That isn’t the case with this month’s project, House of the Immediate Future
, a Habitat for Humanity home being (partially) constructed by a team of volunteers in a most public location: in the shadow of the Space Needle on the grounds of the 74-acre Seattle Center
So why the Seattle Center? The construction of the House of the Immediate Future, a project that I first mentioned
back in February, is just one of many events taking place during The Next Fifty
, a six-month celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair
. This Elvis-visited event birthed the Seattle Center itself and its many landmark attractions including the Space Needle, the Monorail, the International Fountain, and the Minoru Yamasaki-designed complex that would later become the Pacific Science Center
(home to what I'm guessing is the world's only IMAX theater with interiors designed by Charles and Ray Eames).
Another structure erected at the Seattle Center for the 1962's World's Fair was the House of the Immediate Future's direct predecessor: the American Home of the Immediate Future
. This Mid-Century modular home sponsored by the United States Plywood Corporation was designed to give fairgoers a glimpse into the future of innovative, affordable housing. I'd ask my mother — she was 13 and living in Seattle at the time of the World's Fair — what she thought of the home, but she most likely had Elvis, not prefab housing, on the brain. And interesting enough, the American Home of the Immediate Future, like many 1962 World's Fair structures, is still in use today. Post-World's Fair, it was relocated to Mercer Island where it remains a private residence
Designed by Seattle-based sustainable architecture firm Muller Hull Partnership
in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Seattle/South King County
, the 1,400-square-foot House of the Immediate Future plays into the eight themes of The Next 50: Sustainable Futures
, Science and Technology
, Global Health
, the Innovation Economy
, Civic Action
, Culture and Design
, and History
. The first theme is obviously a biggie. World House
, a developing nation-minded companion home also being built by Habitat at the Seattle Center during The Next 50, incorporates these themes as well.
In a nutshell, the design goal
of House of the Immediate Future is to “demonstrate energy efficient construction using the best of readily available methods and materials. The house will demonstrate what is possible and economically practical with today’s technology.” Eco-features of the net-zero energy capable, solar-ready home include high levels of insulation, prefabricated panelized walls, radiant floor heating, and a rainwater harvesting system. The two-story structure also features a flexible floor plan that can be easily reconfigured to suit the different needs and wants of its inhabitants over time.
Most notably, the home itself is of the prefab-hybrid variety, meaning that it marries factory-built modules with on-site construction. The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home’s two “wet-core” components — plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, and the like — were fabricated off-site by prefab builder Method Homes
to see Method’s super lovely model cabin) and installed
in the beginning of June. The rest of the home, as mentioned, is currently being assembled at the Seattle Center by a team composed predominately of Habitat volunteers.
Our hybrid-approach to construction systems includes prefabricated 'wet-cores' (mechanical room, kitchen, bathrooms) by Method Homes and a panelized double-stud exterior wall assembly constructed by Habitat volunteers. By prefabricating the infrastructure cores, professional labor can be separated from a less-skilled volunteer force so important to every Habitat for Humanity project. Volunteers will build wall panels that can be erected around the wet-cores at the Seattle Center exhibit and then disassembled and moved to the permanent site.
Jobes also beautifully sums up the key difference between American Home of the Immediate Future and other 1962 World's Fair housing exhibitions — "exuberant modular assemblages packed with high-tech energy-intensive gadgets that did the living for you, built and powered by seemingly endless resources" — and the project being constructed today:
The difference highlights how advances in building science over the past five decades have trended toward a sober return to basics as we better understand the reality of limited resources and global warming. Smaller footprints in walkable transit-oriented communities and ever-tighter building envelopes that make miserly use of renewable energy sources may not capture the imagination quite like the sci-fi visions of the past, but may be the only way we can survive long into the future.
According to Matt Haight, construction manager of Habitat for Humanity Seattle/South King County, work on the home is slated to finish up during last week of August at which point it will be opened for public tours. At the conclusion of The Next 50 on Oct. 21, the structure will be disassembled and relocated to its permanent home: Columbia Station
, Dwell Development
’s sustainable micro-community of LEED Platinum-targeting homes at the mixed-use Rainer Vista development in southeast Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood.
Needless to say, if you happen to be in the Seattle area between now and the end of October, be sure to swing on by House of Immediate Future at The Next 50 Pavillon to either tour the completed home or to check in on the construction process (I believe volunteer opportunities
are also still available). Habitat for Humanity Seattle/South King County is also frequently providing updates and imagery of the home’s progress on its Facebook page