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Efficient by Necessity

Being an island and all, Iceland is a place where "resources are scarce and everything is valued, used, reused and re-reused," says Erla Dogg Ingjaldsdottir, founder of Minarc Inc. architecture firm. She and her husband brought the lean-minded ideas of their home country to California, where they build affordable, high performance, net-zero energy buildings (meaning the potential for zero energy consumption and/or carbon emissions).

How They Do It
Delivered and assembled on site or in a factory, Minarc's metal-framed kit houses are more affordable because they are precut, eliminating custom onsite building. Floors contain no plywood or wood studs; windows are low to draw cool air in at night; and green materials are used whenever possible, from recycled tire laminate on kitchen cabinets, to concrete exterior walls made of partly recycled fibers. The house itself is also recyclable -- everything can be taken apart and sent back to the manufacturers to be reused.

Cost: $255 per square feet for this mnmMod Santa Monica home, including foundation

Timeline: Four months to assemble a one-story kit

To Prefab or Not to Prefab ...

  • By Leah Lerner

    The term prefabricated isn't just a euphemism for trailer homes anymore. (No offense, trailers). Prefabs -- homes that are made ahead in sections, then delivered to a site and put onto a foundation -- comprise only 2-3 percent of homes built in the U.S. But that's on the rise due to increasing housing costs and interest in sustainable, energy-efficient homes.

    Home buyers can save 10-25 percent by purchasing prefab over traditional construction. Manufacturers can buy supplies in bulk, and mass-produced items don't required specialized skills to install. Today's prefabs also look a lot cooler than their 1900s Sears & Roebuck ancestors.

    From studio bachelor pads to palatial spreads, there's a manufactured home to fit any budget, any dream. Here are five fresh, out-of-the-box abodes that deliver style and comfort without the nasty carbon bigfoot-print.

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