Posts tagged “James B. Guthrie

Prefab: Global Affordable Housing Solutions

James B. Guthrie, AIA
Miletus Group, Inc.

(c) MGI 2014
The global need for affordable housing is massive and growing rapidly. India alone estimates that they currently have a housing shortage of over 18 million dwelling units, and that number continues to grow. China and many African nations are in a similar condition with population growth fast out pacing housing production. Skilled construction labor is in short supply.

Working with an international consortium, James B. Guthrie, AIA, president of Miletus Group, Inc., has developed designs and a design-build strategy to bring the benefits of prefabrication and modern methods of construction to worldwide areas of need.

James will share the story of the design, its design-build process, and how this international team came together to offer a new scheme for building worldwide affordable housing.

Brown Bag Roundtable: Modular Architecture
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 — 12:00 – 1:30PM

AIA San Diego Chapter Office
233 A Street, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101

Modern Desert Prefab

Guest Speaker: Richard Orne, Architect

AIA San Diego Modular Architecture
Brown Bag Meeting Nov 26, 2013

With a dramatic 10 acre sweeping Borrego Springs desert site, a creative approach and a kit of prefab parts, Richard Orne, Architect designed and built his own modern desert home. An example of the best of Borrego Modern design, the house uses cutting edge systems-based construction technology to build a house that is in tune with its context.

AIA members are welcome to come hear about this impressive implementation of offsite construction from the architect/client’s perspective.

Richard Orne, Architect will share his thoughts and experiences on building with a set of systems based building tools to achieve a custom work of Architecture.

AIA members are welcome to join the meeting. Lunch will be provided by the AIA.

Brown Bag Roundtable: Modular Architecture
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 — 12:00 – 1:30PM

AIA San Diego Chapter Office
233 A Street, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101

High Rise Prefab: Current Trends

Presentation and Discussion

AIA San Diego Modular Architecture Group
Brown Bag Meeting May 28, 2013

Thames Valley University, UK

Thames Valley University, UK

The next meeting of the AIA SD Modular BBRT will focus on current trends in prefabricated modular high rise architecture. In recent years we have seen 18, 24 and now 32 story buildings being manufactured as modules offsite. James Guthrie, AIA will give a short presentation on recent tall factory-built buildings from the UK and US. After the presentation, the meeting will be open for discussion on related issues. From structural techniques to general aesthetics, AIA members are welcome to come see examples and share their thoughts.

Brown Bag Roundtable: Modular Architecture
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 — 12:00 – 1:30PM
AIA San Diego Chapter Office
233 A Street, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101


ACSA Offsite Conference in Philadelphia

Offsite Conference was Historic

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) recently (September 27-29, 2012) concluded their fall conference Offsite: Theory and Practice of Architectural Production in Philadelphia. Miletus Group was proud to sponsor the keynote address: Offsite in the UK. It was given by Jaimie Johnston, Director at Bryden-Wood, London. Miletus President James B. Guthrie, AIA also moderated a couple of panels and attended a number of the papers given. Schools from all over the US and several other countries were represented as both presenters and attendees.

Bryden-Wood: BAA Pier Segregation Corridor Product, Heathrow and Gatwick Airport

BAA Airport Corridor Product

The depth of the research and conversation was impressive. This may be the first time so much brain power has been singularly focused on the discussion of the past, present and future of offsite and prefabricated construction methods in architecture. It gives one hope that the architectural community is embracing this method of construction with a greater depth of interest and knowledge than it ever has before. In the past we have seen some dabbling by some famous and not so famous architects, but at the ACSA conference there was a very real depth and breadth to the conversation of offsite as an architectural solution. It remains to be seen if this event will be The inflection point of offsite moving from an architectural novelty to an integrated part of the building of architecture, but it may very well be.

 As Guthrie pointed out in his keynote introduction: “If we look at the long history of iron and steel in architecture, we see its roots as a non-architectural structural building material at the beginning of the 19th Century. At that time it was embraced by structural and cost engineers. 80 years later, a French bridge engineer caught the world’s imagination by building the functionless yet dramatic Eiffel Tower.  About that same time Jennings and Sullivan were in Chicago developing the first architectural expressions based on iron. It took another 40 years until Mies turned it into poetry. In the historic arc of offsite construction, we are at the time of Sullivan. The coming years should prove very exciting as architects learn to use and exploit offsite.

The papers from the ACSA fall conference on Offsite will be published soon.
For more on ACSA:

Modular Architecture Q&A: Modular Shapes

Below is the next post, number 6, in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

How can prefab modules be designed so that they are not only rectangular or limited to prefabricated looks like stacked blocks?

That is an easy one. Owners and developers who want to build prefab or modular architecture should hire an architect. There is no question that the supply chain in the US has been stuck with boring boxy forms. However, this has more to do with a lack of creative pressure than anything else. While the analogy to Lego® blocks can be fun, there is nothing that requires prefabrication of building components to be as repetitive in form as rectilinear blocks. Blocks do have some efficiencies, but they are minimal. A creative architect who understands how prefab building is done can come up with non-rectilinear forms that can be built as easily as common box forms.

Related link:

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2012

Modular Architecture Q&A: New Materials or Technologies

Below is the next post, number 5, in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

Are there any new materials or technologies which are making prefab construction more cost effective?

As far as I am aware, no none that directly pertain to offsite construction.

There are some new building materials on the horizon that show promise, but as of yet they have not made it into prefab production. At this time, the cost benefit of prefab is in the process, not the materials. This could easily change in the near future as the supply chain becomes more robust, but for now the focus has been on tweaking standard methods to make building more cost effective.

Manufacturing processes that allow repetitive work to be done quickly is the chief driver of prefab right now. Quick assembly once on the site is another. Use of sustainable building practices is yet another. Perhaps one aspect of using manufactured processes that is a new benefit to the building world is the idea of greater precision in building. Products produced in a factory setting are inherently built more accurately than on site work. This can translate into stronger and more efficient buildings. The application of the methodology to architecture is somewhat new. The building materials and technologies, however, still tend to parallel standard construction.

Related link:

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2012

Modular Architecture Q&A: Transportation Costs

Below is the second post in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

Is transportation of prefab/modular units a significant cost factor?

The general answer would be ‘yes’, but how significant is dependent on the details of the project. These details include: the distance and travel conditions between the project and the factory, the size and weight of the prefab components, and the cost of labor at the two locations. To illustrate the extremes, I am aware of projects that were as simple as lightweight bathrooms pods built less than a mile from the project site, to very heavy fully furnished apartment modules that were shipped hundreds of miles, over both seas and roads, and even between two countries. The cost of the transportation was clearly very different being much greater in the second example, yet both projects made financial sense.

To understand the impacts of transportation, keep in mind that costs associated with transportation are not new or exclusive to prefab vs site built. All building construction has transportation costs inherent in the project. Regardless of the method of construction, both materials and labor come from somewhere other than the construction site.

To understand the differences, however, let’s first consider the case of the transportation of labor. In this regard, offsite construction is particularly efficient vs onsite. Workers at a factory tend to live near the factory and so have very consistent and minimal travel distances to the work site (ie the factory). Additionally, carpooling and other energy efficient commuting options become very real in this scheme. In the case of onsite construction, the travel distance for labor is a variable and completely dependent on the location of the trades needed and the building being constructed. Onsite construction requires a more skilled labor force than offsite construction. It is often the case the specialty trades will travel greater distances to reach a construction site than unskilled labor to factories. For onsite construction the location of the worker to the work site is in constant flux with each building built. This is not so with offsite methods.

There is a similar effect with the delivery of materials. Offsite construction occurs on singular factory sites where there tends to be large and protected staging areas. This means materials can be ordered and stored in weather protected areas in bulk far in advance of assembly. Factories also tend to be geographically clustered and located within proximities to construction material suppliers. These two factors greatly increase the efficiency of material delivery to the point of assembly.

For prefab, there is then unique cost of transporting large assemblies to the building site. Unlike traditional onsite labor and material logistics, however, prefab assemblies carry with them substantial embodied bulk material and embodied bulk labor, and are thus extremely efficient transportation hauls.

Because of these efficiencies and the addition of labor to the total transportation cost of building, the equation of transportation related costs and its percentage of the total building cost, has many components and modifiers to consider in the final equation. This is why, depending on the project, it can actually be cost effective to ship large and heavy modules long distances.

Related link:

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011

Modular Architecture Q&A: Time and Money

James B. Guthrie, AIA, the President of Miletus Group, Inc, was recently approached by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA regarding an architectural project he was working on. As a part of his research, Mr. Gray sought our expertise in answering several questions regarding prefab and modular construction. We thought the questions were very good ones and worth sharing with a wider audience. We will post each question and answer as a separate blog post. Readers who have their own questions about modular architecture are encouraged to ask us as well.

What percentage of time and money do you think prefab can save a project?

When it comes to prefab, generalized questions can be difficult to answer. In general, on a direct apples-to-apples comparison, I would say that you could expect that a prefab project can be 0-15% less per square foot than a traditionally built project of the same design and specifications. There are too many variables, though, to allow a hard and fast rule as to discounts.

It is also important to keep in mind that when we are talking about prefab, we can be talking about prefab architecture or prefab building. When I talk about prefab architecture, I am using the idea that architecture is a high quality building designed by a professional and it is always site specific. This means that each prefab architecture project will be unique to the site it is being placed on. The quality of the end result will be high quality, and the owner will be a ‘client’ of a professional architect. Prefab building, in contrast, is a generic ‘product’ that can be non-site specific. The quality can vary dramatically from project to project and the owner of this product is a customer of a building company.

The other important thing to consider is the definition of “project”. Architects tend to think of a project as the specific building they are working on. Building owners, however, think of a “project” as the entire business model related to that building. This includes the architecture plus: land acquisition and development, operations and maintenance, financing, cash flow and other business considerations. To answer the question about prefab architecture from the architect’s side, at this time a prefab architecture project has no inherent time or money advantages to the architect except as it may add value for their clients. To answer the question from the owner’s perspective regarding prefab architecture, it can have significant time savings, which to the owner can translate into a huge financial savings to the non-architectural aspects of the project. The amount of savings is, of course, dependent on the project.

Typical Modular Home, USA
2 Offsite Stories, 1 Single Family House, 4 Modules

On the small scale, in the US right now it is very easy for a homebuyer to buy a house much like they buy a car. The homebuyer can go to a sales lot of a manufactured home builder, tour model homes, pick out their model, pick out colors and finishes, and have their new home delivered in a very short amount of time. These homebuyers are buying a prefab building, not prefab architecture. The opportunity for this kind of building to become architecture is very limited. Because prefabrication is a method of construction that takes advantage of manufacturing processes, the economic side of prefab is most successful when there is volume on the production side. One single family home does not afford current manufacturing processes the kind of efficiencies needed to be cost effective. In the case of a home or small commercial building, volume is achieved when many of the same design are produced. In this situation, the efficiency is dispersed among many buyers. This means, naturally, that each individual buyer looses the opportunity to influence the design and quality of their purchase.

Modular Housing, England
10 Offsite Stories, 162 Apartments, 630 Modules

On the large scale, the prefab building buyer is also buying the convenience of speed to occupancy, but the larger scale can allow the project to be more architectural. Fundamentally the building process is relatively the same between prefab and onsite construction, except that the offsite components can be built simultaneously with much of the onsite work. The onsite assembly of the offsite components can then occur very rapidly. On a large project this can save a lot of time, and thus a lot of money to the owner. This is important, as even if the square footage costs of onsite and offsite construction are nearly identical, the cost savings to the owner can be very significant and far exceed the 0-15% savings in square footage costs. Unlike a single family home, the size of a large project can allow the design to take on far more significant role than is possible in small projects. It is the large projects that create the greatest opportunity for all the benefits of prefabrication and the application of real architecture to meld. This is the future of prefabrication in architecture.

Related link:

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011

Miletus Group Returns to its Roots! Opens Chicago Architectural Office

Miletus Group has officially announced the opening of its new office in Chicago, IL at 2823 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Suite E, (312) 265-6447. The new Chicago metropolitan location will house architectural services, building on the continued success of the Miletus Group management, design, and production operations in its Rochester, IN headquarters.

“The new design office gives us a great new platform to reach out to the entire Chicago metropolitan market,” says James B. Guthrie, AIA, president of Miletus Group, adding, “We have exciting plans for innovative, large-scale modular solutions involving hotel, apartment, and healthcare facility projects,” he further explains. “Chicago is a natural market for substantial building in these sectors, making it a perfect fit for our future growth strategy. In addition, Chicago is my hometown, so I very much look forward to working there with our staff of talented architects.”

Chicago was selected as a key growth market, according to Guthrie, because of its proximity to the company’s production facility in Indiana, and because it provides a large market area with a history of progressive thinking in terms of architecture and building. Guthrie points out that early in the twentieth century, Chicago-founded Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold over 70,000 precut and prepackaged homes through their mail order Modern Homes program, which allowed customers to choose a house to suit their individual tastes and budgets. At approximately the same time, he goes on to explain, Frank Lloyd Wright introduced his textile block Usonian home concept to demonstrate that exceptional quality and design, using prefabricated components, can be made available to the masses.

“Conceptually, we stand on the shoulders of such Chicago icons as Sears and Frank Lloyd Wright, who paved the way for modular architecture,” Guthrie states. “Today, we are seeing a resurgence in modular architecture,” he continues. “The interest is driven in small part by economics, but more so by a desire for greener construction practices, creative design, and the caliber of high quality production that Miletus Group consistently delivers and will now extend into the Chicago market.”

Frank Lloyd Wright McBean House in Rochester, Minnesota. This Usonian house is an example of the second type (Prefab #2) of the Marshall Erdman Prefab Houses.

Sears Homes 1908 – 1914, Chicago, IL From the Sears Archives Model No. 52

Miletus Group’s Shotgun Project featured in Residential Architect Magazine

Miletus Group’s innovative Hurricane Katrina housing solution, named The Shotgun Project, was featured in the May/June issue of Residential Architect. According to Residential Architect, “Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flooding left New Orleans with a significant housing crisis that has not yet been resolved. Rochester, Ind.–based design/build firm Miletus Group, which specializes in prefab and modular systems, has developed a prototype that may help.”

“These ingenious modular structures are substantial homes,” Miletus president James B. Guthrie, AIA notes, “fully compliant with current building codes and FEMA standards, offering a sustainable, permanent solution to the current and near-term housing needs of New Orleans.”

Click on the image below to read the entire article online.