Alchemy’s Newest weeHouse® in Williamsburg, VA

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Designing a home for the birthplace of American democracy rang real, wee, and true for Alchemy, an architectural firm whose mission is to make stimulating, engaging, and efficient design accessible and affordable for a wide audience. The Williamsburg weeHouse is an example of the standard weeHouse PAIR: two modules that create a 3 bedroom, 2 bath full-time residence for clients. It is approx. 1400 SF of finished interior space, (another 80 SF make up the recessed porches), while a proposed deck will eventually add a significant amount of outdoor living area. The weeHouse sits on a 1200 SF walkout foundation.

The house was designed by Alchemy Architects, St. Paul, MN, and built by a modular builder in Martinsville, VA. Site and finish work was done by local general contractor Brad Harbin, of Wayne Harbin Builder, Inc. (Williamsburg and Yorktown). The Williamsburg weeHouse accomplishes the clients’ hopes of building an affordable new contemporary home that complements, rather than competes, with the spacious corner lot in James City County. Sited amid old-growth trees and established fields, the weeHouse utilized the ‘green’ technology inherent in prefab construction.

Designing the Williamsburg weeHouse was a straightforward process as the clients followed the weeHouse PAIR standard plans. By doing this, the advertised cost of the approx. 1400 SF weeHouse ($185,000 in 2009) was on budget with the final price of the modules ($198,000; or $138.00 SF), which includes a few “upgrades”. weeHouse standard specs already include smart choices including bamboo flooring, Andersen Series 400 windows and doors, the trademark EPDM ‘flat’ rubber roof, Fisher Paykel appliances, Kohler and Duravit fixtures, and IKEA cabinetry. Appliances are Energy Star® rated and qualify for tax credits. Upgrades requested by the client (totaling $8500) included oak-front cabinetry, LED recessed lights, spray foam insulation (which will pay for itself in as little as 3 years), ceiling fans, and 4' roof overhangs that provide extra sun shading in the summer, but allow for a passive heat source in the winter months.

Another smart choice was using Alchemy’s “corn-crib” siding, a naturally ventilating rainscreen. The siding is sourced locally, installed on-site by a local general contractor and is included in the aforementioned price. The foundation fees added approximately $48,500 to the project.

Alchemy’s weeHouse 2010 standards are illustrated on-line and provide pricing based on geographic regions. The standards illustrate progressive thinking and efficient use of materials, two hallmarks of Alchemy’s designs.

St. Paul, MN — Scott Ervin
Scott graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota. His experience spans residential commercial and public works projects and has concentrated around hybridizing hand-made craft with industrial production systems. He is also an accomplished ceramist and photographer, and has shown in galleries around the country. He recently combined filmmaking and architecture in "A Real Genius", a documentary in which he worked to choreograph Beethoven’s 9th symphony with lights atop downtown Minneapolis buildings.

In 2009 he received a “30 Under 40” award by The Systems Built Industry, and was project manager for the Linden Hills weeHouse, an AIA-MN 2008 Award Winner. The Williamsburg weeHouse is the 22nd built weeHouse in the United States and Canada.

St. Paul, MN — Established in 1992, Alchemy Architects’ mission is to make stimulating, engaging, and efficient design accessible and affordable for a wide audience. Our distinctive approach to architecture and design combines a playful design process, collaborative relationships with clients, and partnerships with builders and fabricators, to create a harmonious blend of site, building, and community. With sustainable practices as a mainstay of our daily work, Alchemy utilizes recycling and reuse along with building strategies that reduce waste. Our multidisciplinary team draws inspiration from art, literature, history, and leading creative thinkers to create alternative and atypical project solutions. Alchemy’s innovative weeHouse prefab system and our “tightwad panache” renovations continue to gain award-winning recognition internationally as well as locally. Since an objective of Alchemy is to create accessible architecture, we particularly appreciate this recognition.
Contact: Betsy Gabler, 651-647-6650


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