Over time it appears that prefabricated structures are being used increasingly in applications other than commercial construction. It used to be that “prefab” meant cheap, because in its original applications decades ago, probably the primary attraction of these types of buildings was that they could be put up very inexpensively. Think of the Quonset huts of World War II or the prefabricated houses that California Gold Rush prospectors could buy in kit form. Structures such as these housed people with much bigger things on their mind, and so basic functionality and cost were paramount to their acceptance.
Not surprisingly, in the decades since, architects from all over the world have been drawn to the economical aspect of prefab and also challenged by its inherent constraints. After all if prefabricated construction is cheaper, one can certainly use one’s creativity to compensate for the restrictions in materials usage and construction techniques which make on-site customization difficult or impossible.
Well, it’s not really that simple, regardless of how much creativity with which one is endowed. And yet advances in materials and modern design techniques such as the use of CAD software, coupled with ever increasing awareness of the scarcity of our natural resources, and the ever-economical premise upon which construction of prefabricated buildings rests, seem to have lead to an increasing interest in prefabricated structures from architects and home buyers alike.
No longer must prefab construction necessarily be thought of as inorganic or overly harsh, or as cheap and flimsy. It’s a pleasure to see prefab panels that, once assembled, are as sturdy as walls constructed on-site, produced for a much lower cost. In fact part of the pleasure of a well-designed prefabricated building is that it is absolutely as attractive as its more expensive counterpart despite its lower cost.
Having said that, economics will be a large part of the push towards more prefabricated housing the future. Functionality at a lower price is always compelling and the factors I mentioned earlier will help and compel the builders and architects of tomorrow to achieve it.
If you have a piece of land upon which you’re preparing to build, there’s no excuse not to take a look at your prefabricated options as they stand today. Maybe you are intent upon building the most environmentally friendly, energy efficient home that you possibly can. Maybe you’re tempted by the notion of living “off the grid”. In either case prefab offers options that might very well be too attractive to resist, as a fast online search will reveal.
But even if your building intentions are more conventional, you might find yourself swayed by the economy and often breathtaking designs to be found in prefabricated, modular construction. It’s a new day, and homes built in this way are more compelling than ever.