What Are Modular Homes and How Do They Work?Modular homes are not mobile homes. They’re not meant to be moved once they’re fully constructed. Rather, prefabricated and modular homes are built in pieces within an environmentally controlled factory setting and then moved to the build site for assembly.THE PROCESS OF BUILDING A MODULAR HOME USING PLANT PREFAB
Modular Construction’s BenefitsSteve Glenn, the CEO of Plant Prefab, points out that experienced modular home contractors can generally save money for the future homeowners compared with site-built homes: “As costs rise for labor and land and permits, individuals are increasingly looking for ways to cut costs. [Modular building] can lead to a cost advantage, but it depends on a few factors like design choices.”Plant Prefab is choosy when it comes to the environmental friendliness of the products and plants they use, too. Designing a home with Glenn’s crew means you can have reductions in energy and water use and healthier air quality through the use of low-VOC paints and other products, ethanol fireplace inserts and the addition of indoor gardens.Prefab homes can help professional construction companies maintain a high level of build quality and attention to detail, too. Assembling the major structures of a home in controlled factory conditions, safe from the elements, where each specialist has unrestricted access, is the primary advantage of modular and prefab homes from a professional’s standpoint. The buy-in can be high, between securing a manufacturing space large enough and a ...
Now, let’s look at the benefits for homeowners:The construction process requires fewer contractors from beginning to end. This is a good thing, given the difficulty construction crews are having meeting their staffing requirements lately.The process of building a modular home is also not as long as when you fully build a home onsite.The modular building process delivers finished structural components already assembled to the build site, which reduces the amount of time the unfinished structure is exposed to the elements (or vandals).Modular building tends to produce less waste than traditional building techniques.Companies specializing in prefabricated and modular homes typically employ in-house engineers who can fine-tune each piece of the design for environmental friendliness, energy efficiency, durability and better airflow and air quality.
Douglas Cutler, of Douglas Cutler Architects in Connecticut, is another builder helping bring more knowledge about modular homes to the masses. “Architects who design modular are the missing link,” he says, as this helps avoid poor design and ensures the home is built according to the standards and customization the home buyer is interested in.Cutler also adds, “Construction quality, in some respects, is of a higher quality [than site-built homes] because construction takes place within a factory’s control.”
Challenges Modular Construction FacesOf course, this type of construction technique doesn’t work for every type of home. It’s best for single-family and smaller dwellings. It also goes without saying that there are significant logistical challenges involved with transporting large pieces of a home across any stretch of highway or local roads. Builders need transportation partners they can count on and that have experience moving loads like these. Larger homes could also present issues if the factory cannot accommodate the size of the home being built.Public awareness is another major barrier to overcome as is the weakening housing market and millennials’ reticence to purchase homes at all, much less homes built in a manner they may not be familiar with. Although prefabrication is becoming a more well-known construction option, a lack of knowledge regarding the process is one of its greatest barriers to growth.
Are Modular Homes the Future of Construction?Housing the world’s population in the coming decades means coming up with clever new ways to build large amounts of affordable housing in a relatively short amount of time. Compared to some of the techniques we’ve been using, modular construction can be up to 50% faster and renders obsolete as much as 80% of the construction work that would have had to happen onsite. Instead of piles of raw materials showing up on pallets, the building crew gets to work with something that’s akin to a half-constructed LEGO set, that’s made of durable, well-built and yet cost-effective components.
Finally, there’s the matter of customizability. There are lots of builders out there with prototypes and basic designs to choose from, but homeowners can tweak these with unique features of their own making, combine features from other models or even start with a blank canvas — or, in this case, a CAD file. Spreading awareness among home buyers and future home buyers can help them better understand some of the advantages of modular homes and whether or not the process may be the right choice for them.