Prefabricated homes—or prefabs, for short—are the latest unstoppable trend in modern architecture. Cheap, easy to move and quick to build, they answer several big housing prayers in one fell swoop. They can be defined as homes that are manufactured offsite in advance, most often in standardised sections, units or panels that can then easily be shipped and assembled. The clear advantage of this approach to homebuilding is that the component parts can be ordered and transported in a relatively short time, with building costs reduced to a minimum. Due to their relatively recent arrival, prefab homes tend to adopt a minimal, modernist form which in turn increases the speed with which they’re assembled. The term ‘prefab home’ refers to houses assembled from panels, modules or whole transportable sections, and tends to have slightly different meaning depending on the country and context. Here in the UK, prefabricated homes are most commonly associated with post-World War II rebuild projects, when a great deal of new housing was needed in a short time. Never intended as long-term dwellings, most of these homes have subsequently been destroyed—although a few remain to this day.
By their very nature, prefab houses are extremely versatile and can be adapted and tailored to the demands of the potential owner. Within this burgeoning home category, there are 3 major subcategories to be aware of: modular homes, which consist of individual sections or panels that are then shipped to the site, manufactured homes, which are built in complete sections and transported on steel beams, and finally, mobile homes, which are assembled on wheels and can be delivered in one piece. But if you’re considering investing in one of these forward-thinking homes, you’re probably wondering what styles they come in. Are they all minimal boxes or sheds on wheels? Far from it! In fact, these versatile dwellings can be made up to suit pretty much any taste, from classic, colonial or country-style through to log cabin, ranch, craftsman—or even Victorian. They also come in both bungalow and two-storey models, and can be surprisingly expansive if required.
Thanks to their versatility, prefab homes can take many forms. If you’re seriously thinking of investing in this type of dwelling, one of the first big decisions you’ll need to make is whether to opt for a bungalow or a multi-storey home. The pros and cons of each are not unique to prefabs, but they’re worth mentioning here. The primary advantages of one-storey homes are lower building costs, due to less material and labour, as well as the ease and speed of manufacture—not to mention the fact that no stairs are involved! Two-storey homes, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive and take longer to complete, but they’ll offer better views, more floor space and perhaps a sense of security to those comfortable climbing stairs.
If you’re thinking of opting for a prefabricated home, you’ll no doubt be wondering just how much the project will set you back. First things first, it’s important to remember that costs will vary wildly depending on your location, the style of dwelling you’re after, and the materials used. As a rough guide, it’s interesting to know that the Huf Haus, a highly-regarded German prefab brand will cost in the vicinity of £3000 per square metre, while other manufacturers charge around £1,200 per sq-m. The Modulus, a 66-square-metre, award-winning prefab costs from around £50k for the complete home—how’s that for a bargain? And when it comes to build times, most prefabs are constructed within 3-4 months, although they can pop up in a remarkably short time if the conditions are right. The most important thing to do if you’re looking to invest in one of these smart homes is to consult an experienced architect - they’ll be able to guide you through the experience as smoothly as possible.