In order to better prepare for our own construction, we needed to learn from experienced leaders in the design-build studio and prefab process. There was no better place to start than Lawrence, Kansas. Although our Wildcat pride was at stake, Studio 804 has been building their own projects for years and have even made headway into many experimental designs that push architecture and technology. Meanwhile, Build SMART has streamlined the prefab process in order to prove that amazing architecture can be much simpler than current contractors make it.
We began that morning talking to Paul Grahovac of the Build SMART program. His presentation included their standards for exterior, standard, and insulated panels. This led to examples of how capable their products are in construction. From standard commercial structures to apartments that passively track energy and water consumption, they have taken a basic building block of construction and formed it into an inexpensive object of quality design. Furthermore, they are never content with the status quo. Cheaper construction is only the beginning. Modern machinery allows them to test the resilience of their own product, pushing Build SMART to produce products that resist tornadoes, floods, and any other disaster that may come our way. In a short time, we learned quickly the possibilities that our own panels could achieve with the right input.
After the valuable lesson on prefab, we needed better understanding how we could create and put together an entire home in our workshop in a single schoolyear. We had to visit somewhere that already knew the design-build process. Studio 804 was our best bet to understand how architecture students could begin such a task. As a fortunate addition to our trip, we came during the AIA’a annual regional meeting to discuss many projects and goals in Kansas currently. KU hosted the event, allowing us to present our work up to that point as well as here input from senior members of the AIA on our work and their own research. After the meeting, we explored the 804 workshop. This introduced us to homes of different sizes and intents. Converted airstream trailers and a home that can detect changes in a person’s movement so slight that it could tell emotional state or physical health instantaneously. If there’s one thing that we learned over this day in Lawrence, it was diversity in any project. Prefab may dictate how we build, but not what we build. Even a single change can produce hundreds of possibilities and it’s the Net-Positive studio’s job to balance this useful construction method with the unique home St. John needs