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This Solar-Powered Prefab in Seattle Was Raised in Less Than Two Weeks

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This Solar-Powered Prefab in Seattle Was Raised in Less Than Two Weeks

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When Seattle homeowner Karen Stone reached out to architect Matt Wittman of the local firm Wittman Estes to design and build an affordable, one-bedroom studio in her backyard, the project produced more than just an eco-friendly prefab on a budget.

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Charred using the traditional Japanese wood preservation technique called shou sugi ban, the locally sourced cedar planks provide the home with a handsome, low-maintenance facade.

Charred using the traditional Japanese wood preservation technique called shou sugi ban, the locally sourced cedar planks provide the home with a handsome, low-maintenance facade.

Not only did Stone’s unit—dubbed Solar Studio after its solar rooftop panels—become the first in a series of prefab designs crafted for NODE, a prefab tech company co-founded by architect Matt Wittman to address Seattle’s affordable housing crisis, but the backyard studio also became the city’s first registered DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit) with the International Living Futures Institute (IFLI). The organization promotes progressive environmental design and helped develop the Solar Studio’s specifications and building systems.

Angled towards the sun, the solar panels meet all of the studio's energy needs with enough energy left over to power the adjacent house.

Angled towards the sun, the solar panels meet all of the studio’s energy needs with enough energy left over to power the adjacent house.

“We are using manufacturing to combine high quality and low cost,” Wittman says, explaining that he sees mass-produced, modular construction as a cost-effective and sustainable solution to  Seattle’s affordability challenge. 

The simple, single-module design allowed the home to be built in less than two weeks—and shipped and installed on site in a single day.

The simple, single-module design allowed the home to be built in less than two weeks—and shipped and installed on site in a single day.

The roof overhang provides protection from solar heat gain and the elements.

The roof overhang provides protection from solar heat gain and the elements.

In addition to producing solar energy, the Solar Studio also generates side income for Stone, who lists the one-bedroom unit on AirBnB.

Continuing the midcentury modern aesthetic, the dining room includes a tulip-style dining table with Modernica shell chairs.

Continuing the midcentury modern aesthetic, the dining room includes a tulip-style dining table with Modernica shell chairs.

The living room is simply furnished with an IKEA cowhide rug, a France and Son floor lamp, a replica of the Hans Wegner CH07 Lounge Chair, and tropical plants for a pop of color. Double pocket doors provide privacy.

The living room is simply furnished with an IKEA cowhide rug, a France and Son floor lamp, a replica of the Hans Wegner CH07 Lounge Chair, and tropical plants for a pop of color. Double pocket doors provide privacy.

An Alvar Aalto stool serves as a side table in the bedroom. The north-facing window brings in ample natural light.

An Alvar Aalto stool serves as a side table in the bedroom. The north-facing window brings in ample natural light.

“As a single module, the entire home can be reproduced and shipped completely finished,” Wittman says. “The readily available materials, finishes, and products allow for easy replication and mass production.”

The compact kitchen is fitted out with Whirlpool appliances, including the wall oven, cooktop, dishwasher, and refrigerator.

The compact kitchen is fitted out with Whirlpool appliances, including the wall oven, cooktop, dishwasher, and refrigerator.

Wittman Estes designed the raw carbon steel shelving, fabricated by Sparrow Woodworks.

Wittman Estes designed the raw carbon steel shelving, fabricated by Sparrow Woodworks.

“The simplicity of the home embodies a ‘poetic pragmatism’, believing that good design can be accessible to anyone.”

—Matt Wittman 

The compact bathroom is equipped with low-flow fixtures, including this D-Code sink by Duravit.

The compact bathroom is equipped with low-flow fixtures, including this D-Code sink by Duravit.

Locally sourced, low-emitting materials were used inside and out. The floors throughout are bamboo.

Locally sourced, low-emitting materials were used inside and out. The floors throughout are bamboo.

The windows are Anderson100 Fibrex Windows.

The windows are Anderson100 Fibrex Windows.

The doors are Fiberglass ThermaTru.

The doors are Fiberglass ThermaTru.

Solar Studio floor plan and section

Solar Studio floor plan and section

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