Prefab Makes South LA Home Fast, Affordable And Efficient

Can a super-efficient – possibly even zero net energy – new home be reasonably affordable? It apparently can when it’s a prefab home. It can also go up in a hurry, too.

Take the home at 5337 Arlington Avenue in Los Angeles. Thanks to the mnmMOD building system developed by the design studio Minarc, the walls and windows went up in three short days late last year, as Habitat for Humanity staff (not volunteers) and contractors worked with the nonprofit affordable housing organization Restore Neighborhoods LA on the project.

prefab net zero

Prefab high-efficiency home in South Los Angeles. (image via Restore Neighborhoods LA)

“The mnmMOD system has been used for many high-end projects,” Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir, co-principal of mnmMOD, said in a statement. “Habitat for Humanity recognizes, however, that especially low-income dwellings can benefit from the quality materials, sustainable features and ‘net-zero effect’ of the mnmMOD panel system.”

According to an L.A. Times story, the home and a few  others like it came about because RNLA, which typically purchases foreclosed or abandoned properties at a discount from lenders and loan servicers for resale to qualified owners, wanted to do a net-zero home. While Habitat Humanity had a role in the project, it wasn’t a typical volunteer constructed home, and it was put on the market by RNLA for $314,900. (That might not sound “affordable” in some markets, but for a new home in Los Angeles, it certainly could qualify.)

While the mnmMOD release about the project uses the term “net zero,” whether the home functions to that level isn’t known and won’t be until it’s occupied for a while. RNLA did say, however, that “the property was designed to be totally energy efficient,” and it listed features including everything “from the Net Zero Electrical system, mmmMOD Thermal wall system, drought tolerant landscape, vegetable garden, sustainable bamboo floors, night flushing and double glazed windows, solar energy system, and high insulation values to the energy star appliances!”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.