Architect Jim Garrison of Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects was asked to design a lakeside retreat for visiting families at a boarding school for troubled teens, Star Commonwealth, in Albion, Michigan. To drastically reduce academic interruption and cut site noise, Garrison decided early on to create an 1,100-square-foot modular building dubbed Koby, with two bedrooms on opposite sides of the structure and a common dining area in the middle “as a therapeutic space for families to gather and eat together.” The retreat, which was manufactured by Kullman Buildings (founded in 1927 for the purpose of building prefab steel-and-glass diners), takes on an X formation, with one end of the X equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the water. “It’s quite a bucolic site,” says Garrison. “We related the building to both the lake and the gentle slope of the land, and created an opening in the center of the X that makes the building seem larger and allows reflective light in."
Manufactured entirely offsite at Kullman’s 180,000-square-foot factory in New Jersey, the building was placed on its concrete foundation in one day.
With the students’ well-being in mind, Garrison employed healthy, high-quality FSC-certified maple for the floor, ceiling and walls, cedar for the exterior, recycled porcelain floor tile, an EcoSmart alcohol-burning fireplace, high-recycled tubular steel framing and low-E coating glass. “We define health as the obvious physical qualities of good air and cleanliness, but health is also a matter of attitude, sunlight, cognition and sensory release all working together,” says Garrison. “A California utility company did a study in which they measured cognition in different classroom settings, and found that cognition increased 7 percent with natural light, and 15 percent with natural light with a view. We think of health as a baseline issue, but it has great deal to do with the quality of our environment.”