A prefabricated building is defined as any structure that is made off-site, with either the entire structure or individual sections transported and put together on-site using an existing design. Prefabrication has been an integral part of large scale building projects for a long time now, from bridges and industrial precincts through to hospitals and schools. Up until fairly recently however, mass produced builds have suffered from an image problem in the domestic sphere.
The sentiment towards prefab homes is slowly changing however, with a recent report in the New York Times highlighting growth in the sector. "Historically, people have had negative associations with modular construction, and certainly within the design industry it didn’t have much cachet ... But there has been a sea change, and now there is much less of a distinction over whether a building has been assembled off-site or on-site.” said David Burney, the commissioner of the New York City department of design and construction.
Changing attitudes are also being seen in Australia and New Zealand, with lower building costs, time constraints, and environmental awareness leading more people towards prefab options. Architect, Melbourne University academic, and Prefab Aus member Sarah Backhouse thinks the prefab industry could help the struggling manufacturing industry in Australia, saying "Prefab isn't about replacing traditional construction, it's about complementing it and giving customers a greater choice."
Prefab homes are the more environmentally friendly and sustainable option in most situations, with less waste during manufacture, less site disturbance during construction, and impressive reductions in energy bills upon completion. Even when a new build is out of the question, people are increasingly using prefabricated modules for renovations and bespoke add-ons.
New design and technology is also having an impact on the prefab industry, with some manufactured buildings now branded in much the same way as cars and high-end fashion items. For example, the famous Huf Haus design featured in Grand Designs has become an aspirational product in much the same way as a Porsche, with flexible yet highly detailed designs now offered by a number of companies along with pre-priced floor plans and entire build packages.
Prefabricated homes come in a range of shapes and sizes, with new designs and methods of construction enabling more attractive and sustainable builds. While the cost and time advantages of the prefab industry have always been there, environmental awareness and new design innovations are helping more people to look past their prejudices and see what the industry has to offer.