Local author Koones talks prefabrication in latest book

by Christine Chung

Post Correspondent

Solar panels, Tesla cars and wind power. Technology across industries is increasingly promoting sustainable design and energy efficiency, and a Greenwich author is showing the benefits this can bring to the home.

The construction and housing industry has been steadily adopting eco-friendly, cost-effective building methods. Green building rating systems such as LEED and Passive House (Passivhaus) are quickly becoming standards worldwide. For some homeowners, these standards can help them take a closer look at the energy aspect of home design. Aside from these guidelines, there is a separate category of energy-efficient architecture, such as prefabrication.

Prefabrication is a method of home building that delivers well-designed mass-produced homes that cut costs and champion sustainability. They’re a far cry from the stereotypical, rather plain modular homes of yore. Now they come in a variety of different styles, building techniques, and settings, worldwide.

In her latest book, Prefabulous World, the fourth in her Prefabulous book series, Greenwich’s Sheri Koones covers the ins and outs of prefabrication and showcases a diverse array of beautiful prefabricated homes across the world.

In her two years of writing the book, Ms. Koones did extensive research to find the most “efficient, interesting” homes she could. She got in touch with foreign embassies and connected with homeowners and architects worldwide. She candidly admits that it was an “extremely challenging” process, in part due to her own selective criteria.

The result of her efforts is a book that presents an international look at sustainable home design, full of picturesque photos of homes in such far-flung countries as Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, and beyond. From seaside cottages to city homes and suburban dwellings, she features a variety of styles and locations, illustrating that the possibilities of prefabrication are unbounded.

Ms. Koones said it was exciting to find out how many prefabricated, efficient homes were being built in all corners of the world. She was inspired by the types of prefabrication used, with new materials and systems, and ambitious goals of becoming net zero, creating as much energy as being used, in the coming decades.

“I started finding really amazing things going on in the world in Europe and Australia, and thought we had a lot to learn in this country from what was being done around the world,” said Ms. Koones.

When asked why prefabrication seemed more common abroad, Ms. Koones said she believed European countries were working to honor their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol. The international agreement, adopted in 1997, is linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the goal of significantly reducing industrial emissions. As a result, Ms. Koones said, builders abroad are more motivated to build in energy-efficient ways, because of the cost of fuel and their commitments to lowering the use of fossil fuel.

“I think prefabrication is becoming more popular around the world just because it makes more sense and it’s a better way to build. … Many of the European countries in particular have amazingly efficient homes. … It’s a growing phenomenon,” said Ms. Koones.

Beautiful home snapshots aside, Prefabulous World explores a range of design styles and green technologies. There are detailed floor plans, explanations, glossaries, and a comprehensive resource section listing architects, builders and suppliers. It’s essentially an overview of prefabrication and alternative energy-efficient technology and design.

Ms. Koones, an author, prefabrication expert, columnist, and speaker, has now written seven books about home design. However, she’s not a trained architect or design specialist. She previously worked in the fashion industry, and her interest in sustainable home design was sparked by her experience renovating her own home.

“I became so fascinated with the whole construction process that I decided to continue and write a book about it. I felt like there was so much I didn’t know, that was difficult to find. I thought I’d write the book that everybody needs before you build a house,” said Ms. Koones.

She pored over library books, spoke to “every organization, every manufacturer,” and engaged in extensive self-study. Once an amateur, she’s now writes for the Huffington Post and speaks at conferences. In her words, she takes something complicated and condenses it for people in layman’s terms.

“They’re really good guides for people to help them build. … It takes someone like myself who is not a trained architect to explain them [processes] to someone else who is also not professionally trained,” said Ms. Koones.

She hopes that Prefabulous World will inspire readers to build or remodel their own sustainable homes because the benefits of prefabrication are vast. Prefabricated building saves waste by not adding to landfills with scraps from on-site construction. Factory production requires minimal energy and labor, and also provides quality control. Houses are built more quickly and more efficiently. Prefabrication manufacturers are increasingly dedicated to using more environmentally friendly, energy- and water-efficient materials, in a process that both limits waste and cuts energy costs.

“If I ever had an opportunity to build another house, I’d build a prefabricated house. I can’t imagine why anybody would build anything else. … My answer is that people just don’t know; prefabrication is like the best kept secret in America,” said Ms. Koones.

Ms. Koones said prefabrication is a growing field that’s quickly gaining steam. From prefabricated parts to complete homes, she said, this type of building is growing more popular by the day. She is confident that it’s the way of the future, as attitudes toward home design shift, with people taking a closer look at energy-efficient building.

“At one time people were mostly interested in the look. … People today are concerned about the health of the house, lowering the energy bills, getting their house down more quickly. … All of these things are related. I think in the future it [prefabrication] will be the predominant way that houses are built,” Ms. Koones said.

She’s now working on her next book, also about prefabrication, a topic she calls limitless.

“I intend to continue writing about prefab, because I just believe in it as a better form of construction, and I’m fascinated by construction.”

Building a house can be an immensely challenging and intricate process, as Ms. Koones knows all too well. Through her books, she hopes to create a smoother path for other homeowners, to educate and inform them about green construction and the alternatives to creating a “healthier, more energy-efficient house.”

“I think building a house is probably one of the most complicated things that anyone does in their life. … People need as much info before they start the process, and I hope that my books help people build better, more comfortable houses,” said Ms. Koones.

[email protected]

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress