One of five manufactured home configurations designed for the Mountain View Mobile Home Park Improvement Program.
Courtesy Marmol Radziner Prefab One of five manufactured home configurations designed for the Mountain View Mobile Home Park Improvement Program.

It's not often that affordable mobile homes can claim a high degree of sustainability, let alone distinguished lineage, but the 20 manufactured residences now in the process of installation at the city of Santa Monica-owned Mountain View Mobile Home Park certainly have that right. Designed by the prefab housing arm of award-winning Los Angeles-based architecture and construction firm Marmol Radziner in partnership with Golden West Homes, the new Mountain View units not only exceed HUD's manufactured home building code, they meet California's stringent Title 24 energy efficiency standards and incorporate several renewable energy systems and other sustainable features.

The city purchased the aging and severely undermaintained mobile home park in 2000 to retain it as affordable housing for very low- and low-income residents and to upgrade the property's infrastructure, which was completed in August 2010. In December 2010, the city issued a request for proposals for the design, building, and installation of 20 new manufactured home units to provide existing residents with otherwise unaffordable energy-efficient homes and to reduce the city's maintenance costs for those units, according to the Santa Monica Housing and Economic Development department.

The Mountain View Mobile Home Improvement Program's effort to replace 20 of the existing rental units is projected to cost the city up to $3 million, and according to Riley Pratt, Marmol Radziner Prefab's lead architect on the project, each unit will cost about $100 per square foot delivered and installed. After the project's initial run, the city hopes the owners of the 55 other existing units will be inspired to replace them with new models.

"Our vision was not just off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter replacement units, but something that's at a higher level—well designed, well constructed, and with sustainable features that hopefully will inspire other folks," says Jim Kemper, housing administrator for the City of Santa Monica. "We didn't want to create a typical mobile home park."

According to Pratt, the design team's goal was to create models that would appeal to the broad range of residents in the park, combining Marmol Radziner's own modern aesthetic with the local building styles. Pratt says the design team also made an effort to create depth and interest and improve the volumes of the manufactured home models, incorporating accessory porches and front decks, screening elements, and street-facing entries that connect each unit to the community.

Sizes of the manufactured homes range from 400 square feet up to 1,000 square feet, and five different models have been selected for installation with configurations to suit each of the property's available lots, including various dimensions, mirrored plans, and double-wide units. The model configurations begin with a 12-foot-by-32-foot unit (cost: $23,808), run through a 13.5-foot-by-50-foot unit (cost: $40,500), and end with a 24-foot-by-48-foot unit (cost: $59,904).

Each manufactured home will incorporate a 2kW grid-linked photovoltaic array, a passive solar water heating system, tankless hot water heater, formaldehyde-free cabinets and insulation, Energy Star qualified appliances, and natural linoleum flooring. An optional "green box" storage cabinet holds an integrated rain barrel, compost bin, and small kitchen garden planter and ties into the homes' green screen trellis and porch structures for a cohesive appearance.

"As designers who work in modular construction, we heard the criticism over the years: 'Why can't architects come up with an affordable solution? '" Pratt says. "Certainly it's not for lack of trying or desire on our part. ... This project is interesting because it takes the least expensive production system and utilizes it to produce something that we think is pleasing and is affordable with some modern qualities."