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Texas Prefab Lake House

January 7, 2015



Modern Texas Prefab Living

An admitted This Old House fanatic; Matt Risinger had grown up watching the PBS television series when, in 1989, a program aired that would change his life. The Wickwire Barn Series—the second time Bensonwood had appeared on the long-running home improvement program— featured Tedd Benson and an old barn being converted to a new house: a project Matt had dreamed of building for himself someday. It became the seminal moment in his decision to become the best builder he could be.

Architect Andrew Plumb of award-winning Aamodt / Plumb Architects in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was looking for a builder to build a highly custom modern, ranch styled, timber frame home designed for a particular client he has known for years. The lakeside project, expected to approach near Passive House standards, would have an aggressive build schedule of one year, and it needed to come in at a fixed budget—so Andrew knew it had to be done right. His first thought was to call Bensonwood for its expertise in the sustainable fabrication of high-performance homes. His second thought was to get green builder, Matt Risinger, now of Risinger Homes, to say Tedd Benson's company would be fabricating and installing the home's shell. With the name Benson still fresh in his mind after a quarter-century, Matt jumped at the opportunity. The home plan, viewable on the Aamodt / Plumb website, is an interpretation of the Texas Ranch vernacular, with two gabled buildings joined by a light-filled entry hall. This prefab home, designed for a young family, strives to create a relaxed, contemporary feel by using natural and reclaimed materials, ample daylighting, and a thoughtful relationship to the site.

"We sought to create a warm modern atmosphere through the interplay of simple forms, materials, and natural light," says Plumb. The play of the modern and rustic is achieved through material choices and elemental forms. Japanese (Shou Sugi Ban style) charred wood siding, mesquite, and ash flooring, and an oversized FireRock masonry chimney and fireplace add a dramatic touch both inside and out. With its elegant but simple timber frame, the light-filled open interior, richly-finished flooring, and high-end fixtures perfectly complement the striking exterior while framing the surrounding views. Matt Risinger asserts that "The most sustainable house is a pretty one. Architect-designed houses will be loved and cared for because they are beautiful. Ugly houses will fall into disrepair and be torn down eventually." Beyond the aesthetics, this house was designed to coast through the hot parts of the day with little need for air conditioning. This is achieved through rigorous attention to air sealing and our panelization process using super-insulated walls. All the exterior claddings are installed over a rain-screen air gap. The roof, wood siding, and even stucco have an air gap behind them so that the potential for water intrusion over the building's life is minimized. Risinger installed super-efficient mechanical equipment to make the best possible use of the resources consumed. 95%+ efficiency gas equipment, super high-efficiency AC, Ultra-Aire Split Dehumidifier prevents mold and allows the owners to keep thermostat settings high when the building is unoccupied. You can watch Matt Risinger's YouTube video of the home being assembled here. Once the project is completed and finish photos become available, we will revisit this home to detail its space plan. Stay tuned.

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