Having grown up in a construction family, I’m always pretty quick to defend the livelihoods of carpenters, masons, plasterers, plumbers and electricians who are out there building homes and remodels, working hard to make a living.
So I kind of cringe at the idea of building prefabricated homes and additions in factories. Now, these are not mobile homes I’m speaking of, built on a chassis. The prefab homes I’m thinking of are made in sections, or modules, and then brought to the site on flatbed trucks and moved with cranes onto foundations.
But after listening to a talk today by Sheri Koones, author of Prefabulous: The House of Your Dreams Delivered Fresh From the Factory (Taunton, 2007), I’m really warming to the idea.
Some advantages of building homes (or additions or second stories) in a factory environment are:
• Less waste as cutoffs are used for other projects in the factory. And what’s left over can be sent back to the vendor for recycling, such as drywall. When materials get to a site, it’s harder to get waste anywhere other than the landfill (though more on-site recycling is being done).
• Less disruption to your neighbors! Rather than having them suffer through the noise and disruption of your one-year building process, they need only suffer through demolition and foundation work. And then, the completed modules arrives to be set in place over a couple of days.
• More quality control. As you can imagine, it’s easier to supervise a plumber working on many houses in one factory than it is a plumber working on site-built houses all over the Southland.
And modular or prefabricated houses need not be boring, off-the-shelf boxes. Nearly all the homes in Koones’ book were custom-designed by architects. All that being said, there must be some downside to prefab houses. There’s a downside to everything, right?
So what’s the problem with this method of building?