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Schoolyard trailers turned into modular homes

May 31, 2012 | 10:58 am

Trailer de Cuba exteriorWhen it comes to energy efficiency, most homeowners focus on heating, cooling and lighting. But it may take as long as 15 years for a home's energy usage to match the amount of energy embedded in a home's construction.

This was the concept that a West Hills architecture firm embraced with research+upcycle, a modular home company that intends to reuse classroom trailers, transforming them into low-cost but high-style living space.

"We really need to rethink the way that we build homes," said Chase Anderson, who founded the company last year with his father, Robert, an architect and general contractor, and his stepmother, Petra, an interior designer. "With all the changes in the housing market and economy over the last several years, high-end, custom-built homes aren't selling." They started looking at different structures that would be inexpensive to transform into something chic.

Trailer de Cuba interiorThe Andersons considered shipping containers and construction office trailers, but their size translated to too much expense and time. They investigated classroom trailers after seeing one at a local public school.

The used trailers, which cost $10,000 apiece, conform to California's Division of the State Architect standards. Designed to provide shelter, the structures are easy to work with. Each measures 24 by 40 feet and consists of two halves that can be easily seamed together or taken apart and reconfigured.

Anderson's company salvages the trailers' steel frames, guts the interiors and lifts the 8-foot dropped ceilings 15 inches to increase the sense of space.

Pricing starts at $100 per square foot. Buyers will have a selection of finishes, fixtures and appliances, including low-flow toilets and shower heads, EnergyStar appliances, paints free of volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde, and flooring made of finished oriented strand board.

So far, research+upcycle has converted just one classroom trailer into a functioning home. The L-shaped Trailer de Cuba, a prototype of about 1,500 square feet in Granada Hills, took 10 weeks and cost $100,000 to build.


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-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: Trailer de Cuba exterior and interior. Credit: Cristopher Nolasco for LAhomeExposure