The world of prefab and modular homes.
 Entries tagged as 'cost'

The New Republic looks at prefab

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The New Republic recently discussed the plight of prefabricated housing in the United States.

Technologically, there is no reason why houses, like cars, cannot be mass-produced, and in other countries they are constructed that way. Prefabricated, mass-produced homes, like mass-produced cars, offer myriad advantages. Fewer resources, material and labor, are wasted. Weather does not dictate construction schedules. Higher and consistent quality is more easily and reliably achieved, because the product is fabricated in the controlled setting of a manufacturing plant, with all the attendant cost advantages.

Consistent with their political leaning, they call for government to step in:

For quality affordable mass-produced housing to be built, we need to create different conditions for a mass market. A new legislative structure must clear away the obstacles presented by non-standard, municipally controlled building codes and create enforceable national standards for prefab-friendly, environmentally responsible manufacturing and construction practices.

The article is quite long, but worth reading.

Author: Sarah Williams Goldhagen
Publication: The New Republic
Length: 3,887 words
Date: February 18, 2009

Hat tips: Building Systems on February 21, 2009 and Apartment Therapy on February 26, 2009. The latter has an active comment thread, with a general consensus that price remains a major barrier.

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weeHouses are now cheaper than ever (and can even power themselves!)

A recent email from info_smallAlchemy Architects says:

We have now included more and lowered our prices! 2,000 SF weeHouses with Good Stuff are around $125/SF or less, leaving you extra coins to put into your site.

Old pricing was in the $150/SF range, so it's quite a drop. Actual pricing depends on your part of the country.

Also mentioned:

Order a weeHouse SMALL with an off-grid Solar Package before November 1, 2008 for only $99,000 [$109,000 for CA and other states west of Colorado]. Outfitted with Fusion's 720W AC Energy Kit, you only need to provide the foundation, well, and septic to have a completely finished retreat.

Higher capacity solar kits are available for larger homes. For details:

Related Posts:
   1. weeHouse for sale in Wisconsin (Aug 04, 2009)
   2. weeHouse for sale in Duluth, MN (Jul 17, 2009)
   3. weeHouse in Continental Airlines magazine (Jun 16, 2009)
   4. weeHouse by Alchemy on display in WI; today and this weekend (May 22, 2009)
   5. Three weeHouse open houses in the next two weeks (Oct 07, 2008)
   6. New 4x weeHouses join the weeLineup (May 19, 2008)
   7. New weeHouse website (Dec 21, 2007)
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The LA Times on Sander Architects and steel framing

Link to The LA Times on Sander Architects and steel framing,0,6176670.story

info_smallSander Architects designs homes that use prefabricated steel skeletons. The Los Angeles Times discusses the advantages of steel:

With costs below those of conventional building methods, quick and easy assembly and no termite issues, prefabricated or pre-engineered steel buildings are finding a place in the residential home market.

Homeowner Thomas Small explains part of his reason for choosing steel:

"Most of the metal in this house is recycled and will be recyclable at the end of its use in this house," Small said.

"And there's also very little waste with metal. It was made at the factory and then shipped here. There was no sawdust. No cutting," he said. "And we didn't have to hire specialized builders. It was built by the contractor who built the rest of the house, and bolted together very easily."

Firm principal Whitney Sander describes the process:

"It fits together like an erector set," Sander explained. "And it goes together in three weeks. The inside takes longer, but the prefabrication can save you months and thousands of dollars."

Some numbers from recent Sander Architects projects:

Two projects completed within the last year cost about $130 per square foot or about one-third of traditional custom residential costs, which can top $400 per square foot, according to Sander.

Small's construction costs were about $175 to $200 per square foot, compared with $120 to $350 for traditional non-custom homes, according to construction experts.

These sounds like impressive savings, though finishes and other construction unrelated to the steel skeleton play a large part in determining final construction costs. Read the complete article for more about Sander Architects and steel framing.

author: Michelle Hofmann
publication: The Los Angeles Times
length: 1,000 words
publication date: June 8, 2008

Related Posts:
   1. Custom homes with prefab bones (Mar 29, 2007)
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Colorado modular on a budget

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The Denver Post reports on a modular homeowner near Denver:

Jill Warner is having a new home built in Salida that's as green as possible without "going overboard," she said.


Warner wanted to buy a prefab home from the beginning, but her early research revealed a stiff price tag — about $320 per square foot using an out-of-state builder.

Then she dug deeper and found companies closer to home. That cut the price by more than half.

Warner found Northstar Homes, based in Loveland, Colorado. According to Hollis Hunt of Northstar:

...people incorrectly assume going green means a sizable price tag. He says homebuyers can make choices that won't break the bank.

Their site features some helpful resources, including a list of modular home myths.

Read the full article for other tips on how to build prefab and meet your budget. The article also updates readers on the MKD development in Denver that we've reported on previously.

subtitle: Factory-built homes create less waste than traditional homes, helping to shrink carbon footprints
author: Christian Toto
publication: The Denver Post
length: 704 words
publication date: May 25, 2008

Related Posts:
   1. Aspen goes modular  (Dec 04, 2008)
   2. mkLoft development in Denver (Nov 26, 2007)
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Proposed toll road may raise modular home costs

Toll roads aren't just annoying to commuters; they can raise the cost of doing business:

A Pennsylvania law to toll Interstate 80...will have a devastating effect on Pennsylvania's modular housing industry, states The Modular Building Systems Association....

Pennsylvania is the top producer of modular homes in the Northeastern United States and one of the top three (3) production states within the entire country. Approximately forty (40) percent of all homes produced in Pennsylvania are transported to other states and even if appropriately sized booths are placed at tolling areas, the toll fees and other related costs will add thousands of dollars to every home.

According to Don Shiner, President of DeLuxe Building Systems in Berwick, PA:

"The cost of our homes will increase not only because of the tolls imposed when we transport the finished home to the job site, but also on raw materials being delivered to our factories, employees traveling on company business, the return of empty undercarriages to the factories for reuse in transporting the next home, time delays in transporting our homes that will result from I-80 being a toll road and other, additional factors."

Link: Modular Building Systems Association

Publication: PR Web
Length: 900 words
Date: November 29, 2007

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The top modular builders

Link to The top modular builders

Last year, Builder Magazine released a list of the top 31 modular builders (pdf) in the United States.

I've put the data in the top chart above. As can be seen, a few large companies build the majority of modular homes. In case you don't recognize the shape of the curve: it's a classic "powerlaw" distribution known as Zipf's Law and discussed in the business bestseller The Long Tail. All sorts of data show the same shape, including book sales, blog traffic, and word usage in any language.

The second chart shows revenue per home for each company. There is lots of variation in this chart. It might be interesting to research this variation at some point. One likely factor: companies that sell direct vs. wholesale. Any other thoughts?

Fleetwood Enterprises builds a number of products, including recreational vehicles, so their revenues reflect revenue sources other than the modular homes shipped, accounting for the large discrepancies in the data.

Below, you can see a table that shows all of the data charted above for each company.

Company (rank)HomesRevenue ($m)Revenue per home
Champion Enterprises (1)46531365$293,359
CMH Manufacturing (2)31661328$419,457
Palm Harbor Homes (3)1614711$440,520
Muncy Homes (4)134685$63,150
Excel Homes (5)1200111$92,500
Ritz-Craft Corp. (6)84991$107,185
Professional Building Systems (7)78158$74,264
Royal Concrete Concepts (8)60068$113,333
Liberty Homes (9)55297$175,725
Pleasan Street Homes (10)52657$108,365
Patriot Homes (11)490151$308,163
Crestline Homes (12)48036$75,000
Simplex Industries (13)45245$99,558
R-Anell Housing Group (14)40842$102,941
Stratford Homes (15)37535$93,333
New England Homes (16)35027$77,143
American Homestar Corp. (17)341111$325,513
Four Seasons Housing (18)32084$262,500
Handcrafted Homes (19)30728$91,205
Westchester Modular Homes (20)30530$98,361
Fleetwood Enterprises (21)2612145$8,218,391
Unibilt Industries (22)25322$86,957
Integrity Building Systems (23)24722$89,069
Penn Lyon Homes Corp. (24)23032$139,130
Oxford Homes (25)22015$68,182
Deluxe Building Systems (26)16533$200,000
Barvista Homes (27)12515$120,000
Custom Building Systems (28)12111$90,909
Heritage Homes of Nebraska (29)12114$115,702
Manufactured Housing Enterprises (30)10610$94,340
Epoch Homes (31)10014$140,000

Related Posts:
   1. Epoch Homes nominated for SBANE award (May 26, 2009)
   2. Epoch Homes factory tours this weekend in NH (May 15, 2009)
   3. The NAHB on Systems-Built Housing (Jul 27, 2007)
   4. NAHB Modular Home Manufacturer Directory (Jul 20, 2007)
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JoT House update and pricing

Link to JoT House update and pricing

A couple weeks back, I reported on the JoT House. I've received a few more details about the JoT line of products from Jim Vinson.

The reported "as low as $100/sf" price was for a spartan artists loft. Their PDF states "the average cost is $180 per square foot" excluding design fees, site prep, and materials shipping.

model: JoT House
style: modern
size: 1,344 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $210,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$180/sf)
how: SIPs

model: JoT L
style: modern
size: 1,370 sf
bedrooms: 1 - 3
price: starts at $260,000 + $35,000 design fee (~$215/sf)
how: SIPs

model: Mini-JoT
style: single room, detached structure
size: 128 sf
price: $45,000 - $75,000 plus $2,000 design fee ($350/sf - $600/sf)
notes: no plumbing, "trailer delivery option reclassifies the structure as a temporary building or vehicle, eliminating many permit issues"

Related Posts:
   1. The JoT House: cheap and flexible (Jul 31, 2007)
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A Prefab Project budget

Link to A Prefab Project budget

One of the great features of A Prefab Project is the detailed budget homeowner Chris keeps updating. As the project nears completion, it offers an accurate estimation of how much a prefab project from Res4 might cost you. Granted, your site work and other specifics might differ, but it's a good bunch of numbers to study.

I've pulled together the spreadsheet above showing the initial estimation of how much each piece of work would cost. I've then inputted numbers for the actual costs, based on what Chris has reported. They are doing an impressive job of sticking to their budget!

My only question: why does a prefab house have a 15% design fee? I emailed Resolution 4 on Aug. 7th and Aug. 11, but haven't heard back.

Related Posts:
   1. Lost River Modern by Resolution 4 (Aug 13, 2009)
   2. A Prefab Project you can rent (Jul 10, 2008)
   3. This week: XtremeHomes visit, JoT, Lot-ek, and more (Sep 01, 2007)
   4. Learn from a Prefab Project (Jul 23, 2007)
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What is the difference?

In today's issue of the Newark (Ohio) Advocate, a mortgage broker discusses the financing of mobile homes vs. manufactured homes vs. modular homes.

Title: What's the difference between mobile, manufactured, and modular homes?
Author: Brett Richards
Publication: Newark Advocate
Length: 430 words
Issue: July 21, 2007

Related Posts:
   1. Clayton Homes Showcase of Homes this weekend in Greensboro, NC (Oct 09, 2008)
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More small prefab: Metroshed

Link to More small prefab: Metroshed

CubeMe found another company, producing small prefab outbuildings. We've covered info_smallModern Shed, info_smallModern Cabana and info_smallEcospace, and now there is the info_smallMetroCabin from info_smallMetroShed:

"The simple and sophisticated design allows it to exist easily in an urban setting, while the quiet strength and sturdy attitude are comfortable in a more rugged environment."

name: MetroCabin by MetroShed
where: Orlando, FL
size: 104sf
cost: $29,500 to $34,950
construction type: pre-assembled conventional stud-framed panels
standard materials: wood doors and windows
options: window screens, wall finishes, door and trim color, exterior color, porch, electrical

Update: fixed the picture (thanks to a commenter for pointing out the mistake)

Related Posts:
   1. Small homes from Sweden (Oct 17, 2008)
   2. MetroShed introduces smaller MetroCabin (Jan 24, 2008)
   3. Shedworking: a new blog (Jun 22, 2007)
   4. Modern sheds, cabanas, and studios (Apr 16, 2007)
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Maison Tropicale sold for $4.97m

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Jean Prouve's classic Maison Tropicale was sold last night at auction for $4.97 million, according to

"'I just love Prouve,' said tanned hotelier Andre Balazs who bought the house and said he hasn't decided what he will do with it. Of one thing was he certain: 'It belongs back in the tropics.'"

The article added details on the house's history:

"About eight years ago, Touchaleaume traveled to the Republic of the Congo and bought three prototype tropical houses that Prouve had shipped to the French colony. They were in dismal condition, rusting, inhabited by squatters and riddled with bullet holes from civil wars.

He sold one to American collector and former commodities trader Robert Rubin, who restored and donated his house to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 'This price validates the other one,' said Rubin after the sale, speaking of the house he donated."

Related Posts:
   1. MoMA's Home Delivery gets a glowing review from the NY Times (Jul 18, 2008)
   2. Historic prefab: Marcel Breuer's Plas-2-Point house (Feb 12, 2008)
   3. Maison Tropicale to be displayed in London (Jan 25, 2008)
   4. More pictures of the Maison Tropicale (May 22, 2007)
   5. $6 million prefab up for sale (May 18, 2007)
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This week: more Maison and more treehouses

Link to This week: more Maison and more treehouses

Jean Prouve's Maison Tropicale doesn't go on the auction block until next week. The vintage prefab stirred up a little more press this week. Luxist covered the home and linked an article in the Queens Tribune.

Treehugger brought a couple other treehouse companies to the table:

"If you want to live out your childhood fantasy of moving into your treehouse (and preferably seceding from the family), but a couple of planks slapped together with some rusty nails isn't going to cut it, you'll want to give the able carpenters of TreeHouse Workshop a ring."

Inhabitat's Prefab Friday shared thoughts and more good photos of Richard Rogers' Oxley Park Houses that Treehugger mentioned last week:

"The homes' most innovative feature is the 'EcoHat,' a roofing system that allows hot air to rise and consequently be reused to provide passive solar water heating, thereby mitigating the energy consumption of the house. Clever floorplans optimize natural lighting schemes, while prefab modules and flat-pack components reduce waste and energy..."

Related Posts:
   1. Prefab for the kids (May 31, 2007)
   2. More pictures of the Maison Tropicale (May 22, 2007)
   3. $6 million prefab up for sale (May 18, 2007)
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This week: prefab school, CA prefab and SIPs

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Inhabitat's Prefab Friday covered a prefab school project in progress by Jennifer Siegel's OMD:

"...We're thrilled to see prefab systems being applied to more public and educational contexts!) While the construction isn't quite finished, we think this is a great opportunity to show the process and progress of an exceptional prefab project- and one of the best (and first) prefab schools we've seen integrate so many green technologies...

We find this project particularly interesting as it is an addition to an existing structure, which provides not only site-specific but aesthetic and programmatic context."

Treehugger covers a prefab concept in the UK by architect Richard Rogers. The post includes over a dozen photos, and quotes a recent Financial Times article (subscription required) with a hat tip to Urbanity.

The San Jose Mercury News ran an article about prefab and price:

"Manufactured homes are no longer the boxy firetraps owned by the poor and elderly. Instead they are increasingly becoming the smartly-designed homes of the young, wealthy and educated.

About 1.4 million people in California live in manufactured homes, and the typical profile of an owner has become younger, more educated and more affluent...

...standard site-built homes cost about $250 a square foot whereas manufactured housing can be as low as $120 a square foot, a big savings for people used to paying top dollar in the Bay Area."

Materialicious (a blog all about building materials) points out that the Structural Insulated Panel Association offers useful information, "including a Green Building section".

Related Posts:
   1. UK prefab school (Jul 09, 2008)
   2. This week: London, Resolution: 4, OMD and more (May 24, 2008)
   3. Take a portable swell house home (Mar 29, 2007)
   4. So, what are SIPs anyway? (Mar 27, 2007)
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$6 million prefab up for sale

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On Wednesday the New York Times published an article about the classic prefab Maison Tropicale up for auction:

"Tomorrow, the Maison Tropicale, a small aluminum-paneled house built in 1951 by Jean Prouvé, a French designer and the current court favorite of well-heeled contemporary art and design collectors internationally, is being opened to the public for preview in Long Island City. Christie's, the auction house, will offer it for sale on June 5. The presale estimate is $4 million to $6 million."

That article touched off a flurry of posts around the blogosphere about the house and its sale. Treehugger's Lloyd Alter shared his thoughts and linked to an earlier article all about the home:

"One of the most remarkable experiments in prefabrication was Jean Prouve's Tropical House, designed and built in France and airlifted in 1951 to be assembled in Brazzaville, now the middle of a war zone....Treehugger...learned from him that the process [of] assembly and dissassembly is hard on the house and its fittings, so this may be one of the very few chances to see this masterpiece. Prouve is under-appreciated, his work in building and furniture design is brilliant."

Tropolism tried to visit the house and reported back:

"The located in Long Island City, on a plot just south of the Queensboro Bridge. Update: After running over there today, I can report that the dates the house is open are May 17-June 5, 2007. No hours were posted. It was locked at 11am today."
Inhabitat covered the house today on Prefab Friday:
"The Maison is plug-and-play: there was never any plumbing, and it is wired for electricity. It ships in six containers. Christie's is compiling a short list of potential bidders with substantial properties in Mustique, Antigua, the Hamptons — name your playground — who might like a 59-foot-by-32-foot-by-16-foot-tall folly/outdoor sculpture/guesthouse/vintage metal toy to park on the lawn, with a designer label attached."

Apartment Therapy mentioned the home. Erratica excerpted the NY Times article and some of the NY Times images. Prefab Update posted the same images.

The Christie's auction lot shared some more details on the home:
• all load bearing parts in bent steel sheets, all covering parts in bent aluminum sheets
• the interior steel floor covered with modern iroko and rubber boat decking (not designed by Jean Prouvé) replacing the original linoleum
• with two modern access stairs (not designed by Jean Prouvé) and with original connecting platform

The home's early use of factory-built parts jives with Jean Prouve's character, as discussed in this International Herald Tribune article from last year:

"Prouvé described himself proudly as a 'factory man,' while his friend, Le Corbusier, dubbed him an 'architect-engineer.'...'He considered the availability and economy of materials, he developed tooling for production, and he aimed to optimize efficiency, but this has been forgotten....The young Prouvé longed to become an engineer, but, as his family could not afford the training, at 15 he was apprenticed to a master blacksmith.

He studied under two of France's most gifted blacksmiths, Emile Robert and Szabo, both of whom produced 'art metalwork': wrought-iron grilles and doors in ornate floral shapes....Prouvé followed his father's design principles: 'Learn about the past; never plagiarize; always use the most up-to- date methods.'"

Related Posts:
   1. Maison Tropicale to be displayed in London (Jan 25, 2008)
   2. Maison Tropicale sold for $4.97m (Jun 06, 2007)
   3. This week: more Maison and more treehouses (Jun 03, 2007)
   4. More pictures of the Maison Tropicale (May 22, 2007)
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The LV Series Yahoo! Group runs the numbers

Link to The LV Series Yahoo! Group runs the numbers
© Jennifer Watson

I just found a Yahoo! Group dedicated to sharing the thoughts and experiences of info_smallLV Series homeowners. LV Series homeowner Gregg started the group in July of 2005:

"Hello. My name is Gregg. I am building an LV Home in Sperryville, VA, about 60 miles west of DC in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains.

The reason I am starting this group is because I have had a lot of questions during this process to which I could not find answers on the web -- the most notable example being the actual cost....I felt it would be a good idea to have a forum for people interested in the home to be able to ask around."

Some of the very first posts had substantive content:
"When I ask[ed] for bid submissions, I insisted on having the contractors do 2 columns: Perryville [Missouri, where the Romero factory is located] and Sperryville [Virginia]. That way, I could see where they deviated heavily from Rocio's estimates. Here are the deviations:

Foundation: +3300 Framing and roof: +5000 Heat, Plumbing, Elec: +1500 Interior Finish: +400

...It fell very close to Rocio's estimate, and I am in one of the most expensive areas of the country."

There have been countless discussions on construction costs, and others about sourcing windows or other products for LV Series homes.

One user, having just finished his LV Home posted a full recap of construction costs, photos and thoughts on the project:

"Note that we did not encounter any big problems during construction. I will say that we were not pleased at all with the costs and do blame our contractor for a lot of the cost madness. But when we solicited bids more than one builder said, "kit or no kits, the cost per square foot will be the same." And that bore out to be true."
(emphasis added)

If you want to build an LV home, this is definitely a must-visit site.

Related Posts:
   1. Tracking the progress of an LVL home (Dec 11, 2007)
   2. 35 homes and counting (Apr 11, 2007)
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