Gualala, Calif. — HIGH up on the northern California coast, nestled in trees but with a distant view of the Pacific, sits the small, energy-efficient home shown below. It's a 1,205-square-foot, two-story house of contemporary design. The first floor features a living room, solarium, kitchen, laundry, bedroom, and bath. A bedroom/loft with bath are on the second floor. Redwood is the principal wood used both inside and out.
Beyond the extensive use of redwood, what makes this house different is that it was built from a pre-cut kit. All of the pieces - beams, posts, and framing materials - were cut to their proper lengths at the factory and then shipped in a package to the site and assembled by a local contractor.
The house was designed by San Francisco architect William Bruner for Pacific Frontier Homes Inc., now known as Stanley Building Supplies, of Fort Bragg, Calif. Present owner Ed Taubold, who with John C. Bailey and other investors started the business in 1970, regards this model as one of their most successful. The homeowner, a single woman, has found it eminently suitable.
``It has been the prototype for the many adaptations that have followed,'' says Mr. Taubold.
``We call it a `landmark' design in terms of how well it works and its compact livability.''
When the house was built several years ago, the cost for everything including appliances was about $65 per square foot - at a time when the average building costs were, and still are, between $100 and $110 per square foot.
Today, Taubold estimates, its completed cost would range between $72 and $80 per square foot, not including the property.
Solar heat is popular in this area. Customarily, the glass solarium/greenhouse in the house is oriented south, and a concrete heat sink topped with ceramic floors supplies the passive solar collecting mass for ultimate passage on to the house.
Multiple skylights work well to supply maximum solar gain, and the open floor plan allows heat to rise naturally throughout the house.
All of the windows are double glazed. The fireplace/stove is the main heat source, although there is a backup heating system.
The house is yet another indication that construction and design of new homes have undergone an evolution over the last 20 years. It also indicates a trend in housing toward the use of more pre-assembled components.
``At Stanley, we feature the durability of redwood, plus the integrity of post-and-beam framing,'' says Mr. Bailey. The Stanley kit contains all materials for the exterior wall of a house. It also contains the double-glazed windows, doors, redwood exterior siding, posts, and interior paneling, as well as the fiberglass roof shingles - and even the insulation for the roof and walls.
The Stanley company offers the kit home buyer a complete architectural and engineering service, cost estimating, and knowledge of local building codes.
``We help those who buy our houses assess their own skills, as well as the time and money they have available, in order that they can determine the right approach for their project,'' Bailey says.
Is such a pre-cut house a bargain?
``It depends,'' he says. ``There is no easy or inexpensive way to build a new house.
``But we feel an owner/builder can effect significant savings in the final cost if he has determination and patience, can follow directions - and can do much of the work himself.
``We estimate that the savings on a three-bedroom ranch-style kit house over a comparable house built on site in traditional `stick' construction can run as high as $10,000.''
Although the company started with kits for second homes, today 70 percent of the kits sold are for primary residences. The company estimates that owners participate in the building of about half of that number.
A catalog with about 10 models is available for $6 from Stanley Building Supplies, 1200 N. Main St., PO Box 1019, Fort Bragg CA 95437.