Modular Design: Quick Turnaround on Cape Cottages [Slideshow]

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No new cottages have been built on the Cape—until now.

Modular Homes, Cottage, Cape Cod, Beach

Architect Douglas Kallfelz laid out the Heritage Sands cottages around common greens that run perpendicular to the water, which creates small neighborhoods while providing common view corridors and pathways for visual and physical access to the ocean. Photo: Alison Caron.

August 14, 2015

During the 1930s, New England families fled to Cape Cod in the summer to seek relief from the heat. Campgrounds with tents evolved into clusters of beach cottages that over the years were passed down from generation to generation. No new cottages have been built on the Cape—until now.

CapeBuilt Development, Newburyport, Mass., and Dennis, Mass., town planner Dan Fortier spearheaded the adoption of new zoning that paved the way for Heritage Sands. Located on the site of a former RV park in Dennisport, Mass., Heritage Sands is “the first time in 50 years that a parcel like this, on the ocean, has been developed as cottages in pocket neighborhoods,” CapeBuilt’s Rob Brennan says.

Due to the very short construction time frame—from Memorial Day to July 4—CapeBuilt chose to have modules fabricated by Keiser Homes, of Oxford, Maine. Once they’re delivered to the site, it takes one day to set them on the foundation and another day to make them weather-tight. Five weeks later, the keys are handed over to the new owners.

Since the crew only has to dig the foundations and use a crane to remove the modules from a flatbed truck, “You’re not stockpiling adhesives or other materials that conservation agents wouldn’t want to see,” Brennan says.

Photo: Alison Caron

“While initially it might seem that designing with modular would be a constraint, the simple fact of working within certain dimensional modules was a perfect fit in this case,” says Douglas Kallfelz, principal and managing partner of Union Studio Architecture, in Providence, R.I. “With the Cape cottage, good proportion, simple details, and natural materials are the rule. The dimensions of the standard boxes gave us a framework that fit nicely into the program and the aesthetic goals of the neighborhood.”

The biggest challenge, he says, “has been the loss of the simple field adjustment. Often subtle issues only become apparent when you see [them] in person. With modular, by the time you realize it would have been good to move that light switch to the other stud bay, the switch, Sheetrock, insulation, and fixture are already installed and working.”

Prices start in the low $400,000s. Units with direct ocean frontage currently start in the $920,000s. Brennan says a new home on a 1-acre lot with ocean frontage would run $1.5 million to $2 million, so buyers perceive Heritage Sands as a good value. To date, CapeBuilt has sold 38 cottages.

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