Prefabricated design has been around since at least the 1940’s, but has lately seen resurgence in popularity. By assembling off-site, prefab gives homebuyers attractive alternatives to the standard residential developments that have become commonplace. While prefabricated homes are not without their disadvantages, they are an interesting component of the post-housing bubble residential market. More on prefab design after the break.
Prefabricated homes first came to prominence in the years immediately following World War Two. With many returning soldiers and others looking for their own homes to purchase, prefab construction was a cheap and easy way to own a home. Over 150,000 of these prefab homes were built in England alone, as they offered attractive incentives for the first-time homebuyers. If the 50’s saw the initial rise of prefab design, then it effectively disappeared in the 80’s and 90’s with the rise of suburban residential developments. This rise and fall is likely to repeat itself, as prefab homes are once again becoming a popular alternative for buying a home.
With the recent recession and bursting of the housing bubble, prefab design has returned as an efficient and somewhat cheaper version of regular home construction. The cost of prefab versus built at site homes suggests that there can be cost savings that make prefab homes attractive, but this savings largely depends on the designer and factory that produces the home. The resurgence of prefab can be most clearly seen in the number of companies now providing homes for purchase. This list of companies includes those that offer the cheapest options, at $115 per square foot, such as Clayton Homes and ECO-Cottages, all the way up to the expensive models at $250 per square foot by Living Homes.
Somewhere in between these relative extremes lies one of the most promising prefab designs, by Resolution: 4 Architecture. This firm has designed some of the most interesting prefab homes, designs that are both formally interesting and functional. The success of Resolution: 4 Architecture highlights one of the main benefits of prefab design: the availability of an architect-designed home for between 20 and 40 percent less than if the home was built on site. The criticism of this is that the home would still be more expensive than if built by a residential contractor, but if you are in the market for an architect-designed home prefab is an exciting cost-saving alternative.
Another of the important benefits prefab design allows for is savings in time. Not only can the foundation be poured at the same time as the house is constructed, but the owner does not need to be checking in on a construction site to make sure progress is on schedule. Also saving time is that the homes are produced in a factory, ensuring that they are carefully constructed and put together. These and other time saving benefits allow the prefab home to be constructed and livable in a much shorter time period than regular residential construction would allow.
With the rise and fall and now rise again of prefabricated homes, these designs have had an interesting history as an option for residential construction. They give homeowners the possibility to purchase a house designed by an architect for a fraction of the price, and can be viable cost-saving alternatives in a volatile housing market. While the future of housing is uncertain, with companies like Resolution: 4 Architecture prefab designs will surely be around for those that see the inherent value in them. Photographs: Flickr: RO/LU, mlinksva, Bakki Kudva, SteveRapport, Armen Nercessian, Architecture, Food & One Little Beautiful Girl References: The Washington Post, prefabs, EcoHome Magazine