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Hyper-efficient prefab home hovers above a wetland in Minnesota

Minneapolis-based prefab purveyors Alchemy Architects has completed the Lake Elmo weeHouse, one of the newest additions to its growing portfolio of weeHouses, a series of eco-friendly homes built with the firm’s patented prefabricated housing system. Named after its location in Minnesota, the Lake Elmo weeHouse demonstrates efficient and space-saving design by fitting three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open layout in 990 square feet without compromising a sense of spaciousness or views. The home is elevated above the ground on helical piers embedded 22 feet underground to minimize site impact.

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Completed in 2019, the Lake Elmo weeHouse was commissioned by clients who split their time between Australia and Minnesota. As a result, the architects wrapped the home in low-maintenance and durable weathering steel as well as black cedar cladding to recede the building into the forested landscape. The simple, boxy design responds to the project’s constraints that include a modest budget as well as a maximum zoning height of 16 feet above the flood plain, which was also a major factor of the project.

Related: Alchemy Architects build tiny prefab weeHouses that connect with nature

weathered steel prefab home with glazed end wall
weathered steel home on stilts

Surrounding views of the forest and the need for privacy from neighboring plots informed the placement of Lake Elmo weeHouse’s many windows, including the full-height glazed doors that slide open to connect the living spaces to a wide, enclosed deck for a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience. A spacious entry porch provides additional elevated outdoor space.

small round dining table near large white kitchen
small round dining table near wall of glass

Inside, the bright, light-filled interiors provide a striking contrast with the dark, weathered steel facade. A kitchen located in the open-plan heart of the home draws the eye with its silver accents, while a built-in bench provides views of the wetland at the end of the hallway. To minimize visual clutter, mechanical equipment is tucked underneath a trap door in the kitchen. In-floor hydronic heating keeps the home warm and cozy during Minnesota’s long winters. 

+ Alchemy Architects

Photography by Brooks Geenen via Alchemy Architects

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