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Sustainable, Affordable, Prefab

The ecoMOD Project
John D. Quale

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 7 × 9 · ISBN 9780813931524 · $65.00 · May 2012
BUY Paper · 248 pp. · 7 × 9 · ISBN 9780813932330 · $39.50 · May 2012

Sustainable Affordable Prefab combines architectural theory and practice in a beautifully illustrated account of ecoMOD, the innovative design/build program pioneered by John Quale. Unlike most manifestos of green design, Quale's book describes a collaborative process that has produced, to date, four elegantly designed, built examples of sustainable affordable housing.

Implementing the principles that produced an award-winning Solar Decathlon project in 2002, Quale and his students at the University of Virginia, working with colleagues in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and with affordable housing providers, have created four designs for environmentally sensitive affordable dwellings. The houses, built with modular units and/or panelized building components, include a two-unit condominium, a post-Katrina home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a historic renovation with an accessible addition, and a townhouse configuration that can be replicated and mass-produced for Habitat for Humanity. Each house pays attention to its site and incorporates sustainable materials and systems such as solar hot water and rainwater retention, and strives for zero energy load.

The success of Quale’s ecoMOD project offers multiple lessons for practicing architects interested in affordable, sustainable design and/or prefabrication, for architectural educators looking for new ways to engage students, and for anyone looking to build a sustainable home.


Sustainability is a key concern of the design professions. Affordability has been a long-term concern of many involved in housing—and the recent housing market meltdown has certainly made this issue of greater importance as recovery takes place. Prefab, as argued in this book, is a potential solution to these issues. John Quale’s work is timely and important, and his concern for thoughtful writing and design is obvious.

Walter Grondzik, co-author of The Green Studio Handbook

This is a book that educates us all in the coming rise of architecture as a performance-based art. It reflects a decade-long effort that explores the complex synergies between the often segregated realms of economics, sustainability, collaboration, and the art of architecture, all viewed through the lens of prefabrication. Its contribution lies in the reflection on efforts aimed at resolving a simple yet profound problem: building affordably and sustainably, with each project providing the grist for successive efforts.

Stephen Kieran, FAIA, coauthor of Refabricating Architecture: How Manufacturing Methodologies Are Poised to Transform Building Construction

About the Author(s): 

John D. Quale, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia, is the author of Trojan Goat: A Self-Sufficient House.

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