Design Ambassador: On prefabricated homes.
Design Ambassador Ed Ewers broke with tradition this month, and rather than discussing a particular project chose to talk about prefabricated homes including both the construction and the end results.
Ewers visited prefab homebuilders Modscape and Prebuilt, and checked out both their construction processes and final product.
“Prefabricated homes have been an ongoing fascination with architects. It’s the resolve to try and do something which can be mass produced or built in a controlled environment and then relocated or transported or shipped to a site and it has a fascination because of cost and control and flexibility in where it’s done.”
It can be difficult for a prefabricated home to compete with traditional construction for build quality, with few firms being able to match the results of a custom home that is built on site, and that’s where a lot of the fascination comes from.
“I went out to the Modscape factory in Melbourne and they have got a very simple system, it appears to be fool proof. It’s providing a good range of flexibility in the design, and I think that can be said for Prebuilt as well. “
One attraction is that firms, which produce prefab homes, can usually give the client or customer real surety of exactly what they are going to get. They can actually visit one before it’s built and that get the same certainty as buying from a display home.
Modscape will build a home from start to finish in 12 weeks. That’s from when they get a building permit. The majority of that is obviously in a controlled environment within their factory. Then they are typically less than ten working days on site, and that’s to found the building on some footings and fit services such as plumbing, power, gas, and whatever else is needed. One of their real sales points is they’ll guarantee meeting a deadline, and it’s rare that conventional construction maintains a strict deadline.
“I think they are ideally suited to remote locations, but both Modscape and Prebuilt have examples where they’re actually really suitable for urban infill, so inner city development and filling in small gaps.”
There’s clearly logic there in that if there is a very small site that has limited access, they can actually build this somewhere else rather than have scaffolds and lots of tradesmen trying to funnel into a small area of land, like a terrace site. They can just crane the home into place very quickly so that has some environmental asset to it, and another use for it again is for renovation work.
Value for money
“Strangely enough I don’t think they are any cheaper than conventional construction methods. I would probably accept that there is a saving in time, which obviously will have some fiscal benefit. I think if you were smart, you’d get a prefabricated home to work in time constraints of land settlement or demolition of an existing building to mitigate holding costs.”
In pure construction costs prefabricated homes can give very good value for money but the notion that they are a cheaper option is not necessarily true. When planning the build of a new home or renovating an existing house, one needs to decide what factors are most important to them, for example the quick construction time of a prefab home vs. the customizability of one designed by an architect.