F(wee)Quently asked questions
1. Identify your build site and verify your financing options.
2. Gather preliminary estimates for modular work from Alchemy as well as site work from local General Contractors. Schedule a site visit with Alchemy to better examine your location and program.
3. Once you are comfortable with Alchemy’s process and recommendations, move into the Preliminary Design Phase with Alchemy. [$5000 Deposit Required – updated in Feb2018]
4. Alchemy will begin your drawings, will communicate with the factory about pricing and scheduling, and touch base with your General Contractor options to clear up all unknowns.
5. Upon approval of the program laid out by Alchemy and your General Contractor, continue on to the Schematic Design and Construction Documentation Phases.
weeHouse® is the trademarked name for contemporary, prefabricated structures originally designed by Geoffrey Warner, AIA, principal of Alchemy LLC. The weeHouse has evolved into a line of structures used as homes, offices and studios. From the iconic Arado weeHouse (essentially a weeHouse “Studio”) to the 4x modular dwellings, a weeHouse project has many shapes and options. WeeHouses are typically prefabricated in an independently owned factory then trucked to your site as finished as possible, but weeHouses may be site-built when needed.
While Alchemy is well known for our work of the weeHouse, Alchemy can design a custom project specifically for you. Custom projects may utilize modular elements in a custom design, but often are built on-site by licensed local builders. Custom projects don’t necessarily have to be more expensive than modular (weeHouse) projects, but they typically take more time and involve a larger team of people. Examples of Alchemy custom projects include the Blair BarnHouse, the Klocker House, and BarnHouse I & II.
Changes and customization to a standard weeHouse design are very possible, but changes in program, style, materials, etc. will add time and expense to the modular cost. During the Preliminary Design Phase, Alchemy will more fully assess your project’s design, timing, and cost. Please contact us directly to further discuss your weeHouse ideas!
The weeHouse equation is similar to any building project:
Land + Site Costs (Foundation, Landscaping, Garage, Driveways, etc.) + weeHouse + Transportation and Set + Finish Work.
Pricing varies by geographic region and by chosen options. We’ve estimated weeHouse pricing using ranges. You may see lower price references on Blogs and Web sites simply due to past regional conditions or assumptions on what was included.
Alchemy works in an open book process to provide the budget for the weeHouse + transportation & set/button up. We’ll work with your local General Contractor to fill-in budget numbers for the other elements. For more information about contracts, contractors and costs, download this helpful flier.
This map shows you where weeHouses have been built to-date. Occasionally, built weeHouse projects are available for public viewing via home tours, exhibitions (did you know a weeHouse was in Times Square?), ‘on parade,’ and during other special events. Stay in touch with us via weeMail for news on all opportunities. We try to keep our clients’ privacy intact as much as possible.
How about taking a weeVacation?! This is the current list of weeHouses that are available for rental through their owners. This is a great way to see and experience a weeHouse prior to starting a project with Alchemy.
Alchemy is an architecture firm only, and as such, does the design work and documentation for the weeHouse. We work with independent factories around the United States and Canada to build/produce the weeHouse. The factories also build other homes and structures. Respecting their business environment, safety guidelines and timelines, Alchemy does not organize tours or visits. Occasionally during production, factories will allow tours for the weeHouse owner.
Yes, building permits are required for weeHouses. Your general contractor will pull local permits, Alchemy and the factory producing your weeHouse pull state permits. The weeHouse is permitted similar to a site-built home except for modular fabrication. You won’t run into any issues as long as you follow the zoning requirements for your city/neighborhood/county. Most cities post permit information on their city/county web sites.
The structural, framing, electrical, and plumbing systems are all reviewed in the factory by third party inspectors as part of the production process. For more information about contracts, contractors and costs, download this helpful flier.
Yes. weeHouses are designed as permanent residential structures. They are inspected to comply with the International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC). Prior to fabrication, we provide you with a full set of weeHouse documentation drawings for your local building inspections process. Local inspections are needed for granting permits and the inspections are done per local municipality requests. Most of these inspections happen at the factory so you should only have to pay reduced building permit costs to cover site-specific work: foundation and basement walls, drainage, heating, plumbing, electrical hookup, and certificate of occupancy. For more information about contracts, contractors and costs, download this helpful flier.
The weeHouse was inspired by sustainable design principles such as building small and efficiently. We hope to offset the suburban trend towards overbuilding by instilling value in modern yet efficient living. By producing weeHouses in carefully chosen, environmentally concerned factories, we are able to greatly reduce construction waste compared to conventional construction procedures. As production of weeHouses increases, we hope to be able to include more low-VOC and green-certified materials into the process. Our architects can work with sustainable energy experts to customize your weeHouse with even greener materials and systems using active solar, geothermal, green roofs and other solutions to identify systems that are best for your situation.
Alchemy is pleased to list some testimonials from clients on our web site, and we also will furnish names and contact information should you need to investigate our work further. Credit references and resumes are available upon request. Geoffrey Warner, AIA and Marcy Conrad Nutt, AIA are both licensed architects in the state of Minnesota. Alchemy bases contracts on those used by AIA (American Institute of Architects). Factories that produce the weeHouse work with third party agencies for home inspections. We recognize and support you in having your legal representation review things. Just ask for preliminary copies if needed. We are happy to provide more information for you to review at any time.
Some things to consider include:
- The costs of your site to be cleared and/or prepared for the weeHouse move-in
- Foundation options: We can work with most foundation types. Discuss with Alchemy for more details.
- Access to utilities: Proximity to electrical, water, sewer, gas, or any other utilities you will require.
- Road access (no tight twists and turns!), and an open area large enough for the crane to rest while it’s lifting your ‘wee’ (typically a 30′ diameter wide space is great)
Realtors may be able to help you address general site restrictions in your area. Please be sure to ask! We suggest you ask a lot of questions and that you get recommendations from “locals” to find contractors that can help. If you’re unfamiliar with construction, we strongly recommend working with a reliable general contractor, even if your up-front costs seem slightly higher. We believe that in the long run, a great contractor saves money.
While photographs, surveys, and sketches are useful to describe the site, a site visit allows us to interact directly with you, your land, and possibly your GC if you’ve brought one on-board. We do a rough survey of the site and flag for the house if possible, thus being able to address some of the more subtle parts of the building(s) in the landscape. We do bill for site visits using day (or half-day) rates, plus expenses. We think it’s a good investment on the larger scope of your project.
Yes! Well, usually yes. Please contact a local structural engineer to come and inspect your current dwelling to see if it is strong enough as-is, or if additional engineering is needed to support the house. Depending on design and finishes modules weigh roughly 700-800 pounds per lineal foot. Stair access, parking requirements by zoning, and fire separation are other factors to consider. There is a rooftop weeHouse (Phillips Garden) in Minneapolis.
Piers, perimeter, or full foundations (like walk out basements) are all fine for the weeHouse. The Arado weeHouse was built on steel beam piers. Other weeHouses have utilized a full basement for additional living space or storage space, and some have been set on a tuck-under garage (see the Linden Hills weeHouse). It’s a good thing to have some type of foundation so wee can hide its heating/cooling units and various utility connections. Take a look at our weeHouse gallery for a variety of built ideas (even a weeHouseBoat has been discussed!).
WeeHouses are typically financed with construction loans. Our clients often have an outstanding loan with which they’ve purchased land, then they get the construction loan for the structure and the finish work. When structure + site work is completed, the two loans are refinanced into a more typical mortgage.
Modular financing has many advantages because it reduces short-term high-rate construction lending as you do not pay for the bulk of the house until it is delivered from the factory. The finance process is challenging, however. Working with a bank/credit union you have a relationship with already can be helpful. Alchemy is happy to help as best we can by talking with your lender if they have questions.
There are numerous web sites and blogs addressing prefab/modular homes. We also encourage you to visit your regional builders’ networks for information on foundations and modular building in your area. It can be helpful to read about other people’s experiences.
Typically no. There are many financial reasons to have most of the finishing work done “in-factory”. In many cases, for permitting reasons, we need to finish interior and exterior walls and have the plumbing and electrical in place before ‘setting’ the mods. We have found it more cost effective to complete our standard finishes in factory. Customized siding, cabinetry, or finishes are great reasons to finish part of the house on-site.
Alchemy does not sell plans without stewarding the project through completion. If it is determined that a weeHouse can’t be delivered to your site or modular building does not make sense for whatever reason, we produce drawings for site built construction and work with your general contractor to build them out.
Each weeHouse arrives onsite between 80% and 90% complete. The weeHouse standard pricing accounts for all interior plumbing, electrical, cabinetry, custom weeHouse hardwood flooring, windows and doors, as well as many other designer-chosen items and finishes. Depending on house design, siding is either done in the factory, or planned to be done by your general contractor onsite. Please refer to the weeHouse brochure and the ‘Standards’ page for more detail on the specs and what is included in standard pricing.
Yes! Typically Alchemy will budget for the desired appliances and plan to provide those that are “built-in.” We have certain brands and models we really like, so please review our weeHouse Brochure for more information on our “standard” appliances and specs. We can more than likely integrate models you prefer, but depending on the dimensions and requirements, additional design time may be required to facilitate the specific appliances.
We’ve designed the weeHouse to meet IBC (International Building Code) and IRC (International Residential Code) standards. The weeHouse is actually stronger than a site-built structure in many cases. To withstand the stresses of being moved, we reinforce all corners of the frame, doors, and windows, and glue and screw the subfloor and sheetrock to the frame.
weeHouses are fully insulated with 2×6 walls and 12″ floor trusses for the floors and ceilings. Nominal R values are: Walls R19, Floor R35, Ceiling R44. Higher levels can be achieved using spray foam or flash-and-batt insulation.
Vented roofs assist in tempering the house in extreme heat or cold.
Your weeHouse will last as long as any other quality-built structure … especially since we assume you’ll treat your ‘wee’ with care!
While it may appear flat, the hipped roof of the weeHouse contains a 1/4″ per foot slope. It is a cold roof, (ventilated underside) covered in EPDM (rubber which provides very good resistance to weather.) Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
A unique aspect of the weeHouse system is a “tube porch”. These porches may be 3′ to 10′ deep and are placed along exterior walls that have full glass access. They may be added to the module at one or both ends, but the finished module must be shorter than 62′ for shipping reasons. The porches are finished similar to the exterior finish. Cedar or IPE decking is standard.
Our standard widths are 14′ to deal with roadway requirements. Modified weeHouse modules can be made up to 16′ wide, and require a little more for delivery permits. weeHouse modules can be placed side by side for wider homes.
Depending on your climate, you have the option of adding in-floor hydronic heat, wood or gas stoves, forced air, and split wall air conditioning with remote compressors. Alchemy helps to coordinate with ducts, plumbing, electrical etc. to accommodate the heating and cooling utilities you use. For warranty and service reasons, working with a local HVAC contractor to purchase and install your mechanical units is the typical process.
The standard weeHouse exterior siding is corrugated steel available in many colors and finishes. We do offer Alchemy-designed “corncrib siding,” a horizontal rough-sawn pine rain screen siding finished with solid or semi-transparent stain as an upgrade. Utilizing multiple siding options within one project is also a possibility. Fully custom siding options are available and are handled as additional services.
We certainly can design a garage to go with your house. It would most likely be site-built. Garage design is considered an additional service, therefore billed and scheduled separately. Our clients have also integrated garage(s) into their foundation plans. Carports and creative outdoor shelters have also been designed.
Putting a weeHouse on top of a garage is an idea many people consider. It is possible, and we’d like to take this into account early in the “siting” process for your weeHouse(s). Please see our lightHouse idea for more about ADUs (accessory dwelling units).
Prefabrication is especially cost effective when weeHouses are produced in quantity. We pass this savings benefit on to you. Please contact us for more details. Many clients choose to start with one or two weeHouses to move into but plan for future family growth/retirement/vacation plans later on.
Modular weeHouses can be delivered within the continental United States as long as your site is truck-accessible. This map shows you where weeHouses have been built to-date. We establish your site specific delivery and set budget during the initial design phase of your project.
Outside the continental United States: the weeHouse can be delivered, but special shipping arrangements will need to be planned. We have had delivery estimates come in around $15k-$20k per module for overseas shipping which has typically priced them out-of-range. Along with sea shipping fees, there is also land transportation fees as with a continental weeHouse. See statement above for using more traditional methods to build a weeHouse.
Alchemy has factory partners that may allow delivery to British Colombia, however not the rest of the provinces due to distances. Depending on the exact location, designing a site-built solution and working with a Canadian based general contractor/builder usually makes the most sense. Contact us directly to discuss your specific Canadian location. We price in U.S. currency for the design.
Mon dieu! weeHouses are too big for standard shipping containers, and shipping them completed with windows makes freight carriers too nervous (in other words, they say ‘no’). In some cases, Alchemy can provide architectural services depending on your local building options and conditions.
Transportation from the factory runs approx. $8-12 per truck/per mile depending on factory. Typically this includes various over-the-road fees and permits. Please realize that prices may vary due to the fluctuations in fuel prices, weather conditions, and highway surcharges. Typically delivery is restricted to one module per truck, but if sometimes small modules can be combined to decrease the number of trucks used.
You need an 18′ wide path for the loaded truck. Since the weeHouse sits on either a full foundation or piers, if you can get a concrete truck to your site, chances are you can get a weeHouse on a semi through there, too.
If the semi ‘fits’, most likely the crane can get on site as well. The size of the crane you will need depends on the size of the modules and the distance from the crane to the foundation. Modules weigh roughly 800 pounds per lineal foot. The ground must be firm enough to support the weight of the loaded crane (winter sets work great!) and there must be approximate 30′ circle for the crane’s stabilization arms and swing radius.
Crane costs will vary, but are generally billed hourly on a round-trip basis from the crane company to your site. We estimate you should budget between $300-$400 per hour for approximately 8-10 hours of crane time including transportation time depending on location and weeHouse size. Look under “crane service” or “boom trucks” to find services in your area. A set crew from the factory or provided by your general contractor will facilitate the bolting of the weeHouse to its foundation and is typically provided with factory budgeting (typically in the $2000-$4000 range but varies based on design, scope of work, and location.)
The typical weeHouse design-build timeframe is about 9-12 months from the initial weeHouse deposit and signed contract. Small or special projects can often be handled more quickly if the need is pressing.
A weeBit More Information
Please sign-up for weeMail to keep updated on news, changes, and innovations from Alchemy. We don’t share/sell information we collect. We promise to only send out interesting updates and timely information.
No. (Sorry!) We appreciate trees so much that we like to save them … a lot. We post relevant information on our Web site for easy reference, easy updating, and easy-on-the-environment reasons. You are welcome to print out pages for your reference or to share with friends. Our on-line gallery has the most up-to-date photographs of our projects.
Alchemy LLC is a privately owned company. Alchemy is not franchised nor is Alchemy traded on the stock exchange. The best way to invest is to initiate weeHouse developments. Prefabrication is especially cost effective when like-houses are produced in quantity. Please contact us for more information on how we can help with multi-unit developments using the weeHouse system.
Head over to our Pinterest page to read what others are saying about Alchemy’s work. There are many fantastic magazines, blogs, and media outlets who do a great job covering modern, green design. Key terms to use when searching the web for relevant information are “modular” and “prefab.”