When you daydream about your dream house do you picture it being built in room-size chunks in a factory? Delivered to your property on trucks and hoisted into place by a small crane? If so, you must be convinced there are real benefits to a prefab house.
In countries like Japan, Sweden, and Germany prefab housing is commonplace. But in the America you don’t find many people building or buying factory made homes.
Tour of Simpatico Homes
Last week I joined about thirty other architects to hear a presentation and take a tour of an upscale modern modular home in Emeryville. Built in a factory in San Jose, this Simpatico Home was impressive in it’s careful, clean, colorful design.
During the talk by the owner of Simpatico Homes many questions were asked about the details of manufacturing. And then one architect asked the key question—What is the one big advantage of modular homes?
Our host, for once, seemed a bit unprepared, and after saying it’s a little bit this, a little bit that, ended up revealing his true motivation—it’s just so cool.
The Good and the Not So Good
The proponents of prefab houses claim many advantages:
- lower costs
- faster construction
- less waste of materials
- more precise work
Doubters point out that, while you might gain some of these advantages, it depends on many factors. And it’s certainly not a sure thing.
And, of course, there are the not so good aspects:
- prefab companies are few and far between
- crane access is necessary
- design options are limited
As an architect trained in modern mindset of individuality, that last issue is the biggie. When you’re dreaming about your dream house who wants to be limited by a list of options on a prefab company’s order list?
It might seem we ought to bring house building into the twenty-first century by emulating car production—efficient, precise, and indoors. However, I think there will be a place in our world for many years for the idiosyncratic, complex, remodelable, and even handcrafted appeal of a home built up from the ground, stick by stick.