Redwood City Prefabricated Housing Project: Project Profile

Which is the firm responding to these questions, and what is your role in the project?

The Office of Charles F. Bloszies, FAIA serves as both principal architect and structural engineer for the project. Founded in 1985, our award-winning, specialized hybrid practice is focused on urban infill design. We understand design theoretically, while striving to execute our work in a practical, yet innovative manner. For over a quarter century, we have renovated, adapted, and modified old buildings, and created new modern, context-sensitive urban infill structures—often on challenging sites, and many in highly visible locations. We are interested in how “new” meets “old,” working at varied scales and for a range of uses.

What are the vital statistics of the project? (Project type, size, location, stage of design or construction, project team, etc.) Please include some images of the project.

The project is a navigation center for homeless individuals and families located in Redwood City, California, utilizing our own proprietary modular solution that we call step(1)housing. For this site owned by San Mateo County, the solution includes 240 sleeping units housing 260 people, as well as support offices, medical facilities, dining and community spaces, and landscaped areas (Figure 1). The total built area is roughly 37,000 square feet on a 2.5 acre site.

The step(1)housing solution is largely constructed using factory-assembled modules that are built concurrently with site work and utility installation. It also includes advanced technologies like integrated photovoltaic systems, recycled water irrigation, and an all-electric commercial kitchen.

Currently under construction as of this writing (Figure 2), the project should be complete and beginning occupancy in February 2023.

Here are the project team details:

Project Sponsor: San Mateo County Project Development Unit

Design Team

  • Architect: Office of Charles F. Bloszies, FAIA
  • Structural Engineer: Office of Charles F. Bloszies, FAIA
  • Landscape Architect: CMG Landscape Architecture
  • Civil Engineer: BKF Engineers
  • MEP-FP Consulting Engineer: Meyers+
  • Energy modeling: Meyers+
  • Commercial Kitchen Consultant: Marshall Associates
  • Renderings: Tangram

Construction Team

  • General Contractor: XL Construction
  • Modular Vendor: Silver Creek Industries
  • MEP-FP Design-Build Trade Partners:
    • Rosendin (electrical, low-voltage)
    • Air Systems (mechanical and plumbing)
    • Eco-Fire (sprinklers)
  • PV Vendor: Solar Technologies

What were the main software applications used for this project, and how were they used? Please include some screenshots of the applications showing their use on the project.

The design team used Sketchup to generate concept design studies for client review (Figure 3). For construction documentation and collaboration with other team members, and with the General Contractor’s design-build trade partners, we used AutoCAD (Figure 4). For the rendering shown in Figure 1, Tangram built a model in 3DS Max using the design team’s Sketchup model and used 3DS Max and VRay to produce the rendering.

Some of the project’s design-build teams, including Silver Creek Industries and the MEP-FP trade partners, utilized Revit and other modeling software to design the factory-built structures, study MEP connections, and generate shop drawings.

Did the project have a specific approach or methodology for the application of AEC technology?

The design team prioritized AEC technology that is fast and flexible in the initial design phases, and which is able to be used by a wide variety of consultants. The approach was driven by two related factors: the project’s funding source and the construction delivery method.  The project is funded by the State of California’s Homekey program, which mandates an extremely aggressive construction schedule. To stay on track, the project team opted for a factory-built modular construction delivery method that would allow the buildings to be built concurrently with the site work and utilities. MEP and FP were also delivered design-build, which allowed those trade partners to install their scopes with maximum efficiency. Consequently, the design team needed to be able to develop the overall project design very quickly and to share this design with a wide variety of consultants, all of whom use different types of software. 

Would you consider this project to be an example of the cutting-edge use of technology? If so, how and why?

Yes, in a sense. Executing our step(1)housing solution incorporates a number of cutting-edge construction and building technologies, each requiring a specialized consultant (or team of consultants) using different software for their design and implementation. Some of these consultants are more technologically advanced and some are less so. Somewhat paradoxically, older AEC technologies like AutoCAD and Sketchup end up being excellent tools for collaboration with all kinds of consultants because they are so flexible. Any consultant, from a civil engineer to a modular vendor to a rendering firm, can adapt an AutoCAD or Sketchup file to suit its own particular needs.

What are some of the main challenges you faced in your implementation of AEC technology on this project?

Using AutoCAD makes drawing coordination more time consuming in the construction documents phase, especially when compared to modeling programs like Revit. However, in this case, the initial speed of setting up the project in AutoCAD more than made up for the extra coordination work.

Were there any requirements on this project that were not addressed by currently available technologies?

The currently available technologies were adequate for this project.

Any additional information/observations/insights on the use of AEC technology for this project that you would like to share?

The use of older software technology actually enabled more advanced construction techniques for this project. Sometimes the best innovation lies in finding new uses for old things.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Adam Sullivan of C.C. Sullivan for facilitating this profile.

About the Author

Michael Bullman, AIA, LEED AP is an architect and senior associate with The Office of Charles F. Bloszies FAIA in San Francisco, Cal., where he is focused on urban infill design. Bullman has nearly 20 years of experience in design, project management, construction administration, and client service. He holds a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Washington.


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