Some burned-out homeowners turning to pre-fab houses
Labor shortages and high material costs prompt some to take an alternative approach to rebuilding
Some burned-out homeowners turning to pre-fab houses
Labor shortages and high material costs prompt some to take an alternative approach to rebuilding
2017 was a banner year for our growing company and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger. Although there were many great milestones, here are a few highlights:
*Broke ground on nine new homes, ranging from a 5,300 square foot custom build in The Highlands near Seattle to a 750 square foot sd127 in Portola Valley, CA. For more information about these and other Stillwater homes in process, visit our Project Map.
*Hired three amazing new team members–Jennifer in Production, and Michal and Andrew in the Design Studio. Meet the whole Stillwater staff here.
*Designed an Urban Infill study to address the need for more dense housing. These floor plans are well-suited for smaller lots and we’ll be sharing a first look at them soon.
In 2018, construction is set to start on 24 new Stillwater homes! Here is a sampling of what’s coming this year:
750 square foot sd128 in Woodinville, WA
1,850 square foot sd121 lakefront home near Bellingham, WA
2,000 square foot sd241 in Suncadia, WA
2,500 square foot sd152 in Forest Grove, OR
3,100 square foot custom home in Solana Beach, CA
6 home rebuilds in the wildfire-affected region of Northern California
Working at Stillwater means being a leader in the prefab industry, which is rapidly changing the way homes are built for the better. If you or someone you know is an experienced architect up to the challenge, visit our
careers page to learn about our current open positions.
In this third installment of our four-part series on building your home with Stillwater Dwellings, we will touch on the comprehensive engineering and permitting services provided by Stillwater. From analyzing topography to presenting to architectural review boards, we’re there for you.
All Stillwater homes are pre-engineered to satisfy the most stringent structural requirements. On the West Coast, for example, stricter seismic and energy building codes have been enacted, and Stillwater homes exceed all of these requirements. Stillwater also handles much of the home’s engineering in-house, including structural and foundation design as well as working closely with civil and geotechnical engineers. Whether your site is in a flood plain or on a steep slope, we can help.
Permitting can be complex, and varies widely by jurisdiction. Stillwater’s cadre of in-house architects and design professionals are well-versed in many of these unique requirements. Unlike typical architectural or design/build firms, Stillwater manages the entire permitting process for you and leverages the valuable relationships we’ve built with a variety of professionals, including expeditors and reviewers. We also work closely with consultants that may be required to secure a planning or building permit, including surveyors, septic designers, and arborists.
What engineering or permitting challenges have you faced when building a new home? We want to hear from you!
Stillwater Plans Gallery and Planning Guide
We recently captured images of our two newest homes in Washington State. Click to browse.
Yes! Our designs have been modified to comply with high ground snow level requirements. We’ve built homes in heavy snow zones, including Colorado and Eastern Washington. Tell us about your property, and we’re happy to provide feasibility feedback for a Stillwater home.
A thirty-minute northbound drive from Seattle brings you to the quaint seaside community of Edmonds, home of the Rockwell family and their modern, open-concept sanctuary. Theirs is a home fit for the pages of an architectural magazine, its clean lines, natural light, and magnificent wall of glass communicating warmth and welcome. But its walls are keeping a secret: it was built off site, constructed by a team of craftsmen in a climate-controlled workshop several miles away. Their affiliation? Stillwater Dwellings, a Seattle-based architecture firm disrupting the world of high-end modern homes with their meticulously designed, turnkey homes constructed via an ingenious panelized system.
The Rockwells selected their floor plan from twenty-five options ranging from a thousand square feet to over 5,200. Nods to the masters of modern architecture are evident throughout Stillwater’s portfolio, from high ceilings to special order surfaces and even handcrafted address numbers. Their generous use of glass brings the outdoors in, showcasing the outdoor living areas and landscaping that have become one of the company’s signature elements. But ultimately, the firm knows that home is where the heart is. And so every home is personalized to accommodate the unique lives of its owners. For some customers, garages are added or bedrooms eliminated. In Edmonds, modifications were made to allow the owners to age in place for years to come. All customizations are overseen by an architect and limited only by a single factor: the homeowner’s imagination.
Stillwater’s process is a more akin to a NASA operation than a construction project. Meticulous doesn’t begin to describe the efforts taken to ensure each home’s masterful completion, from first rendering to ultimate unveiling. And that includes the transition from house to home. A typical systems-built house arrives as an oversized load on flatbed trucks, precluding any destination that would require navigating narrow roads or rough terrain. But Stillwater’s process is different. Rather than arriving in a single piece, their homes are delivered in panelized sections and assembled onsite. It’s a subtle distinction that is making a significant difference in the high-end home market. One of the key beneficiaries? The owner’s bottom line.
The typical magazine cover home was the culmination of years of research, design, and engineering, not to mention significant financial investment. Stillwater’s process is actually quite similar. Each is designed and engineered by a team of award-winning architects in Seattle. What sets them apart is that the costs are recouped across multiple properties. The company says their average customer saves tens of thousands of dollars in architecture fees alone due to the efficiency of a standardized systems-built approach. But cost isn’t the primary motivator for most Stillwater customers. “Our homebuyers depend on our quality and our efficiency,” says Stillwater CEO John Morgan. “We build designer houses for people who admire fine architecture and don’t want to wait five years to live in their dream home.” In the modern homebuilding market, the impact is evident: Stillwater is making waves.
*Names have been changed for privacy.
In this second installment of our four-part series outlining the Stillwater Experience, we will describe a typical design meeting between someone who is building a Stillwater home and a Stillwater Project Expert.
What your Project Expert will provide:
What you should bring:
You should walk away from this meeting with a clear understanding of the design process and a solid vision starting to take shape.
Listen to our most recent webinar anytime, anywhere! This presentation is a great first step in understanding how exactly a Stillwater home comes together and where we fit within the housing industry as a whole.
Does your potential building site have setbacks or CC&R’s? What about utility access? Read more about potential site restrictions below.
How Site Restrictions May Affect Your New Home Design
Light and height make the most of a wooded setting
Welcome to the first in our four part series where we will help guide you through the complete journey of building a prefab home. With a variety of prefab options available, this handy flow chart will help you determine if Stillwater Dwellings is the right fit for your project.
Join us next month as we dive into designing your dream home!
There are a variety of reasons to choose a pre-fab home–energy efficiency, quality control, or a quicker build come to mind. For many, though, there is great benefit in lower costs compared to a traditional stick built home. So exactly how much does a modern pre-fab home cost? It’s difficult to compare since each home company advertises their prices differently. We conducted a non-scientific study, searching pricing online for a 2,000 sq. ft. modern pre-fab home, and summarized the results in the table below:
|House 1: Heated space only, no fees included||$150-$200/sq.ft.|
|House 2: Delivered, no site costs included||$185-$225/sq.ft.|
|House 3: Complete house, including foundation||$710,000|
|House 4: Total project cost||$300-$450/sq.ft.|
|House 5: ???||It depends|
Overall, we found ourselves having to compare apples to oranges. Each company includes or excludes particular aspects of the overall cost. House 1 advertises a price/sq.ft. range of $150-$200 for heated space only. This doesn’t include garage, foundation, or design/engineering fees. House 2 is delivered, but doesn’t include any site costs, which can significantly vary the cost of the home. House 3 is the most interesting, offering one price of $710,000 for the completed home, including foundation. This is surprising since foundation costs alone can vary by 100K from one site to another. House 4 offers a total project cost of $300-$450/sq.ft. If you haven’t guessed, this is the Stillwater price range. You’ll find that we don’t separate “hard” and “soft” costs. Our clients want (and need) to have a full understanding of the whole picture. Since there’s not an option to not pay hard or soft costs, they are included in complete pricing. Finally, our favorite example is House 5, which in their FAQ pricing section just wrote “it depends.” This is probably the most accurate (and least helpful) answer you can get, and we appreciate their sincerity.
Our advice to potential modern pre-fab homeowners is to consider a variety of factors that influence the total project cost, including, but not limited to:
Overall, without knowing details regarding your property (topography, soil conditions, etc.), what state/local permits are required, how much you want to customize the home, and what level of finishes you’re looking for, the “it depends” answer may be as specific a response on cost you can find. When conducting research into modern pre-fab home companies, make sure you’re getting the whole picture by asking about the items above. Having an apples to apples comparison with all costs taken into consideration upfront is the best way to ensure no surprises during the process and you can enjoy the benefits of a pre-fab home for years to come!
Stillwater Dwellings is excited to partner with Western Window Systems to announce a limited time upgrade offer. From now through August 30, 2016 all new Stillwater homes orders will receive a complimentary upgrade to a 20′ or 24′ wide multi-slide door. This state of the art door system features unobstructed glass panels that stack or slide into pockets to provide an expansive blend of indoor and outdoor living.
“We’re very pleased to partner with Western Window Systems, a leader in contemporary sliding wall design, to make this special upgrade offer. Their singular attention to detail and quality make them a good fit for Stillwater Dwellings and our very discerning clients,” said John Morgan, Stillwater COO.
To take advantage of this offer, and save up to $10,000, give us a call today. A Phase One agreement must be entered into by August 30, 2016 to qualify. More information on the Sliding Glass Door upgrade offer.
By Kecia Bal
Stillwater Dwellings has taken advantage of the versatility of contemporary home designs and used it to offer homeowners a better home and a better process. With a mission of simplifying the process of building a custom home, Stillwater uses contemporary prefabricated home designs—from 800-square- foot accessory dwelling units to larger than 5,000 square feet—to tailor to the elements of a home designed for its site and its owner.
“We are hyper cognizant of making homes respond to the site,” founder and CEO Matthew Stannard says. “Topography, approach to the site, view from the sun path—those are the elements you want to understand. Put the morning sun in the kitchen. The evening sun is in the great room. All pieces in the right place. As it turns out, it’s not that difficult for me or my project architects and project managers to take a design and understand the site and modify the design to work with the site.”
While the Stillwater team has the capability and design savvy to create totally custom plans—the company has been named among the “Best of Houzz” for design three years running—Stannard says he has found that what most homebuyers want is a modern house that still feels like home and is well-built. That can come from a totally custom plan or a tailored existing plan. In fact, sometimes after visiting a site and whipping up the beginnings of a new plan, he says, they realized basically the same design already exists in the company’s annual Plans Gallery and Planning Guide.
“Our appeal is to establish something they like—all the details—working with templates,” he says. “During phase one, which is a minimal cost, we produce a very complete set of drawings and specifications for a hard pricing. And then we can price our components and get the local builder to bid installing the components and finishing the home. Now the customer has very quickly received hard numbers—all in one or two meetings and in a few weeks,” he adds. “People really want a good, quality house that they love. It doesn’t have to be a totally original one-off house.”
Changes can range from simpler, like expanding a bathroom, to more dramatic. As an example, the company created two courtyards in a home where a site offered stunning views of Puget Sound along the northwestern coast of Washington state. The house actually ended up being the basis for a new template, the sd191—a common theme as the Stillwater designers become inspired by the modifications along the way. “Most view sites have a view in just one direction, not 360 degrees,” Stannard says. “For this house and a number of others, we’ve intentionally put the master bedroom with the major view in the same direction as the great room.”
Though the concept of prefabricated comes with connotations of a house that’s built and waiting in a warehouse—Stillwater’s handiwork has worked to break those down. “It’s still a custom home,” he says. “People like our aesthetic and just choose the best plan to start with what works with their lifestyle, property and their budget. We modify it. Sometimes, it’s flipping the house; sometimes, it’s flipping half the house. The whole process turns out to be much more straightforward, less stressful and a better value proposition.”
While builders on the East Coast have touted the benefits of the prefabricated process—materials that aren’t exposed to weather through a build, a swifter path to a structure or smoother build—the West Coast has been slower to follow the concept. Stannard says a “panelization” technique has made for quicker builds with improved quality. That’s important as it has become more and more challenging to find quality trades in the booming construction industry. “We ship a very precise wall-framing packet,” he says. All wall panels are prepared within a 16 th of an inch. Stillwater works with manufacturers that use 3-D modeling software to frame the house on-screen before any lumber is cut. “We can check and know everything is in the right place,” Stannard says. “Then the same software converts 3-D models into panel drawings.” Every piece is bundled carefully. “We know what we’re getting is built exactly as we want it—within a 16th of an inch,” Stannard says. “For the builder, it frames up really quickly and easily. We can get a process that almost directs itself.”
As the push for more modern and contemporary homes has arisen along the West Coast, Stillwater stands out in its ability to offer thoughtful contemporary styles—ones that have the warmth and a residential feel but with strong, clean lines. “What modern and contemporary homes have in common is a lot of indoor and outdoor space, a lot of glass,” Stannard says. “Modern, I think, can be more abstract, nonresidential and super sculptural or industrial. Minimal to an extreme.” Interestingly, those overly boxy structures happen to be popular in the urban infill markets, he says, where going minimal to the extreme can also shave costs with looks that Stannard says just don’t have the inviting feeling of home. “If it’s contemporary, it still feels like home,” he says. “It often has a lot of natural materials—and particularly wood—a warmer feel and often generous roof overhangs detailed in a contemporary way. It’s a modern interpretation of traditional elements.”
Well-positioned among homeowner styles and tastes on the West Coast, Stannard says the company is continuing to expand as more people see the value in their process and product. “Coming out of the recession the market is asking for a bit bigger house, but not huge ones with multiple rooms that never get used,” he says. “We took the spine and wings and realized it’s an incredibly versatile diagram, with plans that work for all sorts of different sites.”