to control your price and schedule.

6. General Strategies

PM - Traditional Mods in the Factory

1:00 Huntington Homes - Jason Webster


PD - Delivery Logistics and the Crane

- Big Pieces

AM - Building Panels

1. Insulated Panels vs. Dumb Panels

2. SIPs

10:00 Winter Panel (Vantem) David Gauthier - CEO and timber-framer

3. Smart Panels (Bensonwood)

PM - Design Charrette

1. Push Projects toward Draft Completion.

2. Individual Review and Systems Coaching.

3. Call and arrange preliminary (sq.ft.) pricing.

4. Explore turnkey strategies

PD - Systems Building for High Efficiency and Health

Thursday - Big Pieces

AM – Optional Road Trip: KBS Homes – North Paris, ME

1. Durability

2. Yestermorrow = yesterday's building values with tomorrow's cutting edge building tech.

PM & PD - Design Charrette

1. Push Projects toward Draft Completion.

2. Individual Review and Systems Coaching.

3. Collect preliminary pricing.

4. PD - Consolidate Design Presentation

a. Complete and print out SketchUp Model - plan, section & elevations.

b. Organize presentation themes - site, program, budget, system.

c. Draft presentation and test for time. Make it concise. Organize

d. Photocopy any notes that you want to hand out or preserve for later reference.

Include what you have received from the manufacturers.

Friday - Presentation and Final Reviews -

AM - John Rossi Presentation and Reviews

1. PreFab Shelters for Extreme Environments (45 min)

2. Student Presentations

• Each student receives a 30 minute scheduled time-slot. Warning: time keepers can be brutal!

• Keep presentation to within 5-10 minutes; feedback should be maximized at 20-25 minutes.

• Keep the reviewers focused on the questions you want addressed & answered.

PM - John Rossi: Presentation and Final Reviews

1. PreFab Going Forward: What the Future Looks Like



1. All scheduled items are subject to change and modification without notice (nature of the beast).

2. Morning sessions start at 8:30am. Instructors will be there early.

3. Post Dinner sessions are mostly free-form and students may elect to miss them in lieu of getting needed sleep!

4. The Yestermorrow School will provide wifi, photocopying, and phone service to help support the curriculum. Students must bring a laptop loaded with SketchUp and, ideally, a cell phone.

5. There is no cell service on campus (except up on the hill above the treehouse) but we won't always be on campus.

6. Drafting supplies will be available but students are encouraged to bring their own sketchbook.


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