By Kerry McNally, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Imagine driving by an empty lot on Monday only to drive by the same place on Tuesday and there’s a beautiful new house sitting on that lot.

For those who have watched the often-slow pace of construction, it may seem a little far-fetched. For workers at St. Paul’s Alchemy Architects, it’s just another day on the job.

From cozy bungalows to sprawling mansions, houses in Minnesota come in all shapes, sizes and price points. Now, a team of architects is specializing in state-of-the-art custom homes that show up completely finished on the back of a flat-bed truck.

Wee Houses are uniquely situated for Minnesota’s long winters, diverse neighborhoods and varied landscape. Alchemy’s projects are literally showing up, all over the country.

Alchemy Architects recently installed one of its houses in the Linden Hills area of Minneapolis.

“This is a modular house,” explained managing partner and designer Scott Ervin. “It was built in Wisconsin. It’s four separate pieces delivered here by a flat-bed truck. And then a crane set up here in the driveway, picked it up and set each piece individually.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you could build a house indoors, especially when it’s like it is today, zero degrees. And all the paint and the caulk would work really well,” Warner said.

When your house arrives, it is locked in place and then the water and electricity are hooked up and turned on.

“There were 40 or so people here as the crane lifted each section up over that pine tree and dropped them in place. The small crowd set up lawn chairs and just enjoyed the show,” Ervin explained.

Walking inside, you see that the modern appliances and granite counter tops are wrapped in cardboard and plastic.

Manufactured homes are starting to show up all over the country, including Pepin, Wis. and in Marfa, Texas.

Founder Geoffrey Warner said that the economy has swung back to a more practical sensibility.

“The period right before this was one of excess and so people aren’t looking for big huge places anymore,” Warner said. “They’re looking for something greener, something smaller.”

Manufactured homes or “pre-fabs” began in England in 1905 with the “Portable Cottage.”

The current homes start as low as $49,000, and the inability to build here in Minnesota in the winter makes them a nice fit for Alchemy and their clients.

Comments (13)
  1. ken says:

    I have been a carpenter for 30 years and have built homes in the coldest of winters. They are still way better than any manufactred home I’ve ever seen. Yes there fast but they ar built with the cheapist .materails.

    1. Plagie says:

      I’ve seen a lot of cheap work done on site by bad carpenters too. These are not your typical pre-fab homes. Everything is designed by the architects with the clients input and budget in mind. Don’t be jealous that this nail gun is faster than your hammer.

  2. Looking for a house says:

    also right now you can not sell them for anything but CASH! no one is giving loans for these!!!!

  3. Lorax McGee says:

    Still, the picture looks nicer than the beige garbage offered in most subdivisions.

  4. DonC says:

    While I agree that many prefabs are of fair quality at best, there are a few who step to the higher quality range. I have a friend who has one. I looked closely at the detail … it really was pretty good. Also, it’s great that we’re getting away from these McMansions … homes filled with wasted space.

  5. Joy says:
    to DonC…who was the mfg of your friends home? I am compiling a list for future use.

  6. stephen says:

    Wow! I love the entire concept, Building a Wee House in a controlled enviroment to ensure the highest quality product is a great idea no matter where you live! Great Design! They look awesome! I want one!

  7. mimi says:

    After that wind storm 8-10 years ago and seeing all the newly homes that were blown flat because they had less than half the number of nails required to hold it together, I would buy one of these any day before I would any home built after the 1950’s.

  8. Jay says:

    I live in Wisconsin and an empty lot literally turned into a beautiful home the next day. It too is a modular home . Our laws state homes like these have to meet strict codes to be placed in neighborhoods. Many builders highly recommend certain manufactures near by that do an excellent job of constucting these homes. The neighbors have been in this home now 7 years and are very pleased with the ammenities yet. To say all mod home manufacturers are the same is totally falso, as there are some better than others for sure, and those also that will build your home to YOUR specs.

  9. smitch says:

    Don’t be a hater, ken. I’m glad that someone is working on something progressive, modern, custom, and of high quality.

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