One of the main differentiators from other sellers in the market is that Aro Homes promises a thoughtful design with the ability to tweak and revise as the first families move in, thanks in part to a 3D “digital twin” that will be improved with feedback. Opting for non-automated manufacturing and ridding itself of modules and pre-designed parts, the house was first designed as a whole and later sectioned off into volumetric sections that can be shipped and stitched together at a pre-purchased, permit-approved infill site.
Part of the units’ appeal, no doubt, will be their design chops, which come courtesy of AD100 firm Olson Kundig. “The intent was not to design such a distinct house that it was a showpiece,” says Gish, “as much as it was to be able to fit and not stand out too much in any particular neighborhood in the NorCal area.”
“[One] key component of sustainability in our work is longevity—that means selecting materials that will age well and last, but also applying a rational and practical approach to architecture that allows a building to evolve through time,” says Olson Kundig’s cofounder and principal Tom Kundig. Those materials include acetylated cypress wood in the exterior siding, standing-seam metal roofs, and an ipe wood deck that seamlessly connects the interior of the home to its exterior in the front and back. Floor-to-ceiling windows maximize natural light inside the home, while views into the house remain protected. In addition, the house comes pre-plumbed with gray water cleaning and reclamation, Rheem water heating and HVAC, and Span electrical panels.
Olson Kundig is known for their mastery of moving parts like hand cranks, swiveling doors on tracks, and pulley systems, and though that signature is scaled back within the footprint of the Aro Home, enthusiasts of their work will still have plenty to explore—from a hand-crafted door handle at the entrance to a light-filtering steel staircase.
“The flexible floor plans—such as the ground-level bedroom and bathroom—can be used as an office or provide an accessible living space to accommodate aging in place,” says Blair Payson, principal at Olson Kundig. The firm’s research went as far back as the mail-order Sears Kit Modern Homes from the early 20th century, which had over 400 styles to choose from, to implement a flexible design approach for a less wasteful and more efficient home. Today, many Millennials and Gen Z’ers have veered away from the “starter house” route, opting instead for residences focused on longevity and environmental sustainability. “Ultimately, the fundamental goal at the core of Aro Homes is to reimagine traditional residential construction and shift existing paradigms around what buyers typically expect in a home,” adds Payson. “If this house can, in some small way, nudge the market to expect higher performance and higher quality design, the impact could be exponential.”