KRDB brings modern-day design to the masses through affordable housing and modular structures.
CHRIS KRAGER knew he wanted complete vertical integration when he launched KRDB back in 2001 in order to give his clients all the design and construction services they would need under one roof. That entrepreneurial spirit lives on 14 years later as KRDB continues to make good design accessible to clients throughout the Austin, Texas, region.
“The founding principle of my practice is to provide good, quality design in a more accessible way,” Krager says. “We figured we would do that by going out and controlling the process from beginning to end.
“For our first project, what we did was bought the land, secured entitlements, built the houses and sold the houses,” Krager adds. “It is how we started, and that’s the thing we’ve been doing from day one.”
Krager is a registered architect in Texas and holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas. His background also includes a bachelor’s degree in finance from Michigan State University, which has given him the acumen take on additional opportunities as they arise – such as ma, an affordable prefabricated housing system.
“Our primary strategy is the integrated approach – we’re a one-stop shop,” Krager says. “Many firms come more from the building side and integrate design.
“We are primarily architects who decided to build as a means to an end, so I think that is a little more unusual,” Krager adds.
Building with SOL
KRDB recently delivered its Solutions Oriented Living (SOL) product in Austin. The homes are net-zero capable, meaning they theoretically create all the energy they consume. In fact, homes in this development are built to consume 50 percent less energy than houses built for Austin’s already stringent energy codes while keeping price points reasonable for a multitude of buyers.
“What we wanted to find was the sweet spot on performance and economics for modestly prices houses,” Krager says.
SOL features 40 units on 38 lots that span across 5 ½ acres about 2.3 miles from downtown Austin. The homes range in size between 1,000 and 1,800 square feet, and the entire site has amenities built in to make the neighborhood more walkable and less car-centric, Krager says.
The houses are designed around a park, which is one of many community amenities. Another is a sub-grade bio-filtration system to handle water quality requirements, which is located directly beneath the park.
The development was designed to be not just environmentally friendly, but also economically and socially accessible. KRDB partnered with local nonprofit Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp. to set aside 40 percent of the units in the project as affordable housing. Sixteen of the 40 properties will be affordable, split evenly between rental and sale units.
Getting into the Zone
One of the most challenging aspects of delivering SOL was going through Austin’s extensive rezoning process.
“Austin has a notoriously difficult development process,” Krager says. “For the zoning change, we had to get support from the primarily working-class Latino families, and they were very supportive of the project because of the affordability aspect. It integrates the neighborhood with affordable rentals and home ownership opportunities.”
Another challenge for SOL was the timing of the groundbreaking. According to Krager, KRDB began construction on SOL the “day before” the market took a turn for the worse in 2008. Nevertheless, the units sold out during the Great Recession, and all involved with the project were satisfied with the final result.
“The city, neighborhood and homeowners are pleased with the way it turned out,” Krager adds.
In fact, SOL was so successful, KRDB already is in the design phase of its second installment of the SOL series. SOL V. 2.0 – MLK Live/Work will occupy 25,000 square feet. With the same underlying principles, MLK moves closer into the city center to propose a denser version of the model. Situated on 2/3rds of an acre, the townhouse-style development, arrayed around a courtyard, more than triples the density of SOL 1.0 from eight units an acre to 27.
KRDB will be merging the forces of SOL and ma to build most of the project as modular.
Moving forward, Krager expects KRDB to continue to deliver projects like the SOL series while growing its modular building division, as well.
“I see us doing more sustainable projects like SOL and the MLK project, as well as rolling out modular construction on a broader basis,” Krager says. “We’re working on our to-do list.”