Q: What is custom prefab? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
A: Most prefab builders create a menu of structures you can choose from, and then do small customizations around finishes or add-ons. We don’t have a menu. We have a design aesthetic and level of craftsmanship and materials we like to work in, as well as a toolbox of techniques, that we can apply to building what you want while still getting the advantages of prefab.
In practice, it means that while we won’t build a stick-framed Tudor, we will happily accommodate the requests—bigger windows, different dimensions, unique features—other prefab builders get a little cranky about. In fact, we’ll actively work to uncover those things that will make your building yours. We also work with architects and developers to bring our prefab and cross-laminated-timber (CLT) expertise to their projects.
Q: Wait, what's prefab again? and why do I care about it?
A: Prefab is short for pre-fabricated. It basically means that much of the structure is manufactured elsewhere and then placed and finished onsite. Some companies just do panelized construction—pre-building walls—and call it prefab, but still require a general contractor (GC) and construction crew at your home. Most of our projects are built to 98 percent complete before delivery, with minimal site prep and no GCs required. Prefab is great for a bunch of reasons, including:
Prefab is more precise. Building outside is messy and imprecise no matter how skilled your crew. Prefab allows us to build in a clean, climate-controlled environment—that means you get a much nicer, better crafted building.
Prefab is more cost-effective. Because of the predictability in our build environment and practices, we can offer more accurate quotes and no wild costly surprises halfway through the build.
Prefab is typically greener. By building inside and manufacturing components smartly, we can reduce waste as well as water and electricity use. And because prefab buildings are componentized, they tend to incorporate more cradle-to-cradle techniques and materials.
Finally, prefab is almost always faster. No weather delays, fewer supply chain delays and a more efficient construction process means you can move in sooner.
Q: Where are your units built?
A: We build most projects at our studio in Upstate New York to 98 percent completion in the shop, then deliver them to your site. However, if the situation calls for it, we can do more of the assembly on location.
Q: How long do builds take?
A: Depending on our backlog, we can complete and deliver our smaller structures in as little as 4-6 weeks. Larger studios with more features can be done in 3-4 months. No matter how complex your structure, we’ll always give you a realistic time frame during the planning and design phase and weekly updates during the build.
Q: Where do you deliver?
A: We can deliver your Cubist project pretty much anywhere in the world. Our small structures are typically built on our Transformable Trailer foundations—a custom steel foundation with removable axles—so we can tow them directly to your site. Larger projects or builds in more remote areas can be manufactured to fit in shipping containers and assembled on-site. Got a weird build in a weirder location? Give us a call—we love a challenge.
Q: What kind of site prep do I need to do?
A: Cubist structures can often install with little to no site prep or local labor. Our Transformable Trailer foundations provide a weather-proof, fully structural foundation for our units, so we require no special pad preparation, and they can typically install in a matter of hours with no cranes or special equipment. We can build for any type of utility hookup, from standard residential to RV to fully off-grid, and we can help you determine the best option, as well as help find local trades people to perform any final connections.
Q: Do I need a permit for one of your structures?
A: The honest answer is: It depends. Permitting regulations around auxiliary structures—think studios, pool houses, guest suites—vary from city to city. Even if you want a Cubist structure as a primary residence on, say, a lakefront plot, you’ll face unique local zoning.
In general, if a structure is under 100-120 square feet, it typically falls into the “shed” category and needs no special permit. If a structure is on wheels, it may qualify as an RV—no permit. If you’ve already dug into your local rules, great. If not, we’re happy to work through this with you as part of our design process.
In addition, all Cubist structures come with stamped engineering plans, which typically satisfies any local building inspection. We also build to international building code (IBC) standards whenever possible. And all our units get a third-party electrical inspection. If there are additional standards or permits you need your structure to meet, just let us know—we’ll make it happen.
Q: How does power and water work?
A: We offer three general categories of hook-ups for utilities: residential, RV park or off-grid. We can also do a combination of these—for instance, a residential connection with a solar back up.
For off-grid power, we’ve created our own self-contained solar unit with pole-mounted panels that can sit anywhere within 100 feet of the building. This means you can drop your cabin in the woods and leave the solar panel out in the open. For off-grid water, we can add gray- and black-water tankage, rainwater collection and a cassette toilet.
Q: can your buildings handle seismic requirements or heavy snow loads?
A: Boy, can they. Our standard CLT box and Transformable Trailer foundation are designed for the most stringent weather and loading requirements. But because we custom engineer each building, we’ll ensure your structure will meet any local challenges, whether that’s the snowfall of the Sierras or the saltwater of the Florida coast.
Q: What size structures do you build?
A: As custom builders, we can create any size building that’s right for your needs, but we specialize in extra spaces: add-ons, studios, getaways. Anything that's 8.5' wide can be towed without any special permit; but we can go wider and just get special towing permits. We For larger projects, we can build discrete pieces that are still easy to transport and snap together onsite.
But honestly, if your dream is a 13'x34' studio with a cantilevered rhombus-shaped second story made half out of glass, we can probably make it happen. (In fact, if anyone wants that, get in touch.)
Q: How much do your buildings cost?
A: As custom builders, we don’t have a menu of options with fixed costs. We want to build things nobody else can and that solve your specific challenges, in a way that is precise, beautiful and lasting. We’ll never spec luxury items or finishes just for luxury’s sake. Instead, we obsess over curating the right elements—from appliances to siding to fixtures—that are well-made, long-lasting and highly functional.
That said, our structures start as low as $250 per square foot. It’s important to remember that Cubist structures provide a lot more value for your buck than traditional construction for a number of reasons:
- Your equity is not locked up in your current property. With the Transformable Foundation, your structure can be easily moved, repurposed or resold.
- It's completely custom construction. It’s your look, your finishes, your features.
- It's built to last. It’s not just our innovative building materials like graphite SIPs and cross-laminated-timber; every step of construction, every fastener, every material, we are designing and engineering for a 75-100-year life.
The best way to get a sense of our pricing is to reach out and have a chat, or to look at our previous builds.
Q: Is it possible to finance a cubist building?
A: Absolutely. Although, we don't offer financing directly, there are a number of financing routes available depending on how you want to use your building. A mobile structure would qualify for an RV loan, while a guest suite could be financed through a home equity loan. For a cabin or vacation home, you might use a standard construction loan.
Q: What is CLT?
A: CLT stands for cross-laminated timber. Put simply, it’s a structural panel—meaning it can hold up the ceiling on its own, often without additional supports or beams—made of layers of lumber that are glued together perpendicular to each other (the “cross” in CLT). The panels are anywhere from 2 to 9 inches thick and precision manufactured in the U.S. to our specs.
Widely used in northern Europe for decades, CLT is just beginning to take off in the U.S. We’re the first builder we know of that’s created mobile structures with it.
Q: What are you drinking?
A: Right now, Mike is nursing his boat dreams with a nightly Sol and lime. John is sampling a bunch.