by Tess Lynch
Part One: I Want To Live In These Homes
You know when you see someone at a party, and you think, "Oooh, who's that? They're looking fly." Then you go talk to your friend, and he knows the person you're looking at, and he says "Oh, I know that dude, I saw him at [your favorite band]'s show," or "Oh, sure, that's the girl who has sixteen four-week-old Golden Retriever puppies and wants to meet people to have over to stare at them," or "Sure, that's my friend Jack, he knows how to fix everything and eats cheeseburgers every day."
My point is: you think you're in love.
Anyway, then you talk to Jack or Sally. And you forget about the puppies, the burgers, the promising concert tickets. Because it seemed too good to be true, and now you know that it was. They kick their puppies, they only eat burgers at the Polo Lounge, a friend dragged them to see the concert promising it would be a lot like Coldplay. You give up, but you're sad to have done so, because they coulda been a contender.
This is how I feel about LivingHomes.
LivingHomes are pre-fab, designer-architect single family homes with major LEED approval. Everything about these houses seems amazing: they give you no choice on saving water, since the runoff from your water-use (i.e., shower drain) goes to water your landscaping, which is drought-resistant anyway; low-e glass windows and doors (which insulate to reduce your heating and cooling costs, but are large enough to let in a lot of light, lowering your artificial, energy-eating lamp use); they even use renewable or recycled materials for flooring.
Steve Glenn, founder of LivingHomes, used a Lego metaphor for his concept. Cute, but Legos are cheap, and LivingHomes, though using a construction model which supposedly cuts down on building costs (they claim a quicker building process than traditional, non-pre-fab homes, as well as a comparably low $185/sq ft - $275/sq ft price), are not.
it doesn't get cheaper than a lego prostitute, unless you're into lincoln logs
With few LivingHomes completed (one in Brentwood is on the market, and I'm not sure when the Joshua Tree (admittedly way less expensive, then again, it's in Joshua Tree) development goes up for sale - the website says spring 2007, but my calendar says that that was more than a year ago), the only way to get one is to buy a plot of land and build your own.
Which is cool, because you can design your house with the add-ons and floorplan that you like, but which also sucks because, HELLO! Everybody's broke! And that leaves you homeless for a year in a shitty market that just keeps getting shittier!
When the WIRED house, which is a Ray Kappe-designed LivingHome, went on the market last year, its list price was $4.15 million. Since then, it's been revamped and re-priced and is offered at $3.75 million. The comments on Curbed LA regarding this bit of news are sort of in line with what I'm thinking - if this is a pre-fab house, with lower costs to build the damn thing, why in God's name is it this expensive? There is no pool, no real yard, and with that much glass in a location where the houses are clumped together, no real privacy.
Thinking about who would buy this house is difficult. Take a look; at 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, it's meant for a family or Citizen Kane. Now take a look at this comparable home, also in Brentwood, with an extra bedroom and extra quarter bath, a pool and spa, and a yard - its list price is $3.795 million, and you can't see into it.
If I were a person interested in getting a house to raise a family in, or just to show off about, I think I'd go with option #2.
But I'm still loving the IDEA of LivingHomes. This is why I think their business model could have used a bit more thought. Who would take an active interest in saving money on a cool house? Who cares about the environment enough to forego a running the water when they want (the faucets in LivingHomes are the "little light that senses when a hand is underneath it and only then will it run" variety) and learn to love succulents instead of grass? Who grew up liking the retro-mod style of Urban Outfitters and shunning big, dark, old Victorian architecture? The answer: the generation that is now ready to buy its first homes.
Ecospace Prefab Garden Studio: Way Cheaper Than A LivingHome
Say LivingHomes had been marketed to us, instead of Steve Jobs. What about instead of being introduced to us as a pre-fab mansion that also happens to be environmentally conscious, LivingHomes were offered as uber-eco-friendly Maltman Bungalows (which have almost sold out, with only one left on the market)?
If you could get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath single family home in Echo Park, Silverlake, Pasadena - anywhere conceivably commutable from the greater metropolitan area for $200 per square foot, roughly $100-300 less than many houses on the market in L.A., wouldn't you?
If you were buying a house, wouldn't you want to save money and feel pious, like when you drive your Prius, you snob? I would.
Pre-fab was designed partially to make homes more affordable. The economy sucks, and the housing market is crashing, and while some pre-fab/modern pre-fab options are available for cheaper than LivingHomes, I think it's a crying shame that a supposedly eco-friendly company should neglect a grass-roots approach to marketing their shiznazz. If your aim is to make an impact on how we, as a city or a society, think of our energy output and offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative to an energy-guzzling model, then why not make it available to all us shmoes, instead of one big glass hulk sitting in "prime Brentwood"?
I'll never get offered a free LivingHome now. Damn it.
portrait of the author during a glorious period
THE END OF YOU TOO
"The End of You Too" - Metronomy (mp3)
"Radio Ladio" - Metronomy (mp3)
"On the Motorway" - Metronomy (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
What Molly found amusing.
Viva La Oral History Of The State!
Relive the glorious of our childhood!