The InHouse OutHouse

By Jason A. Fleming AIA posted 07-06-2012 17:14


The InHouse OutHouse is a pre-fabricated residential core that consolidates major trade-dependent systems and finishes into a single deliverable unit. It is designed with enough flexibility to be inserted into existing homes as well used in new construction. More importantly, InHouse OutHouse swerves from these earlier approaches at the point where it pairs the technical and design issues at play with a greater social vision: revitalizing the existing residential fabric of urban centers.


Since the InHouse OutHouse was initially conceptualized, Andrew, Peter and I have completed our Master of Architecture degrees at the Rice University School of Architecture. We have also committed to carrying the InHouse OutHouse forward under the continued guidance of Professor Danny Samuels, FAIA. We have worked to design a prototype and secure grant funding and regulatory approval for its insertion. While our concept draws on existing models of pre-fabrication and mechanical systems consolidation, its potential for use in both new construction and renovation is completely new. Our team recognizes that we must not only prove the technical feasibility of our idea, but must also conduct extensive research on the potential for its future use and viability as an alternative approach within the practice of residential design and construction. As such, Andrew and Peter will focus their efforts on construction and insertion of the prototype while I concentrate on research.

My research will cover a number of areas of inquiry. I will establish how the InHouse OutHouse improves upon existing systems of design and construction. Its reliance on off-site factory precision, efficiency, and coordination will not only allow increased livability during construction, but will allow for substantial cost and time savings. My research will inform how to redistribute these savings to better quality and design, and how to use them more effectively in affordable housing situations. To test this, I will research site-built equivalents to the InHouse OutHouse unit as well as alternative construction methods (i.e. wood, steel) for the unit. I will work with local contractors to bid the project, allowing for direct comparison to our prototype figures.

I will also work to understand how design intended for large-scale production might impact the typical role of the small-scale design firm. To what extent might this increase the agency of such a firm, and how can our team build on precedent both within the practice of architecture and beyond its bounds? In this light, I will explore a variety of business and practice models by leveraging the expertise of the Rice Alliance, an entrepreneurial thinktank operating from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, to learn how architects can begin to reclaim the ground lost to developers while deploying our broad training in theory and design.


The fruits of the research will operate at two scales. At the small scale (that of our team), it will ultimately prove and inform the future viability of the InHouse OutHouse. It is our hope that this research will confirm our high aspirations for the InHouse OutHouse as an idea, and lead to the formation of a small practice to realize the InHouse OutHouse as a product.

At the much larger scale (that of the AIA and the entire practice of architecture), this research and the InHouse OutHouse in general will serve as a case study to demonstrate the fusion of design/build, applied research, and community oriented design. To this end, a publication will be produced in which AIA will explicitly be recognized for their contribution. This document will be easily adapted for conferences and online media and will ultimately offer an alternative practice model that explicitly embraces economies of scale so that “small architecture firm” can only describe a firm’s size, not its impact.

Read the announcement and learn more at and look for our completed work on the AIA website this fall.