The world of prefab and modular homes.

Washington Post on sticks, panels and modules

The goal of prefab is clear:

For more than a century, architects and builders have strived toward a prefabricated, industrialized house, one made in a factory so that economies of scale would be realized and the product would be affordable to all home buyers.

It's worth remembering that the current "stick built" process was itself an important innovation, "prefabricating" the basic components:

Until the 1830s, most houses in America were built with post and beam framing. All the pieces were hand-hewn and held in place with complex joinery, and home building was a time-consuming, costly process. Around then, however, steam-driven saws that could produce large quantities of accurately sized building lumber and machines that made huge quantities of iron nails began to appear in the larger cities.

An enterprising Chicago building contractor, George Washington Snow, saw the potential for these new products to revolutionize the building industry. He devised a method of framing that was much faster and far less costly.

One step forward in the meantime: panels (6% of homes built in the US in 2007).

the 2-by-4 stud walls sometimes are assembled in factories and hauled to a job site, an approach called panelizing.

A bigger step: modular (3% of homes built in the US in 2007).

a method of building in a factory an entire conventional wood-framed house in sections, loading each one onto a flatbed trailer, trucking it to a job site and then setting it in place with a crane.

Read the whole article for a few details on pros, cons, and possible futures.

Author: Katherine Salant
Publication: Washington Post
Section: Page F06
Length: 815 words
Date: November 1, 2008

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