The world of prefab and modular homes.
  Entries written by Scott

Prefabcosm: taking an extended break

Hello, Scott here.

I continue to believe that prefab and modular homes should play an ever increasing role in the housing market. But with the ongoing economic troubles, the demand for new houses is not likely to support much innovation for awhile.

As a company, we've always had several projects going at the same time. One of those is ramping up and needs more staff time, so it's time to halt our ongoing efforts at Prefabcosm.

The site will remain; I hope it continues to serve as a useful resource.

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Is prefab the answer?

Yesterday Jetson Green featured a long guest post by Chad Ludeman, President of postgreen: Prefab is Not The Answer to Affordable, Modern & Green Homes.

First, we will look at the prefab industry and try to dispel some of the myths that have arisen around it.

Our take: interesting points, but mostly reduces to his opinion (or very narrow facts). Several points are widely debated in the industry; others are clearly "straw man" arguments, not to be taken seriously.

Second, we will take a quick look at how the housing industry may be able to learn from both prefab and site-built homes to create a hybrid approach that will provide a better, more accessible solution to the home buyer and hopefully reduce the barrier of entry to modern, green, and unique residences.

Plenty of good ideas, but nothing stands out as new. There are lots of companies tackling various approaches to "prefab", ranging from 100% factory built to minor variations on site-built.

If you see something new and important that we missed, please add a comment!

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Monday night TV: prefab on DIY Network, March 31

Link to Monday night TV: prefab on DIY Network, March 31

Here's a good find from our new Web Researcher. DYI Network has a whole series on prefab and modular homes: Assembly Required. Most of the 26 episodes have been shown at least once.

Episode 101 is up next: Modular Home -- Prefab Options:

The Papadapoulos family is considering prefab home options for their Virginia vineyard. ... The couple decides to tour a modular home building factory and discover what prefab has to offer.

(The factory: Nationwide Custom Homes.)

Also, meet the Surratt family who used prefab technology to create a one-of-a kind modular home. Tour their home and find out the many upgrades that are available to modular home buyers.

Episode: Modular Home -- Prefab Options
Series: Assembly Required
Network: DIY Network
Length: 30 minutes
Date: March 31, 2008, 10:30 PM Eastern (and again at 2:30 AM)

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New checkbox search for our database of prefab and modular homes

Link to New checkbox search for our database of prefab and modular homes

Hello, Scott here. Peter has just released a new feature that I designed (and he painstakingly implemented). It combines our previous one-click navigation with a more flexible search using checkboxes.

The earlier approach was quick:

  • click any parameter to go directly to those results
  • click any other parameter to drill-down farther

Here's how it looked (for homes priced between $100k - $199k with 1,500 - 1,999 sf):

Many online stores use this approach, but it has one big problem: what if your target doesn't match the specified ranges? Maybe you'd like 3-4 BR between 1,500-2,999 (which spans 2 ranges). That would take 4 different searches! The solution is simple: checkboxes.

Now you can be thorough:

  • click the checkbox for any parameter
  • click the checkbox for any other parameters
  • click "Search"

Many sites feature direct drill-down, others have checkboxes. We have both working together in the same form. (If you've seen this combination anywhere else, please send us the URL!) To add or remove a single parameter from your search, just click on it directly. To change several, use the checkboxes and click Search.

As before, options that have no data are crossed out. You can click on one to reset your search and see results for just that item.

Please try this new interface to what we think is the world's most complete database of modernist prefab homes that are available to order. (Plus some traditional style homes, and lots of prototype and custom prefabs.)

Related Posts:
   1. Prefabcosm update: available, prototype, discontinued (Jan 12, 2008)
   2. Prefabcosm update: one-click navigation of prefab and modular homes (Dec 27, 2007)
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Prefabcosm job opening: part-time Web researcher / blogger (telecommute)

Link to Prefabcosm job opening: part-time Web researcher / blogger (telecommute)

Hello, Scott here. I've been keeping Peter more than busy, so it's time to expand the team.

We're looking for someone to gather and organize information, roughly 20 hours/week. The job requires lots of research, some editing, and very little writing.

See the CraigsList posting for details. We've received some good applications so far, but there are several ways to stand out from the crowd.

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Wanted: a Prefab Kitchen

Link to Wanted: a Prefab Kitchen
All rights reserved; used with permission.

Hello, Scott here. Peter is the visible face of Prefabcosm, but I'll post a few thoughts from time to time.

One of the many reasons I find prefab construction appealing is that the conventional approach can be such a nightmare. Contractors don't show up when promised, materials get delayed, water seeps in where it's not welcome, doors don't shut quite right, etc. And, after all the hassles and delays, the final price is often higher than expected.

The prefab homes we've covered here so far are for new construction. But I wonder if there's a market for a prefab kitchen, dining room, family room or even bathroom as an addition to an existing home. For example, I was reading through the blog archives of Don MacAskill, another software entrepreneur. His kitchen remodeling project was supposed to take 6 months. 15 months later, it still wasn't done. And, at $130,000, the problems can't be blamed on a lack of budget.

Here's a better approach. In a prefab factory, build the kitchen with three exterior walls. On site, pour the foundation for the new kitchen "wing" of the house. When the delivery date is certain, knock out the appropriate section of wall on site, drop the kitchen in place, and seal it up. Granted, it still takes time to tear out the old kitchen and turn it into a larger dining room, living room or whatever -- but at least the family has their brand new kitchen while this work is being done.

This solution isn't perfect of course, e.g. it adds square footage rather than just replacing an existing kitchen. But I'll bet some would like to add space anyway, and others would be happy with any compromise that only took their cooking facilities and space away for days rather than months.

Another drawback: the kitchen is sticking out from the house rather than being a central part of the floor plan. I'll bet it's possible to build and deliver a "no walls" kitchen that could be slid in place after knocking out the appropriate section of wall -- but I wouldn't be surprised if that approach gets dismissed as crazy talk. I'll let you know if I ever decide to try it.

Meanwhile, perhaps a few prefab companies will research the market to see if home additions are a useful way to grow their business -- not least to achieve cost savings from experience and scale.

A question for our readers: what are some creative ways to get a new kitchen with less than 1 month of on-site time?

Related Posts:
   1. pieceHomes introduces extraPieces, modular additions for existing homes (Jun 17, 2008)
   2. Prefab penthouse (Oct 23, 2007)
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