Such high-profile commissions aside, Skylab has been refining its modular approach to residential construction. The firm, in conjunction with Seattle-based Method Homes, began developing a repeatable prefab module in 2008, during the Great Recession. The team settled upon HOMB (a combination of “home” and “honeycomb”): a 100-square-foot, triangular module made of LVL beams, steel, and SIPs. The module’s integrated structure enables it to be tessellated and configured in infinite ways, according to a client’s imagination and budget.
“We’ve had people build their own models of these and submit them,” Kovel says. Grubb adds that “traditional homes are built with certain limitations, but with this system you’d be able to build one story now, and you could come in four years and build another. It becomes financially feasible to imagine it and build it in phases.”
Skylab assembled a prototype called the Ivy Street Residence, Portland’s first ever prefab house, using 28 modules of the HOMB system. Fabricated in Seattle and shipped on six truck beds to Portland, the modules were “buttoned up” on site to create a four-bedroom residence and an additional dwelling unit, which together total 3,930 square feet.