Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vermont Plat House - windows begun

The windows began installation this week. The windows which arrived on site previously are now being installed into the Vermont Plat House. I think its roots as a Plat House are showing pretty strong here even though the plan has been extensively modified. All photos are provided by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Vermont Plat House - windows on site

Windows have been delivered Windows are on site which is the next step for getting the Vermont Plat House closed in and weather tight. All photos are by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Tray House done, and lived in!

A new photo of the Tray House built in 2004 I just got a new photo of the Tray House looking all finished and lived in. Its very gratifying to see! If this was before your time then by all means check out the construction photos. Photo by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

0518 U House Construction Prints

Construction Prints for our latest design are nearly done Now that its not so unusual for a house to be under construction, I have been posting more about construction process than design process. I don't know if people who read the blog care, but if you do, by all means let me know. If you want to see actual houses then I'll keep the emphasis there. If you like watching the progress of new designs I'll pick that up again. In that spirit I'd like to report that I've been working through October and November to complete the Construction Prints for the 0518 U House design. A glimpse below of some of the construction sheets in progress. Many people have been interested in this new design, so I've buckled down to get it finished. I think it will be done by the end of the month for sure.

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Vermont Plat House - all framed up

The framing of the garage wing is complete During our little blog black-out the framing of the Vermont Plat House was finished. Roofing, siding, and windows, and other weathering in activity will follow. All photos are by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Vermont Plat House - Weekly progress

The main volume of the house is framed, garage is started. The bulk of the framing of the Vermont Plat House is done and the carpenters have started on the garage. The garage is connected to the house and it is joined by a utility room. The utility room connects to a laundry room which leads into the house. The entry vestibule is also part of this adjacent structure. The first garage wall is going up to the left. The house roof has been decked and felted. All photos are by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Vermont Plat House - Another week's work

The main portion of the house is now mostly framed. Its always amazing how fast a good carpentry crew can move on the framing of a house. The framing has really moved along at the Vermont Plat House this week. The main volume of the house is nearly all framed up and the garage will be underway soon. Here is the back of the house, the side that faces the view and is open to outdoor living. Although greatly expanded it still clearly speaks Plat House. This is the entry side and the side of the house that you see as you approach. The high windows make for privacy, and allow for cross ventilation through the house. The garage and entry will be at the far end to the left side of the house. All photos are by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Vermont Plat House - Framehenge

Sunset at the Vermont Plat House Just a few shots of the framing progress on the Vermont Plat House. It reminds me of an ancient ruin as the posts and beams of the wall come together. The tall side is just about done, the low side is begun, and a portion of the bay window area is framed out as well. Fresh framing glowing in the setting sun! Against the dramatic sky. All photos are by the owner. Our sincere thanks to our customers who share their projects with us here.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vermont Plat House - Frame On!

Framing moves along.. ..even in the rain. A little downpour may have stopped the progress for the day, but it moved along none the less. The upper wall is now being framed out over the steel beam. The snow load for this site in Vermont was somewhere between 40 and 50 lbs per square foot. With the possibility of local variations you err to the higher figure. That beam has to carry the potential load across the entire living room, hence the sizable piece of steel. It will be a unique Plat House, that is for sure.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Vermont Plat House goes vertical

The first bits of wall framing have begun. Just a quick entry for progress on the Vermont Plat House. The first framed wall has gone up, and as carpentry typically moves quickly we will see a lot of progress over the next few weeks. An overview of the slab with the new wall in the background, the steel beam at the living space in the foreground. Protective plywood has been laid over the finished slab as this will be the finished floor surface. And below, a little closer view of the framed wall. This is the wall of the two bedrooms on this end of the house. They each have a door to a screened porch, with a window beside it.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

0242 The second Arkansas Plat House

Just down the road from the Plat House that appeared in Dwell magazine is a second Plat House! Although its hard to believe, its true. Just down the way from the Arkansas Plat House that you watched come together in this blog, and you saw in the October 06 issue of Dwell, is a second Plat House. This one was built by the sister of the owners of the more famous Plat House! They purchased their plans while the first Plat House was underway and it was just completed recently. I just got some pictures of the new one today and can share them with you now. A different builder completed this one and the owners in this case decided to make some deviations from the plans. The house is definitely still a Plat House, but a comparison with the first Plat House, or with my renderings, reveals changes to several design elements inside and outside. The house looks great but its very interesting to see how these changes play out in the feeling of the house's character on the outside, and in the way you experience the space on the inside. Can you spot all the changes? photos by Jelle Kiesling

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Vermont Plat House slab prep.

Preparation for the pouring of the floor slab. The preparation work for pouring the ground floor slab for Vermont Plat House is under way. The radiant heating loops must be placed before the slab goes in. Plumbing is placed before the slab is poured. The builder has measured carefully to place these items.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Vermont Plat House foundations

Stem walls for the foundation are in place. What I have now taken to calling the Vermont Plat House is progressing quickly. The concrete stem walls of the foundation are complete. Backfilling should follow soon.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Work begins on the Vermont Plat House

Another Plat House takes shape. The Modified Plat House created for a customer in Vermont has begun construction. Excavation of the footings has started and reinforcing and concrete should follow soon

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Perfect $100,000 House

I knew that would get your attention. But I'm sorry to say that I don't have the answer to the Perfect $100,000 House. What's this about then. This is the title of a new book by none other than Karrie Jacobs, the founding editor of Dwell. Karrie Jacobs was there when Dwell began, took part in the establishment of the original direction of the magazine, and ran it through the early years - the Fruit Bowl Manifesto days - when the mission to show everyday life in the modern home was a really fresh and eye opening idea. Many of the team at the magazine now came there under her and then grew the magazine from that early direction. I know for many the hope of affordable modern homes was a big attraction to the magazine, and that hope is alive today and walking the halls of LiveModern for sure. We all struggle with how to bring the modern ideal to a level that is affordable without loosing the spirit that attracts us to it in the first place. Well when Karrie Jacobs left the magazine, guess what? She joined our ranks, literally. Where could she find an affordable modern house? The book is her story of her journey for answers. Not necessarily the answer - we all know too well that there is no easy answer for the affordable modern house. She went around the country visiting many of the same projects we have seen here online and in the pages of Dwell looking for the perfect $100,000 house. Not a reference guide exactly, but from the sound of it more of a road trip story. I have not read it yet, as it has just been released, but I'm looking forward to reading it.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

0518 U House Design Prints available

The design of the new plan is done. The Design Prints for new U House plan are complete and available immediately. A new web page for the house is posted at our site.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

0518 U House model done

The model of the house is done, now I can move on to creating the Design Prints. I have to add some "props" to the model and export images. Design prints should be available next week.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Modified Plat House for Vermont site

I've just completed an extensively modified Plat House for a site in Vermont The mods were so extensive that it is really hard to even call it a modification. It is practically a whole new house. The plan has been expanded from 2 to 3 bedrooms, and an attached 2 car garage added to the arrival side of the house. The floor plan retains very little of the original Plat House arrangement. The way the house is being built differs from the original as well. Here the main roof will be composed of SIPs panels, rather than the engineered joists. As a result the overhangs are composed of the full thickness of the SIPs panels rather than the metal roof panels alone as in the original house. Although the profile of the house is similar that roof detail is a departure in character with this version taking on a decidedly mid-century feeling in some of the details. The construction should begin in a few weeks. Preparation at the site has begun, and the drive has already been laid. As you can see it is another beautiful site and we are looking forward to seeing it come together. The owner has promised to share this with us as it happens.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Seaside House renderings

We explore materials and texture on the house The owner was interested in turning the exterior over to stucco. I wanted to add another layer of texture that broke down the scale of the large surfaces, and also reveal something about what was an addition and what was existing. A friend, Jeff Jacobs, ran the modeler through rendering software he was experimenting with. He is a master with several different rendering packages. Sunset at the beach.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

An IBU (shipping container) based house - for real

Architect Peter DeMaria working with TAW brings their first IBU based project to life.

This is for real - a house built with IBUs, or Intermodal Building Units (yes thats our name for shipping containers) which is being built in Rednodo Beach California and has been permitted through perhaps one of the most restrictive permitting environments in the country. Architect Peter DeMaria working with TAW is building the first project born of their efforts. Its very exciting to see a real project coming about, permitted and approved as a legitimate building system.

These images following are from an article appearing in the LA Times

rendering by DeMaria Associates

This is Peter DeMaria at the building site. Photo by Don Kelson of the LA Times.

There are interviews and a lot of info about the project in the article so have a look.

If you are deeply interested in the idea of building houses of shipping containers, then you should look at our take on shipping container houses: ibu_evolution. If you are looking to build a weekend house or a house in a mild climate from shipping containers I'd love to design it for you based on the ibu_evolution system. You will find a Contact link, and an inquiry form when you follow that link.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

0242 Plat House on Prince Edward Island

First photos of a new 0242 Plat House under construction on Prince Edward Island On a beautiful site overlooking a lazy bend in a river another Plat House is taking shape. This Plat House has been modified to create 3 bedrooms, and adjust the roof overhangs for its siting facing roughly north. There have also been some other common sense changes for climate with the window sizes. The owners worked with local PEI architect Ross Macintosh to prepare a modified floor plan to suit their needs. Inside we can see that they have built the house on a radiant heated slab - very nice. We are very happy to not only see more Plat Houses built, but also to see people fearlessly adapting them to their needs. We are looking forward to seeing more of the other Plat House projects underway in other parts of the country.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Small addition, second scheme

Adding the deck back in, and trying a different roof line. The input from the first scheme was that the upper level balcony was really desired. This dictated opening up the existing bedroom windows to doors. As far as the roofline, while it was worked into the new composition the feeling was that the image of the old house roofline was still too strong and they wanted it to go away! This feedback led to the development of a new scheme, shown here: Now the existing roof line is hidden behind a new fascia, the roof slope of the new master bedroom turned to match up with the new fascia. The existing roof line still exists behind so we still manage to avoid reframing the existing roof, but the house turns a completely new facade to the street And yes, that is the existing attic vent worked into the new composition! This is still a rough massing model which will need further development.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

What ever happened to all the Good Vinyl Siding?

Huh? What kind of question is that? When was there ever any "good vinyl siding"? Well that's the point. There wasn't ever any.

It's easy to knock vinyl siding. I doubt many people reading these words here really like vinyl siding very much. When its mentioned here its most often in derision or as a way to describe the mediocrity of mainstream house building practices. I don't want to simply "pile-on" a product that is scorned in our modern community. I really want to try and make sense out of it. Why has an industry as big as the home building materials industry singularly failed to make a decent vinyl siding product?

On the face of it, vinyl siding sounds like a good idea. Here we have a cladding product that has integral color, does not need to painted, it is light weight and easy to install with average skill sets. It is relatively inexpensive and widely available. A do-it-yourselfer can tackle it without fear and achieve results comparable to a pro. It is durable and resilient, and easily repaired(replaced) if damaged. As a plastic product it fulfills much of the mid-century promise of a future made easier through technology. What is wrong with that?

What is wrong with vinyl siding? Well first off the plastic that it is made of is part of the problem. Its been well documented elsewhere why the vinyl compounds in vinyl siding are bad, so I'm not going to get into here. Spend some time on Google and find out for yourself. Its nasty stuff. But beyond the open ended chemistry experiment we've unleashed on ourselves with vinyl siding there is the matter of the design of the siding panels themselves. Of course they have been conceived as an imitation of actual wood siding panel. The profiles of traditional lap siding panels have been copied, rendered now in saggy thin vinyl sheet. A fair wind will get the panels vibrating against themselves making that slappy sound of thin plastic sheets. From a distance it appears somewhat all right, as long as you don't catch a view of the side lapped seams which expose the fallacy. But to approach it and lay hands on it is to destroy any illusion of what it is. There is no substance there, at least when the expectation of solid wood has been proposed. Even at this close range there is the attempt to deceive us. All manner of false texture has been attempted, from cartoon quality wood grain, to reasonably convincing paint strokes. The problem is that from the start the proposition is that wood is what we would like to be and though plastic is what we obviously are it simply is not good enough, never would be satisfactory to be, never would it be adequate to be just plastic. I think Woody Allen said it best: Vinyl siding would never want to be a member of a club that had somebody like itself for a member... (correction: Lloyd Alter points out that this saying originates with Groucho Marx, Woody quoted him in Annie Hall, thanks Lloyd.)

Why oh why can't somebody make a vinyl siding panel that would be happy to just be what it is - plastic? Would that be so bad? Saturn can make a plastic bodied car. Plastic kitchen appliances can be molded in sumptuous shapes. How have we gotten to the point where we would be adverse to a plastic clad house, yet willing to accept a plastic sided house trying to look like a wood sided house? As described above plastic has a leg up over wood siding in many ways. Integral color, less costly, fast installation, light weight. These are positive characteristics that can build a compelling value statement in any product, and they are already well understood in the building industry. What we need to do is unleash plastic from its insecure identity, release it from its imitation of wood products and let it as a product set out to realize its full potential as a cladding material. Any siding has a multi faceted mission. It has to shed water and keep out wind driven rain. It has to be easy to install and interface well with adjacent building products like windows and doors. And lastly it has to make a nice and attractive appearance, one that leverages its inherent properties, and hence projects a character of authenticity.

In the building industry today we see a movement for sustainable building products. Some of these new materials involve the recycling of consumer plastic and put what would otherwise be a terrible waste product back into long term use. Plastic and plastic/wood composite deck boards are probably the most obvious product. The number of products on the market have increase rapidly as manufacturers from many related areas have rushed in to attempt to grab a piece of the rapidly expanding market. Clearly there is interest in utilizing recycled plastic content in new building materials. It seems the stage is set for one or more of these players to venture into a cladding product that also leverages this recycled material stream.

If one of these manufacturers were to make a cladding product, what would this "good vinyl siding" be like. Well first off it will need to find its own form. The profiles that have been based on copying wood lap siding profiles and molded shingle textures are compromises. They have leveraged plastic's ability to copy, but not is capacity to get the job of being siding done better. We need a panel with a corrugation pattern that will lend the panel stiffness it requires to eliminate sagging and rippling - flaws that project a thin and insubstantial characteristic to the material. These new corrugation patterns should be original and unique to the material, based on both the quantitative value of adding rigidity and the qualitative value of finding a pleasing and confident expression of its material character. We need more panels that work in a vertical orientation, as that is as easy to achieve with this material as is horizontal. Now that we are released from the precedent of horizontal lapped wood siding panels we can exploit new forms dedicated to a vertical orientation. Lastly we need new molded tile forms, akin to the process used to make faux wood shingles. New expressive forms can be created here, with effective water shedding joints that no longer need to be hidden behind the edges of our phony shingle facade. And these new siding products must be made to take advantage of our consumer waste stream, to repurpose plastic content from short term product cycles to long term building cycles, locking this waste into useful long life term utility.

Why is nobody moving to make this product? Is there no confidence in the american public to adopt an authentic product like this? Clearly the housing market would be slow to do so. Aside from our small modern movement most of the public would not understand a product like this. But it would find its place in light commercial construction where such phony schmony product as conventional vinyl siding is not always desired. If produced on a cost level with existing vinyl siding this new product could easily gain a foothold in light commercial construction, and then be readily available for new modern housing that is proud to wear an authentic expression of our times.

The candidates to manufacture this product are out there. Either one of the many players in existing vinyl siding, or one of the many new players in recycled deck boards and railing systems. There is a yawning opportunity there for a manufacturer with a vision.

So let this be a challenge to the industry - make it, they will come. Vet some idea, do some basic market research. Run some limited prototypes - I will help you find an application to test it. And you modernists out there - let your desires be known to these players. We want good, modern, affordable, effective cladding for our modern homes. We are waiting for you to serve us - who will be first?

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Small addition, first scheme

The first sketch proposal for the addition to the small beach house. First I should explain the context that this house is in. I use the term "beach house" because the community where its located is at the beach, but few if any houses are truly on the beach. All houses are excluded from the dune zone and sit in a zone inland from the dunes. Some of the houses which are right against the dunes will be bigger, taller to attempt to look over the dunes for an ocean view, but most have no chance! Sounds bad but it preserves the fragile dune ecosystem and protects the houses from atlantic storms. So what you have on the inland side of the dunes are older communities with a network of streets which are pretty similar to other late 40s early 50s neighborhoods. Mostly a grid of narrow streets without sidewalks. These stretch to the other waterfront which is the bay side. I didn't explain that. Most beaches here are not on the mainland, but on large barrier islands that lie just off the mainland. So these beach communities lie on these narrow strips of sandy island with a bay on one side, and the ocean on the other. So our project lies one property away from the bay, and about 3 blocks from the ocean. In placing the new bedroom above the one story porch - essentially turning the roof deck into the master bedroom - we will be providing it with a great view of the bay. The owners also wished for a balcony on the second level, something I felt might be beyond the budget and omitted from the first scheme. The idea here was to incorporate the existing roof line into a new and more dynamic profile. By removing the rake overhang and bringing the existing roof into a more purely geometric form we could bring out a more modern quality. This strategy also preserved the existing roof framing, and minimized our intervention, to extend what we could do with the budget. We also proposed a new wrap around porch, a characteristic of some of the older beach homes that date back to the late 1800s, early 1900s. It is a great mediating space between the street and the house, and a "hedge" that could easily become a balcony in scheme 2!

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

A small addition project

An addition to a small cottage in a seaside community I thought I would share this project through the blog. It is not a stock plan, nor a prefab, but a small addition for a client who has a modern sensibility and wishes to transform their existing house into a modern house. The existing house was a typical one story beach cottage, like many that were built on the NJ shore communities during the 1950s. Some time later it had an addition to create a second floor and a small side porch. There are 3 small bedrooms upstairs and one bathroom. The owners wish to add a new master bedroom and bath to the second floor, and "re-invent" the exterior to make the house feel modern. They collected a wonderful range of images which they presented to me in the form of a collage. This has been a consistent reference point for me as the project has progressed. Some of the images were from their travels, others clipped from Dwell. The first step in the design process after measuring the exiting conditions is to mockup the existing house in 3d to work with during design. The small roof deck over the porch has a great view of the bay, yet the owners rarely use it because of its location. Budget is always a concern on projects like this so the question was how to re-invent while keeping the work limited. Thats it for now.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

working like mad behind the scenes

I've taken a break from daily posting following the finish of the Maryland 6030 House. Much of my blog posting has been about things in the works, or speculative projects shown to measure interest. And many of these have progressed all the way to construction and the realization of the idea. The Arkansas Plat House, The Sage modular, the 6030, those being the most recent. Right now we are very busy with more projects both local and around the country. That's taken all our time, time that in the past we have been able to devote to developing new stock plans, or advancing other ideas and concepts. For now those things are going to have to move a little bit more slowly. Believe it or not I am still working on the U House a little bit at a time, so those new designs will eventually surface. But in the meantime the things we are working on right now will surface sooner rather than later. Because they are not speculative in nature I am holding off on posting about them until things are more final rather than blogging about the design process. I can't wait to share them and its taking all my self restraint.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

6030 House trim complete

Our work on the house is done. The crew finished the last of the trim this week and are now complete. There are a few outstanding items which still have to arrive - railings at the Porch Room doors, and the entry canopy. These will be installed after they arrive. The time for the build was 30 days. It was slowed by it being the first one, and by the down-slope site. Northern is confident that they can take a week off of that on an easier site. a view from down the hill the entry side of the house awaiting the canopy More photos of the completed build are on the 6030 House Flickr set. Again I apologize that this page is so large with so many images, but this is the end - it won't grow much larger now. I will post any updated images as the outstanding items are installed and anything forwarded by the owner as the interior fit-out and site work are completed. I want to thank everyone who enthusiastically followed the build and commented. We have more good things in the works and I look forward to sharing them here with you. Continue reading "6030 House trim complete"

Monday, March 27, 2006

6030 House getting trimmed

The trim is nearly done. The trimming is mostly done now and the house is really looking like itself. The horizontal band that ties the front windows together is very clear. The corners are closed up and almost all of the exposed edges of the panels are finished. We had some recent photos at the booth for CABoom. The biggest reaction came from people when told the build began on Feb 28th. Some close up photos of the trim and house surfaces are up on the 6030 House Flickr set. I beg your forgiveness for letting this page get so long. We are almost done however. Continue reading "6030 House getting trimmed"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

CABoom Show FabPreFab Zone

An amazing turn out for promotion of modern prefab homes. We just got back from the CABoom Show in Santa Monica. It really was an amazing show. A relatively small show for local modern furniture and housewares, for the first time this year had a special section for prefab homes. I am not sure if this was the first time since our little modern revolution began that prefab house vendors were brought together like this for a promotion, but I don't remember any other occasion such as this. Well, I must say that it was a tremendous success. The place was packed for the 3 days I was there for the EcoSteel booth. There were 10 vendors represented in a separate room off of the main space of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Each vendor's booth was filled with inquiring visitors almost continuously for the entire time. For intervals it was just packed, several people deep with those on the perimeter listening in on the conversations going on. This was an amazing sight, so very encouraging that this whole re-modern movement is not a flash in the pan. Have no doubt that there is an interested public out there. Of course many of the visitors were from LA, but there were many more that came from abroad, some specifically to visit this part of the show. I met several readers of this very blog who have been following the construction of the 6030 House this month. The EcoSteel booth at the FabPreFab Zone I really have to thank the enthusiatic visitors, especially the people that are readers here and participants at LiveModern. It was also great to meet so many of the other vendors. I met Marshall Mayer, our host here at LiveModern, in person for the first time. I also had a nice surprise in the form of a visit from Sara and David Sage who came down from their new modular home so we would have a chance to meet in person.

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