A Modular System Flexible Enough for Emergencies and Vacation Home

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    Joseph Bellomo and Taraneh Naddafi designed House Arc to function as both an emergency shelter option and an attractive solution for backyard home expansion.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    The interior is spare and open.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    The first House Arc was permanently installed on Hawaii’s Big Island as a custom project.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    Set among the trees, the unit features a shading trellis that limits heat gain. Large windows and sliding glass doors provide natural light, maintain views, and funnel in ocean breezes to cool the interior.

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    Stirling Elmendorf

    The structure can be installed on concrete piers or with soil screws that are typically used for trailer homes.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    Polycarbonate glazing permits light while maintaining privacy, and cedar cladding adds a touch of elegance.

  • Solar-Wind

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    This rendering shows how the solar trellis works.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    Developers are interested in using the structures as hotel cabanas.

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    Courtesy Bellomo Architects

    Seen in this series of photographs, the installation of House Arc takes about three days.

House Arc is a modular system that its creators say represents a new model for housing.

The lightweight metal structure is ideal as emergency housing because it can be transported and assembled quickly, but it also can be used by individuals interested in backyard home expansion or an off-the-grid vacation retreat.

“We designed it to be a kit of parts house that can be assembled quickly–like prefab furniture,” says architect Joseph Bellomo, whose Palo Alto, Calif., and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii-based firm Bellomo Architects designed the system.

House Arc was born out of another Bellomo Architects endeavor called Bike Arc, which develops and designs modular urban bike parking solutions. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the principals felt that the modular tube-metal parking structures could be expanded into a solution for temporary disaster relief housing. “We wanted to put the technology into shelter housing because the system is lightweight but very strong,” Bellomo explains.

The system is designed to be flat-packed and shipped in a box measuring 4 feet by 10 feet by 3 feet. Once on site, it can easily be assembled by serious do-it-yourselfers or “people who understand carpentry methods,” says Bellomo, who created House Arc with design partner Taraneh Naddafi, a project manager at Bellomo Architects.

Upon assembly, the system becomes a curvilinear, 150-square-foot structure weighing about 3,000 pounds. It can withstand tropical winds and features a roof design that supports solar panels and as well as promotes ventilation. As such, the house is cool figuratively and literally.

“It cools itself and it heats itself,” the architect says. “We raised them off the ground so air can flow underneath to cool the structure. We also designed a solar trellis that [limits heat gain] to keep the body of the structure cool.” Additionally, operable windows allow for natural ventilation.

Though House Arc has humanitarian beginnings, it has become a design objet du jour for developers in need of a fresh idea and consumers looking for an attractive solution for backyard home expansion. Bellomo says the firm has gotten countless calls from hotel developers who want to use the structures as cabanas and from customers who want to use them for home offices and vacation homes.

House Arc is not yet available for purchase, but a version of the system was the featured modular home during Sunset magazine’s June 2012 Celebration Weekend event. The house was showcased in the Ultimate Outdoor Living Room, a featured exhibit that brought to life the consumer magazine’s ideas for transforming decks and patios into destinations to dine, entertain, relax, and play. The installed version of the house ranges from about $55,000 to $75,000, (depending on the finish selected) but the base model does not include any optional additions, such as solar photovoltaic panels, insulation, plumbing, additional electrical, custom cabinetry, and fixtures. Shipping, taxes, permits/permit fees, assembly, and installation costs are also excluded from the base model price.

The Sunset version had high-end finishes such as 3-form resin panels, cedar siding, and Fleetwood windows and doors, Bellomo says. “We are working to get the price down to around $35,000 to $40,000 or lower so it can be used for relief housing and more affordable to consumers,” he explains.

House Arc is in production and will be available for purchase around August or September.

Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor at Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.