Foundation Work

955_foundation_1

The foundation work has been underway this week and will be done by the end of the week. Block work started on Monday, insulation work was yesterday, and, weather permitting, they should be wrapping up the remainder of the work by the end of this work. Guess what this means?? Yep! The house will be delivered and set next week. We are quickly going to go from nothing to a two story structure in a matter of days. Ah…the beauty of prefab.

955_foundation_2

955_foundation_3

As you can see, we opted for a crawl space on this house. This was partially driven by economics and also by the prefab process. When working with prefab homes, you have to go with either a crawl space or a basement, as a slab-on-grade simply won’t work. This is because of the way prefab homes are manufactured. In order to build walls (both interior and exterior), you need a floor structure on which to build them in the factory. This necessitates building the floor structure in the factory. As a result, a slab-on-grade simply would not work.

We will wait to do any concrete pours (the garage, garage apron, front porch, sidewalk) until after the house gets set. By the end of next week, the site is going to look dramatically different. Keep your eyes open and look for the crane mid week next week!

 

 

Walk The Line

aah visit

Last week we had the opportunity to go to the factory and see the house on the line. I have to admit, it’s pretty exciting to see things in person and have the ability to walk through the home while it’s on the assembly line. It takes things to a whole new level.

The house is progressing nicely and should be wrapping up production at the factory soon. The opportunity to walk through a space less than 15′-0″ wide really served as a reminder to the scale of the home…in a really positive way. The home lives larger than it feels and this gave us a good sense of how the spaces will truly feel. Needless to say…we are really excited to see these modules show up on site.

aah visit 2

The walkthrough of the house also served as a reminder to the true value of prefabricated home construction. The factory conditions are clean and organized. Workers don’t have to contend with weather or various other site conditions, definitely a positive in my book. We’ll be sharing plenty of pictures and updates as the house really comes together. Stay tuned.

aah visit 3

 

Take the Leap

 airplane-silhouette-in-the-sky-aircraft-hd-wallpaper-1920x1200-3408

Yes, its true. 

This week marks the start of a brand new business venture, one that has been a long time coming and one that affords me the opportunity to pursue concepts and practices in architecture I have been passionate about for quite some time.

Neon Architecture. Yes, Neon Architecture. Why Neon? Why not? Neon exemplifies and represents much of what we are striving for. To stand out. To be bold. To go against the norm. To challenge the status quo.

The modern lifestyle of today is much different than it was even 3 or 5 years ago and its our responsibility as designers and builders to respond to this shifting trend and to do so in a thoughtful, conscientious, well-designed manner.

People want to live in cities. People want to live in urban environments. People want to live in homes that reflect their lifestyle and reflect the way they truly live, from the quality of space to its size to its relationship to the outdoors. They want smart spaces; spaces that are efficient and useful; spaces that they can live in and grow in.

As many of you are aware, 955 Hosbrook is the first house we are executing. It is the prototype for our foray into both the design and construction world. It represents many of these ideals mentioned above and serves as a benchmark for our future development.

955 Hosbrook - site of initial prefab home

955 Hosbrook – site of initial prefab home

955 Hosbrook is built by prefab (modular) methods, meaning it’s primarily built in a controlled, factory setting. Why, you might ask? Prefabricated homes simply afford a greater level of control and precision, being built outside of the elements in a controlled environment with a streamlined process. To us, it just makes sense. The prefabricated, factory built model is a better use of resources, taking advantage of the industry and producing a better built home. We design it, the factory builds it, you buy it. Simplify the process, simplify the product, tailor it to the 21st century…I think you get it.

So, if you, or someone you know, wants a pretty sweet little home…now you know where to look! Ha, but seriously, we feel that designers and builders have genuinely been hesitant to touch this market and this demographic. We can’t continue to do so…and…frankly…why would we want to neglect the way people live today and continue to give them the same home we saw 15 years ago? I know we, at Neon Architecture, don’t think that’s the responsible way to work in the world today.

955 Hosbrook is under construction in the factory and things are in the works. Site work is commencing and, before you know it, the crane will be rolling down the street to set the home…these are exciting times. We are continuing to acquire lots for building and are in the early design stages for future homes to build this year. We’ve got a lot in the works and would love for all of you to come along for the ride.

So, stay tuned for lots and lots of new info in the coming days and weeks. We will soon have a fully operational website where we will be transitioning much of this blog as well as tons of other great info. Let’s do it!

Full Steam Ahead

In case you haven’t heard, full steam ahead with prefab and All-American Homes! We submitted the deposit at the beginning of last week and are eagerly awaiting their drawings for review. After we received these and talk with them, I’ll update you on where things stand.

All-American Homes Factory...Impressive!

All-American Homes Factory…Impressive!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled as progress continues forward…more and more posts will happen as we near the start of construction! Get excited!

Factory Meeting

Prefab, Part 2

Hey everyone, we are taking another journey up to the All-American Homes factory today to talk further regarding the house, contracts, etc. Also, we will have the opportunity to see one of the new homes for Tryon Farm under construction. Looking forward to this. Look for some photos and an update soon!! The wheels are still in motion…getting closer.

tryon farm house

House at Tryon Farm

Building Blocks

It seems to be a good time to update everyone on what has been going on behind the scenes for my new home in Fountain Square.

As many of you know, the process of designing and building a new home is a challenging one, especially when dealing with many of the constraints of 955 Hosbrook, primarily being the lot size and budget constraints. But, as you know, I am a firm believer in designing compact, contemporary designs that don’t break the bank. As a result, I have been hard at work behind the scenes weighing options, tweaking design elements, exploring construction techniques, etc, etc.

One method of construction that has quickly moved to the forefront of options and is almost finalized in becoming the chosen method of construction for this house is prefab/modular construction. I have met with All-American Homes (factory in Decatur, IN), toured their factory, and been in numerous talks with them regarding my house. It just so happens, by the way, that the dimensions of my house lend themselves almost perfectly to their construction techniques.

While much of their work is more traditional in its aesthetics, they have certainly not ignored the contemporary housing market and have been involved in a few really interesting projects:

Michelle Kaufmann‘s Smart Home at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago:

smart home

 

Tryon Farm by Edward Noonan & Associates in Michigan City, IN:

tryon farm

As you can see, these projects lend themselves to a very similar aesthetic. We hope to be able to determine if this is our best direction in the very near future so we can then move forward and proceed with the start of construction.

Stay tuned! These are exciting times!

House Update

You may be wondering the status of the house as of late. We had to sort of take a short break and take the time to proceed through the variance process…which we were finally APPROVED for on Tuesday…after being continued for an extra month from September to October (due to requests from neighbors). This is quite exciting and really was a major hurdle we had to leap to take one step closer to construction!

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For those of you who may not be familiar with the variance process, a variance is essentially asking the city to make an exception to the zoning code. In the case of 955 Hosbrook, a number of variances were essentially required in order to develop the property.

The current zoning code for the city was last updated in the 1960s, a time when society was in the midst of suburbanization and the automobile dominated culture. As a result, much of the zoning ordinances reflect this ideology. This means that the code is written with much more of a suburban mindset, often making it difficult to develop on small, urban infill lots…which is a really unfortunate side-effect of the zoning code.

The city, however, is very aware of this situation and is the process of re-writing much of the zoning code, in an effort know as Indy Rezone. This is definitely reassuring and I hope to see many of these issues addressed when the results of this effort are revealed.

As mentioned, the size of 955 Hosbrook essentially necessitated variances in order to be developed. Here is a quick breakdown of the variances that were required:

    • Square Footage:  The code specifies a specific first floor square footage minimum and this house does not meet that requirement. The house is 625 sf on the first floor and the requirement is 660 sf (not far off though).
    • Parking:  The code requires 2 parking spaces per single-family residence. This becomes extremely difficult on a 20′ lot, and the proposed design calls for a single car garage.
    • Open Space:  A minimum of 55% open space is required. The proposed design has a net area of 43% open space.
    •  Setbacks: The code has specific requirements for setbacks from the property lines, with the sides being a minimum of 4′ (10′ aggregate), rear being 15′ for the primary structure, and the front setback being 25′ or dictated by average setback along the surrounding block. This proved to be the most contentious variance request with the surrounding neighbors. However, the house design simply took cues from the surrounding neighborhood, with many homes exhibiting the proposed setbacks the house design was seeking. In fact, the scale of the house will fit in better with the neighborhood with the variances than it would have without these, making it an argument of context. As a result, the staff gave full support to all of the requested variances.

So, now that we’ve cleared this hurdle, we can focus on the completion of documents, pricing, and starting construction. We hope to begin construction before winter really sets in. Stay tuned…we are getting closer and closer!

House Elevations

Here are the promised exterior elevations/views of the house (for the most part). Check them out and let me know your thoughts.

The overall design of the house is very much driven by simplicity, taking a simple geometric form and manipulating it through a set of moves. As a result, the exterior design strategy reflects this same language and responds to this same strategy.

As mentioned in the previous post, the design of the house inherently becomes very linear in nature, due to the narrowness of the lot. As a result, the exterior material strategy responds to this condition, reacting to the linear nature while also reinforcing it in certain ways.

The material palette is limited, reflecting the minimal nature of the house. The materials currently being explored include: metal, fiber cement, wood, and perforated metal.

Northwest View

The primary exterior cladding is a vertical metal panel. The vertical nature of the panel responds to the linear condition of the house, not necessarily in opposition to it, but does serve to soften the length of the home and also provides a sense of verticality and scale to the house.

The secondary material is fiber cement lap siding and panel siding, a material very common in residential architecture. The horizontal nature of the lap siding serves as a strong contrast to the verticality of the metal, while still being subtle in nature, due to its dark color. The introduction of this material also serves as an opportunity to break down the exterior, providing moments of relieve from the primary cladding material and creating a sense of patterning on the facade. The panels give the sensation of the windows pushing down from above, up from below, or wrapping around the corner. This provides a sense of movement, activating the exterior.

The third material is wood. The introduction of wood at the recessed/carved out portions of the house serves to provide a sense of texture at the human scale. The wood is introduced at the recessed front entry and at the courtyard carved out between the garage and main house. These spaces are moments where the human scale is important, as they are moments of constant interaction and the wood provides that sense of warmth at these key moments where the user continuously interacts with the house.

The final material is a perforated metal. This metal serves as a sort of screen wall at the front entry. This entry is defined by the carving out of space, revealing the wood material, and the metal screen wall occupies the western edge of this entry porch. The perforations in the metal allow for a transparency through the space and a lightness to the space but still serve to define the front entry visually. Further, the perforations allow for the opportunity to use the material as a climbing surface, allowing vegetation to interact with the wall surface and also to soften this front entry.

North Elevation

East Elevation WestElevation

House Plan

I’ve been hard at work on the right plan for 955 Hosbrook. When you are dealing with any lot, you immediately look to the context and site constraints for influence. This lot is no different. The first thing you will notice is the size and scale of the plan. When dealing with a lot with a total width of 21′-6″, this absolutely becomes a driver for the design of the house.

Instead of approaching this width as a hindrance, the design for 955 embraces the concept of the narrow house, borrowing ideas from the shotgun house typology, a typology already in existence in Fountain Square. For those of you unfamiliar with the shotgun house, these are houses built primarily in the South following the Civil War and are characterized by their narrow width and minimal street frontage. They were designed for the working class, and are very small and modest in nature. Much of the reason for their narrow width is a result of taxation rules of the time, which were determined by amount of street frontage. Therefore, the narrower the house, the cheaper the taxes.

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

The name “shotgun house” is often thought to be derived from the notion that one could open all of the interior doors in the house and a shotgun could be fired from the front door through these doors and straight out the back door of the house. This concept is the initial driver for the design of 955, the concept of continuity from front to back. As a result, the dominate design feature in the house is focused around the creation of a continuous line of casework along the western interior wall of the house, on both the first and second floors. The continuity of this feature reinforces the idea of continuity from the front door through the house to the back door, creating a pathway cutting through the house, a visual continuity along this line.

Further, this casework acts as a sort of buffer between the house and the close proximity of the freeway to the west. The casework acts as an almost thickened wall, in a sense creating a sort of buffer zone, while still being punctured in moments to allow for daylight and views of the downtown skyline. This line of casework contains much of the functional components of the house. Key functions include:

First Floor:

Coat Closet: Adjacent to the front entry is a full height coat closet, addressing the entry sequence and need for storage.

Kitchen: Just beyond the coat closet and entry is the kitchen. In a small house where space is at a premium, it makes most sense in this scheme to combine the circulation pathways needed within a kitchen space with the circulation pathway needed to move through the house. The kitchen component contains all of the necessary cooking components, including a full height pantry cabinet. The refrigerator is located on the opposite wall under the stair to allow for this casework component to be streamlined, with minimal interruptions to its continuity.

TV/Entertainment: As you move toward the living space, the casework transitions into the casework serving the adjacent living space. This casework serves as the location for the entertainment components of the living space, including television, music, and associated storage.

Work Space: Beyond the living space at the emergence of the outdoor courtyard, the casework transitions into a work space, containing desktop space providing adequate work space for computers and associated necessary storage.

Mud: At the point where the casework terminates into the garage, drop off “mud” space exists to allow for coat and shoe storage as one enters from the garage.

Second Floor:

Wardrobe Closet: The main bedroom on the second level contains a continuous run of wardrobe closet, providing adequate storage space for clothing, while still allowing for additional storage space or the option to incorporate a space for a television.

Laundry: A stackable washer/dryer element exists directly at the top of the stairs, providing direct access from the upstairs bedroom.

Books and Window Seat(s): In the corridor connection to the roof deck, the caswork becomes a sort of library space, with space for book storage and additional shelving space while also providing related window seats to sit up, read a book, and enjoy great views of downtown.

As this continuous line of casework is the conceptual framework for the house, the remainder of spaces connect from this circulation pathway, keeping interior spatial organizations simple and connected. You will notice the house occupies the majority of the site, from front to back and outdoor space is at a premium. As a result, the desire to still connect to the outdoors is one of much importance. The main living space directly flanks the outdoor courtyard, providing for an intimate green space and lots of natural light into the space. Additionally, the use of the single story garage allows to make up for the minimal ground floor outdoor space, providing a large second floor roof deck.

So, what do you guys think? As I’ve often stressed, the scale of house here is very important to me. This house is small, but serves the concept of living quite well. Let me know your thoughts. Elevations (exterior and interior) to come very soon…