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Prefab Housemakers Undaunted

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People sure are talking about prefab homes a lot lately. Sort of like scaling up your IKEA furniture until it's an entire building, these factory-built dwellings boast assembly-line efficiency that just isn't possible with on-site construction. The latest prefab headliner: ZETA Communities' experimental house in Oakland.

ZETA (which stands for Zero Energy Technology and Architecture) is aiming to build homes that produce as much energy as they create, also known as "net zero" homes. The Department of Energy is keeping an eye on the Oakland experiment to see how it pans out—our guess is that this showpiece will outperform what is practical in other settings.

But coverage so far has been puzzlingly credulous, with lots of optimism and few doubts cast on ZETA's claims. Last year, Curbed raised questions about the company's readiness, noting that competitor Michelle Kauffman had outpaced them on developing a prototype. Well, a year later, and Michelle's company just shuttered—a good sign? A bad sign?

ZETA's Oakland house has some neat ideas: a "utility core" at the heart of the building, instead of having many hard-to-manage utility branches; and a controller that shows you your real-time energy usage. Somehow, homeowners are supposed to be able to use this thing to reduce consumption, though we're not entirely clear how that's supposed to work. Could be awesome. Could be embarrassing.

Either way, it's something for us all to keep our eyes on.
· Prefab Houses Cheap, Ecological, Come With Stables for Unicorns [Curbed SF]
· Factory-Built Future: Affordable Homes for San Francisco [Curbed SF]
· ZETA Communities to Reveal Prefab Net-Zero Home [Fast Company]
· Can Greentech Make Housing Cheaper? [Greentech Enterprise]
· ZETA to open doors to 'net zero' home [CNET]

[Image by ZETA Communities]