New Possibilities in Prefab Homes

Prefab has become quite the buzzword in homebuilding over the past few years. And although the idea of prefabrication has long been familiar, builders need to continually refine their prefab process to take advantage of the most up-to-date technologies and systems. We sat down with our in-house prefab experts to better understand how we help clients identify the most beneficial solution for their project.

What are some common misconceptions about prefab homes?

That prefab *always* means shipping container-sized mods that are trucked from a factory and craned onto site. While volumetric modular has become the poster child for prefab, there are ways to realize the benefits of prefab while avoiding some of its pitfalls. Modular framing and panelized walls are two systems that can capitalize on the strong points of both prefabrication and traditional site building.

Another misconception is that prefab is automatically cheaper. Many factors can impact the budget, like transportation. Sometimes it’s necessary to drive hundreds of miles out of the way to find a route that will accommodate such large loads. This is just one of the elements to consider before determining if prefab is the right fit.

What are some key advantages and disadvantages of prefabs?

Two of the biggest advantages of prefab housing are condensing construction timeline and building in remote locations. Construction of the mods happens concurrently with site preparation and foundations, reducing time on site by multiple weeks. Also, labor and materials may cost a premium in remote areas. With prefab, a majority of that work is done on the factory floor before the mods are shipped.

The biggest disadvantage of volumetric modular is design flexibility. The possibilities of prefab are virtually limitless, but cost efficiencies are maximized by using stock designs and pre-chosen packages of finishes. Custom designs may require re-engineering and sourcing or procuring new materials. However, there are modular companies that specialize and excel at high-end custom building. Modular framing and wall systems will also allow greater flexibility.

Tell me a little about prefab homes and energy efficiency.

Energy efficient strategies that do not rely on mechanical equipment are always the first steps to take, no matter what type of home you’re building. For instance, passive solar design is a very site-specific concept; there is only so far a prefabricated mod can go. With the addition of select features, whether they be modular customizations or even site-built elements, a prefabricated home can be adapted to a specific climate, topography or sun orientation.

Can prefab homes work in every environment?

Yes they could, but in some environments it makes more sense than in others. Once installed, the right prefab home can perform in any climate just as a site-built home would. It is often the logistical challenges that provide the most resistance. Every city, every neighborhood, every block is unique in its own way. Two lots on the same street can have radically different results with prefab because of the simplest thing like the placement of a tree. One such challenge is whether to transport a 12’ tall module under or over a decades-old protected Oak.

Some prefab home companies have architects and designers on staff to provide that support, but it may be best to start in your own backyard. A local builder or contractor with prefab experience can help facilitate a holistic approach.

How do you see the prefab industry growing and changing in the next ten years?

I think the prefab industry will continue to think outside the shipping container. Volumetric modular has been a revolving trend for so long and it has never fully caught on. On one hand, it is such a great concept that makes perfect sense. We prefabricate an endless amount of things in our lives: cars, clothes, appliances, furniture, etc. so why not homes? I think we crave a level of individuality in our homes that many people think prefab cannot offer. By continuing to develop systems that comprise parts and pieces instead of the entire volume, prefab can quiet those doubts and still reap the benefits.

 

Got more questions? Request a consultation with our prefab-ulous team!

 

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