Steve Glenn’s eco-conscious LivingHomes gets more vertical with a new factory and its first development
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Living Homes, except where noted
In 2006, entrepreneur Steve Glenn started a company. The idea was great—ecofriendly pre-fabricated homes. The timing was not. “It was just a year and change before the beginning of the worst real estate downturn since the Great Depression,” says the entrepreneur, sitting at his desk in LivingHomes’ modest Santa Monica office.
Ten years later, the downturn, or what Glenn terms a “nuclear winter in home building” has thawed, thanks to an improved real-estate and building climate, plus an increase in awareness around environmentally sustainable construction and energy efficient homes.
“In the last three years we’ve grown a lot,” he reports. LivingHomes currently has 45 projects under contract—no small feat given the company’s grand total of 30 homes since its start—and has just opened a dedicated manufacturing plant in Rialto, California, an hour east of downtown Los Angeles.
A Plant of Their Own
Given the caliber of the LivingHomes product—the luxury tier of pre-fab homes—the brand’s new facility, Plant Prefab, has increasingly become an essential part of the business. Previously, the firm had outsourced the production of its homes—which are created in modules then shipped to a client’s site for assembly, nearly always in one day—to various factories around the country.
Not an ideal way to realize LivingHome’s sophisticated designs, which generally require a certain level of customization.
“Plant Prefab is going to make it much, much easier for us to build our quality,” says Glenn. Designed around executing high-quality, sustainable design, Plant Prefab will construct not only the modules used in LivingHome’s projects, but those of other architects, designers and builders looking to execute on their environmentally responsible designs.
“It has huge potential,” Glenn says of the facility.
Plant Prefab will no doubt also expand upon a big pragmatic plus of choosinga LivingHomes product: speed. “Once permitting is done, it is reasonable to assume that the construction phase will be half the time of a regular build,” says Matt Langton, who coordinates sales and operations for the company. It’s Friday afternoon and Langton is serving as info-packed docent for the public weekly tour offered each week at Glenn’s personal residence, which happens to be a living, breathing model of RK1—the company’s first, and most premium, model.
The LEED Platinum-certified home, the first in the nation to be given the highest rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, was completed in 2006, and the architect was none other than Ray Kappe, a Modernist maestro whose personal residence in Rustic Canyon is considered a jewel of California architecture.
A Dream Developing
Along with a busy project docket and a new factory, LivingHomes has expanded its product line to include entry level homes, known as the C6 and CK lines, which can be had for as low as $139,000 (modules only).
Another first: Atwater Village, the company’s first development, located in Los Angeles, adjacent to Silver Lake and Los Feliz, and done in partnership with sustainable developers REthink Development. The Atwater Village project is a collection of sun-filled town homes, three-stories each and all generously outfitted in steel, wood and glass. There are six residences in all, each LEED Platinum certified.
For Glenn, creating homes is something that has appealed to him since he was a child, though it was a circuitous path that brought him to LivingHomes. “It was the first thing I remember wanting to be,” he says of architecture. “I had LEGOS and books on Frank Lloyd Wright.” But realizing he had “neither the talent nor temperament” for the vocation after completing a summer program in design, he turned to what he had always done best—making stuff happen.
“I’ve always been kind of a self-starter,” says Glenn. “As a kid I would just get together projects; get my friends together and do stuff. I got started as a business entrepreneur in college.” He sold the first company he co-founded, Clearview Software, to Apple.
Touring his Kappe-designed home, perched on a Santa Monica hillside, with an exterior constructed mostly of glass and flanked by leafy trees, and a rooftop deck with views that stretch to the ocean, one can imagine the satisfaction Glenn must feel to bring such places into being. Aesthetically sophisticated homes that cater fluently to the comforts of daily life and don’t lean on the earth too hard to do so. “It’s been a longstanding plan to get into this,” he says of his eco-friendly home ventures.
“I know the homes we build are good homes. They have a smaller ecological footprint than most homes, they’re healthier than most homes, and a lot of people like the design. So far, so good, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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