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1948-08-13 — Another Try To Beat Housing Shortage — Fortnight

Vol. 5, No. 4, p. 18
Friday, Aug. 13, 1948


by the editor

Like all the firms that have fallen before, 
Jacque Fresco thinks he has the answer
Housing was the knottiest problem in America when, 2.5 years ago, Mike Shore got restless. The man who made Madman Muntz crazy like a fox wanted new, larger worlds to conquer. He talked it over with Benn Reyes, his partner in public relations. They decided that what this country needed was a good $5000 house.

Jacque, Fresco, bearded, pipe-smoking, unconventional designer, inventor, engineer, and head of Scientific Research Laboratories, Inc., of Los Angeles, took the assignment. Shore outlined his conditions: make it low-priced, use available materials, make it functional but not radical. Fresco set to work. Last fortnight Shore, president of Trend Homes, Inc., announed production of the 914-square-foot, aluminum-glass-concrete Fresco home would begin in Los Angeles Aug. 15. Price: $5468. Construction time: 80 man hours.

Working in horror of wood (he has invented a metal match that lights indefinitely) and on the theory that present construction practice is archaic, Fresco worked out plans for a mass-produced house to be run off assembly lines like automobiles. Twenty-six basic dies extrude aluminum like toothpaste from a tube into multi-functional units scaled to a tolerance of 1/1000 of an inch. One extrusion, for instance, serves as a door jamb, door retainer and wallboard retainer; can be fitted in 11 minutes whereas conventional construction of a similar unit would take two carpenters two days.

Essential framework pieces are riveted at the plant, slotted together and bolted at the construction site. The house is anchored to a concrete slab by bolts actually fired from a special .38 calibre "pistol." Twenty-one variations of interior layout (living room, two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen) are available. All space is utilized; Fresco house's hallway (32 inches x 32 inches) opens onto all rooms, provides structural core. Plumbing and wring come included in manufacturing sections, are merely joined when walls go up. Ventilation is thermal syphoning, based on normal up-flow of warm air and ground-level intake of cool air. Special lighting kills germs, odors. Mass production idea is illustrated by the bathroom unit: laundry hamper, wash basin, toilet and bathtub all in one piece of aluminum. Added accessory ($400 more) will be a one-piece kitchen unit, including a high-frequency stove able to cook a steak in three seconds and a supersonic dishwasher using underwater sound waves to clear plates.

Fresco is not an architect, says he designed the house as a problem of industrial engineering. It might have been a refrigerator. Shore and Reyes, who with two other men own all the company's stock, admit its success lies in mass production, claim only that it is minimum housing. Whether it can go from minimum to maximum is something else again.