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b-line from Hive Modular

Go to the b-line status page

In June 2005 we spoke to the folks at Hive Modular about their new b-line product.

fpf Could you tell us about your objectives with the b-line series?

The Hive Crew L-R: Paul Stankey, Marc Asmus, Bryan Meyer.

Well, it may have become cliché, but we wanted to design an example of an affordable (to us, as typical first home buyers) modern house. We saw architect-designed prefab houses intended more for self gratification than to solve the challenge of attractive, affordable modern. Ours are cool houses, and we’re proud of the designs, but they are not our end-all dream house. They are rational and practical compromises between our design values and the established processes of modular construction. We wanted to adapt to and expand upon established fabrication systems instead of presenting a design that is reverse engineered to be prefab.

We’ve designed the b-line houses to be efficient and modest in size. The proportion of the b-line can adapt to a variety of sites, including walk-out/sloped sites. We see the small, medium and large B-line’s as house types with features and amenities desirable in their size and cost range. The plan for each version is set, but clients can select from modern or traditional siding (the character wrapper), pre-selected color schemes, flat or pitched roof as well as interior finish packages. To be efficient and keep costs low (and easily estimated) we encourage clients to chose from these pre-designed plans and alternatives. It allows the houses to be personalized (to the individual client or for differentiation in developments) but also fit various contexts. If the plans or options don’t meet a client’s needs, our architects will work with them to customize any model or create a custom design at an hourly rate quoted in our price kit.

Currently in development is our c-line (think “cube”) which allows for more proportional variety and will meet the larger home market. The prototype is planned for construction in late summer

fpf   The house that you’ve built is an example of the “medium” sized b-line. Can you tell us about the “small” and “large” models?
HM   The “Small” version of the B-Line is a simple one story “bar”, the most basic of which has no accessory bump-outs. The kitchen is within the main “bar” and accessory pieces are used to add bedrooms. We have also developed a version that has an accessory bedroom separated from the main bar by a screened porch. In the pitched roof version of this model, the ceiling of the main rooms can be vaulted. The “Large” version of the B-Line simply employs more and larger accessory volumes to add features like a larger kitchen, a powder room and mudroom and a main level master bedroom suite. (Ed: See the floorplans on the b-line status page)
fpf What attracted you to stick framed modular as opposed to other choices you have for a prefab system?
Stick framed modular is a huge and established industry. As residential architects, we’re familiar with this construction type and were able to quickly study and understand the system. Stick frame modular is recognized by the IRC and most municipalities and we’ve avoided many permit and code review problems. Factories abound and employ largely standardized fabrication techniques.
 fpf   Can you tell us about the materials you have chosen (interior and exterior) and why?
The exterior is a good example of what we mean by compromise with the modular industry. We wanted to use standard siding and windows available to us by modular suppliers. We created texture and variation to the simple volume b-line house by integrating factory installed fibercement siding with site installed corrogated metal. The metal adds depth and color, but most importantly provides a vertical texture – helping diminish the “shotgun” proportion of the module.

The interior was thought of as an opportunity to employ basic factory finishes for the main surfaces. Upon this backdrop we designed and provided special items such as a steel stair, full height sliding doors, glass tile showers and high end plumbing and light fixtures. We think that the interior design character is a simple modern, but one that can adapt to individual homeowner tastes and furnishings. By concentrating on creating an open plan with dynamic spatial quality, we were able to make interesting rooms that do not depend heavily on high level finishes to be dramatic and livable.

The b-line prototype house contains Ikea cabinetry, which is readily available and customized by us, but we will typically offer factory prefabricated cabinetry or just our Ikea design configuration. Due to unreliable supply by the stores, Ikea products would be ordered by the homeowner and can be assembled by the homeowner or their contractor.
fpf   What types of compromises did you have to make to get this product built?
HM   Compromises were made more to adapt to the modular system and scale constraints, than in finishes. With our square foot cost target we utilized factory basic finishes and were able to afford high-end fixtures and finishes that we liked and thought were appropriate for the house design.
fpf How do you define your geographic market?

Currently and for the coming year we are focused on our immediate region including Minnesota, Wisconsin, upper Illinois and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We will expand to other areas as we gauge interest and create partnerships with more fabricators. It is our goal to provide a high level of service along with our products and we want to grow within our capabilities. Another lesson learned from other architect-designed prefab is to not over promise and under deliver.

fpf   Will the first B-Line (already built in Minneapolis) be used as a “show home” of sorts?
Yes, as long as Paul picks up his clothes. Paul (of Hive) and Sarah were the brave souls to build our prototype house and we will show the house by appointment. We were fortunate enough to have the home furnished by a local design studio for our open house party, but now it shows the realities of a first time homeowner.
fpf Most architects in this market are keeping sales centrally located – nobody has yet tried establishing a dealer network. What are your thoughts on your sales channel?

We have an incremental growth plan to focus locally first and grow to markets where we see interest. This limits our risk and allows us to personally oversee quality and customer service. We’ve been focusing long term goals based on networks as well as contracting our own set and finish crews. We are trying to build value in a well rounded product and services oriented business.




Are there any specific design aspects of the b-line that you’d like to discuss?


The houses are meant to be incremental in scale. The b-line is inspired by single box (and stacked single box) proportions. By adding “accessory” modules we are able to greatly enhance the plan and create an interior space that belies the linear parti. These flanking volumes provide versatility, especially with the b-line large, without appearing like a typical suburban house.

fpf   Thanks for talking to fabprefab, we look forward to following the growth of Hive Modular.
HM   Thank you.  

Go to the b-line status page

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2003,2004, 2005.