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Posted by on Aug 18, 2012 in Modular Homes | 6 comments | Print Print

La Jolla Prefab

From Lily at the

Neighbors and passers-by stopped to gawk.

A few snapped photos.

It’s not every day you see up to 60-foot-long, factory-built pieces of a home trucked, lifted and stacked over a course of two days.

Nine pieces that make up a multi-million dollar “green” project named Casabrava took shape on a prepped site in La Jolla on Thursday and Friday after a trip from a factory in Utah. Over the next two weeks, workers will “stitch” together the pieces to prepare for finishes.

The project’s vision: Homes made on factory lines can look and feel as sophisticated as traditional homes built on-site, said Heather Johnston, an architect and future occupant of Casabrava. Johnston added that prefabricated construction is also more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

“This is not a manufactured home, which are used for trailers and mobile-homes,” said Johnston, who will live in the home with her husband, David Dickins.

“We’re building a prefab home,” added Johnston, who took a year off to do the modular project. “They’re basically house parts. And the parts have to be stronger than a normal house because they have to be transported and lifted by a crane.”

She said prefab construction —  which has been around for decades but has yet to gain wide acceptance — is more time efficient. It will take roughly nine months to finish Casabrava, from factory build time to finishes on site. A custom home takes about 18 months to be completed, she said.

“This can really affect the bottom line,” she said.

Savings also come from prefab homes being precision-cut, so there’s less waste. Plus, everything is built indoors, so there are fewer delays. The company that manufactured the pieces of Casabrava was Irontown Homes in Utah.

Building Casabrava will end up costing $220 a square foot, based on Johnston’s figures. The home takes up 4,100 square feet, including a three-car garage. The per-square-footage cost is significantly lower than the per-square-footage cost of a home resold in La Jolla. In July, the median price was $518 a square foot, DataQuick numbers show.

The hard costs of the project, including construction and land but not things like permitting, will total roughly $2.6 million.

Over time, Johnston expects to save money on energy by just the way the home is positioned on the site.

The design is meant to increase ventilation and nix the need for an air conditioner. Other “green” features include rain-catchment systems to water plants and recycled materials.

More on the architect here:


  1. Things will also tend to be more square than a stick built house. If the factory screws the house together and glues as well it can be significantly stronger, as some work after Katrina shows. I do note that the outer walls are not on the units so it looks like essentially speeding up the rough construction phase.


  2. Tom Tarrant does it better and faster. 😉


  3. $2.6M / 4,100sf = $634/sf


  4. The $634/sf also evidently excludes soft costs. Do prefab’s ever pencil?


  5. After seeing some of Jim’s prefab vids I checked them out. They’re generally more expensive than built on site and the “green” aspects can be built into any house. Plus you’re locked into the shape of the modules.

    Something for the “green is chic” buyer but not for me.


  6. So, the $220/’ excludes land cost & the $518/’ includes it?



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