Portland's Skylab Architecture sees green potential in prefab
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Jeff Kovel is the principal architect at Portland-based Skylab Architecture. Click through the gallery to see renderings of projects mentioned in the interview.
Jeff Kovel is having a big week.
The principal at Portland-based Skylab Architecture is hosting on Friday an open house at the first installation by Homb, a joint venture between Skylab and Seattle-based Method Homes.
The first residential Homb, craned into position in September, is a prefabricated, modularly designed green residence designed to showcase the idea that prefab buildings can be beautiful, sustainable and built to order.
On Wednesday, the second Homb project, a commercial ski lodge building, will be installed in Utah.
And in the mean time, Kovel is talking to investors about putting $1 million into Homb to allow the startup to develop even more prototypes for the prefabricated modular building design.
Prefab building, a trend with roots in the green building industry is a new area for Skylab, which is known for its work on such eye-catching nightspots as the Doug Fir and Departure.
Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon editor, talked with Kovel about Homb, sustainability and the potential for prefabricated buildings. Here's an edited transcript of the conversation.
Sustainable Business Oregon: How did Homb and the partnership with Method Homes came about?
Jeff Kovel: It started by Method wanting to hire us to design a more urban product for them. Their existing line, the Method Cabin, is great but it's really limited in how it might work in an urban environment. It's a cabin. They approached us and asked if we were interested and we said yes.
SBO: Had you done prefab work before?
JK: We had done a lot of trade show and retail work so there was a history of prefab and modular-based thinking. We hadn't taken the step into residential work. So we started to research and assess the prefab industry and came up with a series of objectives we wanted our product to meet. We also started to see a lot of potential in multifamily, hotel and retail and office buildings, beyond the single-family residential product we were hired to design. So we proposed to Method that we nullify our work agreement and start a new company together to leverage the creative work we'd already done and pursue other uses. We worked with Mutt Industries, some former Wieden + Kennedy creatives work on our branding.
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