After taking a chance on an undeveloped lot in an existing neighborhood, the now owners of this modern cape cod home were able to realize a dream. Today they are part of the well-known mid-century neighborhood of Bywater Court, steps from the beach, with unobstructed views of Martha’s Vineyard and Wood’s Hole, and in close proximity to many of Falmouth’s best attractions.
E. Gunnar Peterson was an underrated mid-century architect, known not just for the unique homes of Bywater Court but also the popular geodesic dome restaurant in Woods Hole, which was a collaboration between Peterson and Buckminster Fuller.
Although many of the original homes have been knocked down, several do remain and paying homage to the neighborhood’s roots was top of mind for the homeowners. They sought to balance the modernist touches envisioned by Peterson with a few of the more traditional housing elements found on Cape Cod. There are several beautiful examples of this blend in the outer cape as well as in Montauk, NY, designed by famous architects such as Jack Hall and Marcel Breuer.
A larger lot containing a pristine mid-century ranch had been subdivided in the 1960's and remained untouched for over 60 years, resulting in one of the few empty lots with close proximity to the Vineyard Sound.
The lot was large but came with constraints that significantly impacted the building footprint and structure requirements. Conservation laws required over 300 native species to be planted in the backyard, abutting Fresh River. This reduced the building footprint to only sixteen feet wide when factoring in township zoning setbacks from the street.
Modular construction helped to make this home a reality despite these constraints, accelerating completion time and reducing costs compared to site-built construction.
First, due to flood zone requirements, the home had to be elevated ten feet above grade (helping the views!). The ground level was overbuilt with steel and concrete rather than typical pressure treated lumber to provide a heavy and elemental base that grounded the home to the site. This could be built during the winter months while the modules were constructed in the temperature controlled factory. Working in parallel greatly helped the schedule, especially at a time when local builders had a 12 - 24 month wait list for new projects due to the high demand.
Second, going with modular construction actually helped contribute to the project getting approved by conservation. The board reacted positively to this because of the inherent benefits of modular construction regarding the environment and actually made it a requirement in their order of conditions for the project. Modular construction has 46% less of a carbon footprint when compared with site built construction. In addition, because 85% of the construction takes place offsite, the local neighbors and roadways experience 80% - 85% less construction traffic, noise and debris.