Applying mass-production methods to architecture, Garrison Architects, in New York City, and fabricator Kullman Industries, of Lebanon, N.J., are collaborating on a line of manufactured residence halls for college and university clients. Called SIMPLE (Scalable Innovative Modularly Produced Living Environments), their modular system promises to limit the variables of conventional construction while compressing the design/production cycle to as little as six months. “It's the beginning of an architectural product,” says architect James Garrison, whose work on a modular residence hall at Bard College laid the groundwork for the new system.
While not substantially cheaper than site-built alternatives, the prefab buildings offer institutions the ability to customize unit types, layouts, and cladding materials within a tight schedule. Garrison's emphasis on sustainability adds further incentive. “There's a lot of innovation—passive solar, passive ventilation, and they can be fitted to a geothermal system.” The design relies on a proprietary wall system, a formed metal wall that comprises both structure and interior finish. The system was introduced in a publicity blitz earlier this year; Garrison says five colleges responded with interest. “So I think we hit a nerve.”