Universal Design Drives FabCab’s Non-Drab Prefab

Universal Design Drives FabCab’s Non-Drab Prefab


Quality conquers quantity for FabCab. The Seattle-based prefab building company designs its projects with one major goal in mind—the homes are as accessible as possible.

FabCab’s houses, often on the smaller side, are designed to embrace the needs of clients who are typically Boomers or are ready for retirement. It achieves this through a concept called “universal design.”

“We aim to mainstream universal design, and add as many UD features as possible,” says Bruce Waltar, business manager for FabCab. “We just want it to be designed and built correctly the first time and not require remodeling years down the line.”

According to Waltar, this approach is simply “smart design.” The long-term goal for FabCab is that these concepts eventually weave themselves into the fabric of the entire building and design industry.

“It’s nothing special, extra or optional. It just becomes part of a good design approach,” says Waltar.

Learn more about how technology plays a part in this approach, and scroll to the bottom for a photo tour of one of FabCab’s recent accommodating projects.

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universal design infographicTechnology and Universal Design: A Necessity and a Risk

In a company consisting of mainly architects, Waltar came to FabCab with a background in technology. As such, he had plenty to say about technology’s role in universal design.

And sometimes, high-tech options aren’t always best. “First and foremost, if technology is included, it has to be integrated and reliable,” says Waltar.

In addition, Waltar stresses the significance of simplicity. He finds that much of FabCab’s client base isn’t comfortable with the typical tribulations that arise with high-concept technologies.

“Too many buttons and too many options are sometimes a detriment as opposed to a help. And that’s really hard for me to say as a technology nerd,” he says. “We’ve learned that sometimes the bleeding edge technology is not what needs to be mainstreamed when it comes to aging in place and universal design scenarios.”

However, this methodology doesn’t totally disregard technology.

Waltar points to cool innovations offered in FabCab homes such as a touch sensitive faucet offered by Delta or a Dyson Airblade hand dryer that integrates in unison. Additionally, forward thinking in relation to appliances has become extremely popular for universal design like adding custom drawers to microwaves and dishwashers.

Dishwasher drawers allow for ease of loading and unloading.
Dishwasher drawers allow for ease of loading and unloading.

“That’s just a good step forward for all, because eventually everyone’s back will ache, and they won’t want to lean over anymore,” laughs Waltar.

FabCab also sees the notion of automation solutions becoming more mainstream in universal design. Oftentimes, clients wish they had added more automated solutions from the get-go—a popular example being motorized shades.

Tech During the Building Process

Waltar also notes how important technology is during the building process itself, as prefab construction uses the advantageous approach of offsite fabrication and onsite assembly.

Using technology, such as 3D design software, allows designers to understand the built environment ahead of time. On the fabrication end, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines allow for precise cuts with little chance of errors.

Waltar compares this to a “high-end Ikea,” where a kit of parts is delivered to the jobsite. This technique eliminates waste, allows for easier transportation logistics and creates more interesting volumes than what would typically be restricted by modular trucking dimensions.

“In other words, custom prefab homes will be more readily available over time with this ‘just in time’ approach,” says Waltar. “Homeowners will not just need to pick model A or B.”

And that’s what universal design is all about, and it’s what drives FabCab’s entire business model—choice, customization and comfort in knowing that one’s home will grow and evolve with their lifestyle.

Tour one of FabCab’s recent projects below—a Port Townsend residence designed specifically for its clients, a couple, one of whom operates a powered wheelchair. See how this home uses universal design and technology to accommodate the individual needs of the homeowner. (Photography by Dale Lang)


[tps_title]Explore a Universal Design Home[/tps_title]

Explore inside FabCab's Port Townsend home.
Explore inside FabCab’s Port Townsend home.
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About The Author

Greg Vellante is a staff writer and multimedia specialist at TecHome Builder, as well as a content coordinator for AE Ventures events. He has over a decade of experience writing for various publications on topics that range from cinema to editorials to home technology. His favorite technologies fall into the A/V and home entertainment realm, and he’s keeping a close eye on the rising trends in robotics and virtual/augmented reality. Greg resides in Boston, holds a degree in Media Studies from Emerson College and pursues screenwriting/filmmaking in his free time.

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