Friday, September 12, 2008

Huf House

The Huf House is a home produced in Germany offering a very high quality prefabricated timber frame house. Begun in 1912, this company offers a highly sophisticated product and marketing system that delivers a striking home. They have built about 9,000 homes. I visited a show home south of London, and having built a post and beam house, I marveled at the sophistication, detailing, and spaces.

While all the Huf Houses have a distinctive and common look, their architects work very closely with the clients to design the homes of their choice. The weird thing is that you know a Huf House when you see it, yet clients have anything but a standardized house. It is a clear set of rules and constraints that the clients work within. Materials and detailing are consistent. There are modules of 2.3, 2.5, and 3 meters that the designers work off of to customize each home. The modules have to be in place because the house is produced in a high tech factory where most of the building processes are entirely automated, resulting in overall tolerances of 3 mm!

The entire process is highly controlled and regulated offering a construction time of only three and a half months. The actual house will get built and dried in in about 5 days. But, most of the time takes place in pre-planning, and in the end doesn’t save that much time. People buy these houses for the quality and high workmanship and it is amazing. But, at a cost of $300-400/sf without the cost of land, it is not cheap.

You are essentially buying a German product, even if the house is not built in Germany. Clients will go to the Huf Village and spend 2-3 days making every decision from fixtures to appliances, to final finishes.

This product fills a distinct niche market and certainly won’t ever produce larger scale applications. It offers a product for people who want to self-build to a certain extent, but want most of it figured out for them. Once the product is delivered, you are basically beholden to the company, and changes in the house can be difficult. That is why they work so hard at the beginning to get things right. When I asked the salesman at the home I was visiting if people could make changes (such as adding sockets, enclosing rooms, etc) or adding onto to the house, he replied that you could do it yourself, but it is so nice, you don’t want to mess anything up. Since the homes are on modules, additions are possible and straightforward, but not cost effective, because you have bring the entire back out from Germany and begin the process again. Even the product is expensive, it essentially works because it is sold as a complete product. Huf House economies of scale don’t make it more affordable or empowering, just a higher quality and better product. But for something that is so rigorously controlled, it still offers amazing possibilities.

More Info: Huf House


Jen said...

Me likes...a lot!

Paul Day said...

Really beautifully designed homes - and widely acknowledged as such. I would love one of these properties one day and be part of the process which delivers such a well considered end product. Paul from West Bridgford