Building an energy-efficient house, quickly and inexpensively

Daniel Umscheid of Clockwork Architecture + Design
Daniel Umscheid of Clockwork Architecture + Design Roy Inman, Special to The Star


Design director of Clockwork Architecture + Design

How can a house be built in 10 weeks? And for about $150,000? Is this another one of those reality TV home shows? No, it’s real work being done with modular construction in KCK’s Strawberry Hill, initiated by Neighborworks America and in conjunction with Community Housing of Wyandotte County.

“It’s sustainability and affordability and good design,” Daniel Umscheid says. “We’re trying to make all that more accessible to all people and not just to some.”

Umscheid has built a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home that’s so much more: It is easily replicated, responsibly sized, extremely energy-efficient and blends into the established neighborhood.

Fitting in: “It’s a tricky balance as a designer between putting my own thumbprint on it and doing what’s right for the neighborhood.”

His house on the hill: “It’s a very simple, clean house. There’s not a lot of ornamentation. It’s deliberately a white box, so people can do what they want with it.”

Design that lasts: “As an affordable house, we have to get them in. Then it keeps people in their homes longer because they can build up instead of having to move. This house is designed for attic space to be easily converted into another bedroom and bathroom. The neighborhood strengthens rather than dispersing to the suburbs, and we can create a stronger city.”

Nuts and bolts: “We have tried to save costs but achieve a high-level fit and finish. Everything is customizable in the kitchen — pull-out drawers, easy-swap fronts — and it’s all Blum hardware, exactly what you find in high-end custom cabinetry.”

Keeping it simple: “It’s not meant to be a luxurious mansion. It’s meant to have space for a young homeowner and meet the needs for comfortable living. We took square footage from the bedrooms and bathrooms — leaving them fully functional — and moving that into the true living space and creating a pretty luxurious kitchen for a first-time homeowner.”

Waste not, want not: “People think they need so much stuff. One of our early discussions was about where people would put stuff. I’m sympathetic, but you have to heat and cool that space. We’re looking toward a mind shift of how we live and what’s important.”

Design for the people: “Everyone deserves well-created, thoughtful design. This house is functional and beautiful down to the cabinet pulls. It’s also about durability — the long-term cost and maintenance. If I can make this more user-friendly — easier to maintain, cheaper to maintain — it’s a win-win for everyone.”