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Kithaus, Modular Housing Systems

Relevant requirements include optimizing resource


conservation, energy efficiency and health, generally
subsumed under the term sustainability.

This exploration has brought prefabrication to the forefront.


Prefabrication refers to dwelling parts and systems
manufactured in a production facility and transported to the
building site for assembly. Inherent in prefabrication are
sustainable values derived from use of alternative building
materials, less material waste in the production process,
less impact on the building site, improved quality control and
higher production tolerances.

There is a demand for dwellings


which can adapt to new lifestyle
requirements; optimization of
health, energy efficiency and
resource conservation.

On the experimental edge of architectural design new soft-


ware providing computer-generated structural analysis
promises to evolve new ways of fabricating buildings, which
in turn will offer innovative options in design, and
subsequenty, a revitalized dialogue between interior and
exterior living spaces
MHS is essentially a
traditional post and
beam system using
simple rectilinear
space frame geometry
and a bolted rather
than nailed method of
assembly.

San Diego Westfield Mall hospitality office, photo by the author

component. This is supplemented by a their entire length which allows connec-


Modular Housing System bolt-in-place diagonal corner brace for tion with other frame members at any
multi-story structures, usually concealed point, offering an virtually
The Modular Housing System within the wall panels. The sheathing limitless rectilinearstructural configura-
developed by Tim Siahatgar of Unique system uses either structural insulated tions. The channels also readily
Structural Systems, LLC, is a hybrid panels (SIPs) or a combination of other accommodate modular window panels
modular building system offering an panel materials which slide into the or composite panel walls and can be
array of benefits including sustainability. channels of the framing members. framed to accommodate conventional
windows of any shape.
The MHS is a pre-engineered system The way in which these components
using a variety of aluminum extrusions are integrated provides a synergistic Roofing, supported by a simple roof
for post and beam framing, connected range of effects. The MHS framing com- truss and extruded profile solid web
by a patented concealed bolt-and-clamp ponents have a channeled profile along truss rafters, can be either conventional,
framing member profile framing corner MHS framing connection

SIPs or metal panel roofing. The floor- 1988. He completed the IBC and ICC the best of both worlds; the flexibility,
ing uses the same extruded solid web certifications for the MHS in 2008. simplicity and strength of traditional post
truss pieces as the joists and can and beam structures with the labor
be used with any conventional flooring MHS versatility is derived from the savings and efficient economics of
material. Additionally, the joists will also patented quick-connect clamping industrial production. It is the closest we
accommodate a suspended panel system, which allows assembly of a have so far come to the ideal of a plug-
ceiling system. Foundation systems can structure with only an impact wrench. A in architecture.”
be conventional curtain or slab construction team can be trained in
foundations or piling foundations typical one day and time and materials are not The system further facilitates
of many post and beam structures. wasted due to errors in the construction modularity with a simple selection of
phase. This, along with non-destructive components that supports the
When Siahatgar first arrived in the U.S. disassembly – again with only a hand structure’s frame while also affording
and saw the wood stud framing system tool required – makes the structure access to the connections. An entire
in use he said to himself, ‘I don’t believe relocatable in either the same structure can be framed by employing
in it and I don’t want to work with it as configuration or in an entirely different only seven components. In addition,
an architect.’ one. An MHS structure can be any existing materials, finishing or
disassembled and reassembled as connections can be applied to the
Siahatgar got his Masters degree in many as ten times with no damage to system.
architectural engineering in 1976. the integrity of the aluminum members.
In 1985 he first developed the MHS There are other advantages achieved
system on a small scale for showcase Siahatgar says, “This is a truly modular by this system; it offers all the benefits
assembly. Seeing the possibilities it building system. To me, modular means of SIP construction while eliminating
offered he expanded the design and using the same element in different the main weakness – the connection of
converted it into a building system in ways. It is a system which offers us the SIPs – because the SIP is always
housed within the framing member’s This enables use of the entire space obstacles with the intent of exploiting
channels. The system also distributes within the frame. Dead space, a wasted the full potential of a building
the panel shear strength across the resource resulting from conventional configuration. As a result, almost any
entire aluminum frame. Further, construction, is no longer an issue. site-specific or chosen application can
because the frame corner members The MHS structure functions more be designed to match the aluminum
are always open, utilities can be routed efficiently because it offers more frame interface. MHS construction
within them. Each dimension created exploitable space. options can be combined with any
produces a space frame that allows use material and installation technique
along the entire surface area, along the Siahhatgar says, “The modular used under previous technologies. For
framing members and within the ceiling, components were designed and instance, wood framing can be used
producing a complete envelope. developed to solve construction within the structure for internal space
division. Characteristically the MHS
includes rather than excludes solutions Kithaus office/studio, Modular Housing System
to become highly adaptable.”
The MHS prefabrication system and used in an MHS foundation is almost
MHS is essentially a traditional post and aluminum construction in general one half that required for a steel or
beam system using simple rectilinear guarantee important energy efficiencies. concrete structure.
space frame geometry and a bolted The first group of benefits concerns the
rather than nailed method of assembly. weight of the aluminum building system: Less weight during transport of building
It overcomes the limitations of using MHS aluminum framing weight is 1/12 components means less use of energy
large, heavy, specially-crafted lumber that of steel framing and 1/24 of and lower shipping costs. Flat pack
– the limitations which compelled the concrete building. This eliminates the shipping of the components provides
invention of stud framing –  through the need for heavy equipment at the site, substantially greater efficiency than
use of a light weight, low cost recyclable since one worker can carry a 12-foot transport of modular boxes; it is easier,
material (aluminum) and precision- MHS framing member. Compare this faster, more flexible and less expensive
engineered, mass-produced modular with placement of one steel I-beam at while storage is easier and less
components. the job site. The weight of concrete expensive as well.