System Overview


Uncomplicated. By design.
From a downtown loft touching property lines, to a multi-story, multi-familydevelopment, to a second back-yard unit or even emergency housing, the Simple Building begins with a steel frame and a unique foundation that is suitable for any terrain. A customizable kit of panels and other components are added as the design dictates. The Simple Building has all the benefits of pre-fabrication with none of the cookie cutter aesthetics.Together with outstanding cost efficiency, the Simple Building has it all.


The technology of the Simple Building is borrowed from a wide array of disciplines: the electric utility industry, commercial refrigerated food storage, industrial metal buildings, state-of-the-art “green” products, and a number of proprietary innovations, all of which carefully interlock.

The Simple Building is not modular, nor are the shapes of the buildings constrained by shipping distances, dimensions, or weights. We don’t ship large boxes filled with air. Simple Buildings fit in standard shipping containers which enable them to travel long distances secure from weather and vandalism. And, once they arrive, special truck or crane access is not required.

Most Simple Building components, such as the frame, the mechanical core, and the panels, are pre-cut by suppliers. Others, such as flashing and the interior walls, are cut and fitted in the field. The connections between the parts are coordinated with detailed shop drawings.

This hybrid approach means that the labor-intensive parts can be delivered to the site in a semi-finished state, and the large simple areas can be closed in on site. This allows for a high degree of flexibility at all points of the design process.


Simple Buildings typically have insulated concrete slab foundations. The concrete foundations provide “thermal mass” and are a critical piece of the energy-efficiency.

In steep or adverse conditions, or where concrete is not available, the Simple Building system uses helical piers for a foundation. These are essentially galvanized steel pipes with welded flights which screw into the earth.

In many areas, resistance to uplift is as important as gravity loads. In the West, uplift is caused by earthquakes, in the Midwest it’s tornados, at the Southeast coast it’s hurricanes. Helical piers resist uplift loads equally as well as they resist gravity loads, making them inherently safe. Where flooding is a concern, braced ground floor columns can be used to elevate the living floor above the flood plain.

The Simple Building system uses a proprietary system for connecting the helical piers to the structure.


The floor, walls, and roof of the building are pre-finished sandwich panels, consisting of a steel inner face, a foam core, and a steel outer skin. The panels fit together with double tongue and groove joints. The panels are carefully caulked at the joints making a very tight and efficient envelope.

Depending on the location or application, various thicknesses are available ranging from 2” with an R-16 rating, to 6” rated at R-49. The inner steel face and the outer face do not touch, so the entire wall assembly can achieve the tested R value, without subtracting for the typical thermal bridging through studs. Additionally, since the inner and outer faces do not touch, there is no path to transmit sound, making the panels inherently sound-reducing. Since the panels are composed of Kynar coated, galvanized steel, they are rot-resistant and termite proof.

Fire-rated panels are available with a mineral wool core in lieu of foam core. With FR panels the buildings are suitable for urban infill, zero-lot-line, (property line) construction.


Since the walls (panels) are not load-bearing, the building requires a separate frame. Our “Integrated Frame” is composed of galvanized rolled steel “C” sections bolted together. There is a continuous, bolted path of connection from the foundation through the roof, including the covering skin, making the building extremely resistant to earthquakes and other natural events. In addition, with our proprietary fittings, the frame provides the pathways for wiring and piping for the building.

Above three stories, wide-flange steel beams and columns with braced frames or moment-resisting connections are typically used in lieu of the rolled section frames. Photo shows a four-story steel-frame building in San Francisco with fire-rated sidewall panels being inserted edgeways into the six inch slot between the new steel frame and the adjacent buildings. Our  proprietary temporary hoisting/trolley/panel installation mechanism is visible just above the panels.

Both types of steel frame are non-combustible, making the building envelope suitable for fire-rated, or zero-lot-line, construction.



As an alternate to steel, in single story construction, the frame can combine wood Glu-Lam beams with our steel columns. With careful detailing, Glu-Lams can be a handsome alternative to steel and can be fire-rated as well. The open-beam ceiling with the steel panels give the interior a clean mid-century-modern look.


Our proprietary, patent pending, mechanical core is a thick wall manufactured off-site which contains typical plumbing and mechanical systems carefully fitted into a pre-fabricated unit.

Depending on jurisdiction and budget, the Wet Wall is available with a range of options from ABS plastic waste lines and PEX water piping, to cast iron waste lines and copper water piping.


The Simple Building can be built with any specified window system. State-of-the-art R-5 windows with foam-filled fiberglass frames are recommended. The combination of the tight wall and roof panels, and this high-performance glazing, makes a very efficient building envelope which can achieve Passive House standards.

The high-performance windows also have a high STC (Sound Transmission Coefficient) which makes the Simple Building suitable for adverse acoustic environments – next to busy streets, bus lines, train tracks, etc.


The interior walls are built on site with conventional wood or metal studs and are available with various wall coverings. The interior walls have most of the plugs, switches, and lights which are difficult to locate in the sandwich panel exterior walls.


Simple Buildings typically have radiant heat with PEX tubing cast into the concrete floor. This photo shows an elevated slab with the concrete poured over steel pan deck.

When the building is small, it may not make sense to install a separate heat source for space heating. Our proprietary “Radiant Core system uses a conventional water heater as the radiant heat source and is perfect for small spaces.

Steel is the single biggest component used in the Simple Building. The steel used to make the frame and panels contain approximately 35% recycled material and is 100% recyclable.

One of the principal advantages of the Simple Building is that hybrid pre-fabrication minimizes on-site waste, minimizes on-site construction and thereby worker trips to the jobsite, yet retains the flexibility to adapt the design to any particular context. Almost all sustainable systems are available with the Simple Building, and with the Photovoltaic option and all-electric cooking, water heating, and space heating and cooling, the Simple Building can achieve true net-zero energy, net-zero carbon (CO2), and very high marks from the various rating agencies.

Simple Building embodies the three sustainability goals of Malpas Sustainable Design:

  • Obvious – The selection of sustainable or green materials
  • Less Obvious – An efficient process to fabricate and install
  • Non-Obvious – Elegantly engineered so each component is working at its optimum



With the designer free to configure the final product to match the client’s program and the geographic conditions, the Simple Building is the most flexible, general purpose platform on the market.

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