Family-Style Prefab: An Aspen, Colorado, Passive Solar Prefab

A sustainably built, passive solar prefab home in Aspen, Colorado, keeps the kids (and their friends) coming back for more.

| November/December 2010

More than a few eyebrows raised when Tony and Kathryn Grant’s superefficient prefabricated home arrived, swathed in bright yellow house-wrap, in their traditional mountain community near Aspen, Colorado. “It stuck out like a sore thumb,” Tony says of the clean, linear home, which looks nothing like the stone-and-wood homes that make up the family’s neighborhood. Their striking FlatPak prefabricated home’s design is eye-catchingly modern, but even the most conventional neighbors warmed up to the concept as the simple but functional house began to take form, perched high above the mountain valley.

When they bought their mountain property, the Grants knew they wanted to build a contemporary house made with environmentally friendly materials that showcased the unrivaled view down the mountain valley, but they weren’t sure where to go from there.

“We wanted a modern home,” Tony says. “Kathryn researched modern, sustainable designs and found FlatPak.”

FlatPak’s modern aesthetic and customizable design appealed to the family, as did its efficient, responsible materials and manufacture. Designed for efficiency anywhere from Aspen to the desert, the house’s reflective white metal roof, highly insulated walls, high-performance thermal glass and soy-based insulation keep heating bills low. The post-and-beam wood structure uses certified framing lumber, and siding is made from milled wood scraps. Low- and no-VOC interior finishes ensure healthy indoor air.

Abundant windows and multiple sliding doors provide ventilation and natural light, eliminating the need for air conditioning or daytime electric light. “We get a passive solar effect in winter and lots of airflow in summer,” Tony says.

The brainchild of Minneapolis architect Charlie Lazor, FlatPak began with the founder’s own home, which he and his family built themselves. “We built it with our own hands, to try and understand the design,” Lazor says. “I was interested in making the modern house a simpler and easier thing to build.” 

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