S.C. technology guru pushing prefab as next big thing
Shanna McCord - Sentinel staff writer
Article Launched: 03/17/2008 4:00:00 AM MDT
SANTA CRUZ -- Technology entrepreneur Philippe Kahn has taken home construction, environmental stewardship and style to a new level.
Kahn, who founded Borland and now runs Fullpower Technologies, had his new home near the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor trucked in from Los Angeles.
The prefabricated house was delivered last week in 18 pieces, each wrapped in white plastic and stored in the harbor parking lot.
By today, the pieces, made of steel and glass, will be fit together like a puzzle to make a 3,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home on Fairview Place.
"This is the state-of-the-art way of building homes now," Kahn said. "This kind of home-building technology will lead to more efficient houses and to greener houses."
Kahn's home was constructed by Marmol Radziner, a Los Angeles architectural firm that specializes in custom, green modern homes built with prefabricated technologies.
The homes are factory-made modular structures shipped to the site with interior and exterior finishes, windows, doors, fixtures and appliances.
"These are super-efficient components that will help the environment," Kahn said. "It just makes plain sense to build homes this way in a more controlled environment."
Kahn said the cost of his modular home is comparable to other traditional homes. He didn't reveal the exact cost. Marmol Radziner's Web site shows home prices ranging from $300,000 to $1 million.
Kahn's prefabricated house appears to be the first one in the area. City planning officials say the standards for obtaining building and design permits for such a house are the same as they are for any other.
"The requirements are the same as they are for everyone else," interim Planning Director Alex Khoury said. "This is a pretty high-end prefab house from what I can tell."
High-end prefabricated houses are the latest in sophisticated, modern home design, often showing up in architectural and interior design magazines like Dwell.
Local architect Mark Primack says it's a trend that should be met with caution.
He believes a better, greener home could be built on site with local materials and labor.
"What sounds really sexy is that these homes are built in a factory and they're touted as being green," said the former Santa Cruz councilman. "But the city has a green building standard. What's lost in this is you're not feeding the local building trade when you get one of these homes."
However, Primack welcomed the new and innovative architecture Kahn has brought to Santa Cruz.
"This area has been starved for that," Primack said. "This give us something real to look at and talk about."
Kahn and harbor officials say prefabricated homes benefit the neighborhood because little time is needed to put a house together, and neighbors aren't burdened with months of construction noise.
"Construction of the house will have less of an impact on the neighborhood because everything was done in a factory," Port Director Brian Foss said. "It should be interesting to see."
Kahn, a major force in the sport of yacht racing, said he and his family will live in the home.