House Tour: Chicago's C3 Modular House

Jeffrey Sommers's C3 Prefab modular house is a landmark of new urban architecture—and the first of its kind in Chicago. Although the structure was quick to construct, its genesis was less straightforward, involving (among other challenges) some accommodations to comply with city building codes and a little tweaking of the 2039-square-foot interior to better suit the homeowners' needs and fit the 25' x 125' lot. Compact, light-filled, and loaded with energy-saving features such as solar thermal panels, ductless heating and air conditioning, and water-conserving appliances, the house has a HERS rating of 46 and LEED Platinum certification. To learn more, come join us on a tour of the house.

  1. Front View

    Front View

    Jeffrey Sommers, the architect who designed the LEED Platinum-certified C3 Prefab modular home—the first of its kind in Chicago—worked on the concept for four years. The name C3, derived from "Cube, Cut, Copy," has a math vibe consistent with the name of Sommers’s firm—Square Root Architecture—and the steps taken to conceive the original prototype.

  2. Rear View

    Rear View

    “We were repeatedly told that no one would ever be able to build a prefab modular home in Chicago,” said homeowner Kathy Caisley. The intense work on design and accommodating Chicago requirements stretched over 2009 and the first half of 2010.”

  3. Master Bath

    Master Bath

    Sommers and the Caisleys tweaked the 2,039-square-foot interior to accommodate the family's needs. Whereas the original floor plan proposed 1.5 baths, both plan and plumbing were adjusted to reap 2.5 baths, including one en-suite bath in the master bedroom.

  4. Master Bedroom

    Master Bedroom

    The master bedroom has a generous walk-in closet and balcony, one of the amenities that Caisley says makes the house feel more expensive.

  5. Dining Area

    Dining Area

    Built on a city lot of just 25' x 125', the narrow house feels spacious, thanks to the flood of natural light and a superbly thought-out design. Caisley says, “There is no wasted space.”

  6. Positioning Modules

    Positioning Modules

    Caisley says, “If we just wanted a ‘house,’ the C3 wouldn’t have made sense. This was a 'project' for us in partnership with Jeff [Sommers] to build the first LEED Platinum prefab modular house in Chicago. It was bigger than us.”

  7. Transporting the Modules

    Transporting the Modules

    Constructing the house was an immense endeavor for all involved, a process that included routing the 20,000- to 40,000-ton modules through urban streets. “The actual distance would only require about a four-hour drive,” notes John Guequierre, senior vice president of Hi-Tech Housing, which manufactured the modules, “but we needed to make sure we could work within the eight-hour time span of the street closure permit.”

  8. Kitchen


    The C3 has a HERS rating of 46 and carries LEED certification. Among the energy-saving features: solar thermal panels and on-demand water heating, ductless heating and air conditioning, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, and Energy Star appliances.

  9. Living Room

    Living Room

    “Although LEED Platinum might make one think the house is ‘space age,’ it really looks like a ‘regular’ house…well, a regular modern house,” Caisley says.

  10. Factory Build

    Factory Build

    Benefits of building prefab include quality control, year-round construction, and minimal waste. Hi-Tech Housing gathered LEED-appropriate construction materials and built the C3 modules inside its warehouse. The time from the first nail to shipment of the modules was about 15 days.

  11. Rear Terrace

    Rear Terrace

    Through Living Room Realty in Chicago, a company that specializes in “mindful, urban living,” Sommers is now able to offer customizable green homes priced at $150 to $250 per square foot.  For more about Chicago's first prefab modular house, click here

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