An Urban Nest: A Kansas City Prefab Home

This Kansas City prefab, designed by architecture students, proves that green homes can be edgy and affordable.

| September/October 2008

Leah Farley and her husband, Kenny Dickens, live in a sleek rectangular box atop a hill in Kansas City, Kansas. Come Christmas, she says, “We’re thinking of trying to configure some kind of giant ribbon to make it look like a wrapped present.”

A gift it is, in many ways.

Designed by architecture students from the University of Kansas (KU) Studio 804 program, which focuses on sustainable and affordable design, this two-bedroom, one-bath home suggests a stylish future for entry-level housing. Perched on stilts, with a panoramic view of the downtown skyline, it’s affordable, edgy and green. “I was thrilled to find something so unique, especially in Kansas City, where you see a lot of great older architecture but not many contemporary houses,” Leah says.

Because the KU program focuses on encouraging redevelopment in economically challenged neighborhoods, Leah knew the home would be reasonably priced. “They want working folks to be able to afford to live in an amazing house,” she says.

Daring design, flexible space

Leah and Kenny’s home was built in six modular units in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, where the Studio 804 program is based, then trucked 40 miles to Kansas City and assembled. Indoors and out, it blends bold design with subtle detail. From the street, concrete stairs sweep up a steep hill to a home that barely touches the ground. Set on exposed concrete piers, this house tiptoes on the earth. River rock nestled below the structure provides both drainage and counterpoint—a natural touch of warmth.

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