There are many types of prefab construction. But whether it’s residential or commercial, prefabrication is bursting on the scene once again, and it looks like the process may endear itself to a different demographic this time around.
Prefab units are not just square blobs anymore. As pointed out by bestselling author and journalist Sheri Koones in the recent Bridging the Gap podcast, you don’t have to sacrifice design for a prefab house. After going through the trial and error of building her own house, Koones appreciates quality construction. In her 2016 book “Prefabulous Small Houses,” she spotlights 32 beautiful and diverse prefabricated homes located in North America. She explains that prefab houses can be built to be more energy efficient and sustainable, plus building them in a factory takes less time, so that also saves energy. The homes she spotlights have a bright and airy look and a surprising capacity for storage, something some of us never seem to have enough of. She found the residential prefab industry so appealing that she researched and wrote the 2005 book, “Modular Mansions,” to call attention to the fastest growing method of residential construction in the US. But it’s the small home movement that Koones is spotlighting now.
The fact that these homes are small may sound like a downside, but Koones points out that small houses are attractive to baby boomers who are ready to downsize to a house that is more in keeping with fewer occupants, less maintenance, less energy consumption, and less yard work. On the other end of the spectrum, millennials are having fewer children and seem to be interested in being out of the house with an active lifestyle. They, too, are looking for a place that requires less upkeep and has sustainability features. During interviews for her books, Koones confirmed that people can live in smaller houses and still be comfortable.
As opposed to Tiny Homes – ranging in size from 100 to 400 square-feet – small homes tend to be over 400 and up to a couple thousand square feet. They are either site-built or prefab. There continues to be interest in Tiny Homes, but the small home movement has grown for some practical reasons. Unlike most Tiny Homes, small homes are set on a foundation, they operate on the grid, they don’t have zoning and safety (ie. earthquake) issues, and they meet building code requirements.
In her 2019 book “Downsize,” Koones includes descriptions of small homes like the 1,906 square-foot Longleaf House in South Carolina. The owners downsized from 3,550 square-feet, and in fact, reported feeling liberated after moving from the larger house.
Small houses provide an opportunity to transform spaces in creative ways. That process of multi-purposing space has always intrigued and fascinated me. And combining small homes with prefab seems like a perfect construction marriage. In fact, I’m wondering, why would anyone not want to take advantage of the benefits of prefab if you can speed up timelines, increase safety, save energy, and live a more sustainable existence?
To listen to the full conversation with Sheri, check out the Bridging the Gap Podcast today.