i’m quite excited about this next profile as i believe it to be at the forefront of prefab innovation. the attention to detail, construction methods, materials and overall design is unparalleled. i’ll exit stage left so you can enjoy their profile. cheers! m. [repost 03.03.11]
THE V100 MODBOX
A small entrepreneurial company in Phoenix, Arizona has built a remarkable piece of modular architecture. The V100 Modbox is a completely novel form of prefabricated construction technology. “V” for its creator, Vincenz Saccento, and “100” for 100 square feet, the Modbox is a 10’x10’x10′ cube made of high-tech structural, aviation and aerospace materials. It uses no wood, nails, screws, bolts, or welding in its construction. The Modbox is entirely carbon-conscious and “green” by design, exceeding standards for LEED Platinum certification. It contains no drywall, no paint, no styrofoam, no OSB, no fiberboard or composite wood products of any kind, and therefore emits no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the internal environment. Having a thermal insulation value of R-50, it requires minimal energy to heat or cool, and with its commercial quality metallic skin, it will look the same in 20 years as it does the day it’s built; no maintenance needed. Moreover, the V100 Modbox can be constructed in just few days by people with no technical training, requiring no heavy machinery, and posing no health or accident risk to workers. “It’s the future!” exclaims Saccento. “We can provide jobs and housing anywhere in the world.”
Both visually iconic and functionally flexible, the V100 Modbox is the most recent output of long-time collaborators Vincenz Saccento and Robert Mazzullo. Saccento, the ever-restless designer, incessantly scans online sources and industry publications for new materials and cutting-edge products, wondering “how can I use that?” and “where will that fit?” Then Mazzullo, skilled artist and builder, solves technical issues by putting it all together in his prototyping shop. Mazzullo’s building mastery runs from fine, hand-crafted guitars and custom wood furniture to fixed gear bicycles, classic cars and motorcycle engines.
For the Modbox, the team has also taken on the role of property developer. An urban infill site near downtown Phoenix is being readied for a multi-unit apartment complex made entirely of silver boxes. Foundations have been laid; electrical, grading, and landscaping are complete. Attitudes in the sketchy neighborhood are being transformed by activity and appearance of the once blighted lot. Neighbors have painted their houses and moved old cars off their front yards. A bit of both pride and protectionism is keeping the über-modernist, stacked block surround walls free from taggers and graffiti. The shimmery 10’x10‘x10’ cubes that will be sited there not only deliver a fully functional living environment, but also serve as proof of concept for other building types. By combining two or more cubes, Modbox construction technology has commercial applications in multi-unit housing, retail, hotels, education and more.
Perhaps more significant than the box’s components and technology is the intent behind its creation. While SIP panels and other new wall materials enable speedier construction with less waste and better thermal properties than traditional sticks and stucco, their much-touted “flexibility in design” ultimately leads to proliferating more of the same ol’, same ol’ — American suburban homes — something Saccento and Mazzulo consider to be an outmoded housing type. “You can have a Southwestern or you can have a Cape Cod,” says Mazzullo, “but it’s still a living space based on big square footage and rooms you don’t use. And you’ve still got the maintenance and VOCs to deal with.”
His point should be well considered. Intuit Research reports that nearly 180,000 people move into cities every day. That’s 60 million new urban dwellers every year. By 2050, says a UN study, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Clearly, the American idea of “home” we have grown up with for four generations cannot not survive into that future, certainly not on a global scale.
So the little box is really about larger issues. It’s about examining our relationship to space and to things, reshaping our expectations of what we need, and redefining the way people live. In developing the Modbox, Saccento and Mazzullo asked a different set of questions. Not merely how to build a better mousetrap, but how to live more intelligently, in a more precise way, even a more elegant way? How to do it en masse? And what kind of structures will support that? Ultimately, it’s a question of what do we really need? The V100 Modbox is their latest approach to these issues. Others are already being imagined.