robert humble and joel egan
The iMac proved that consumers crave high design within economic reach. Architect Michael Graves achieved household-name status selling teakettles at Target. So when Robert Humble, AIA, and Joel Egan, Associate AIA, insist that prefab is about to take off because the public is demanding design sophistication in their housing as well as their shoes and MP3 players, it's hard to argue. “We see an opportunity to potentially influence design for the next century, and we mean to do it right,'' says Egan.
So the two architects founded Team HyBrid, a collective of architects and artists providing what they call cargotecture—prefab housing that uses cargo containers as building modules. Humble praises prefab as an opportunity to improve cost, efficiency, and quality, whereas traditional construction requires a sacrifice of one component to better the other two. “What piqued my interest in prefab is that the process is controlled,” he says. “It provides a consistent result and removes the random peculiarities of traditional construction.” Flexibility and portability increase the concept's cachet as well.
Team HyBrid already has deals in place to use their cargo prototype for global housing relief. A client in war-torn Sri Lanka wants units to use as orphanages, while one in Siberia has an order in for ecotourism base camp housing. Even Egan's parents have caught the cargo bug and are considering having one built as their vacation home.
The containers have advantages over standard modular structures, says Egan. "The hobgoblin of prefab is at the joints. We start with a structure that is 3D, so we solve a lot of the problems.'' Adds Humble: “The cargo is already a waterproof box that is readily available, with an infrastructure in place to transport it."