Prefab Movement Needs To Rethink Its Model

Opinions Dated:  Sept. 17, 2015
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Prefabricated housing has the potential to address very specific price and space problems in today’s housing market, but the industry still must figure out a way to move out of the specialized boutique nature of their current model and into a state of mass production that would continue to sustain them for years to come.

Prefab home models in any of their variations have been around for hundreds of years, but saw a particular glimmer of hope at the start of the industrial revolution. Never before had anyone taken the laborious task of home-building and coupled it with the the concept of an assembly line.

The specialized nature of prefab building creates a few unique issues. Firstly, the focus of the companies that specialize in this type of build vary greatly, and tend to sit more on one end of the scale than the other. Many more firms are focused on imaginative and highly stylized designs that push architectural boundaries than high quality but accessible out-of-the-box designs with a few different customization options thrown in. The industry’s initial focus was on mass production and making homes that were “available for everyone”, however the process has now become a possibility mainly available to those with a large enough budget. This creates a niche market for a housing concept that could easily be much more widespread due to its sheer simplicity. Still, in addition to the heavy focus on innovation, these companies also appeal to green initiatives, as the method is already a great way to reduce waste and decrease one’s ecological footprint. With many companies zoning in on this aspect even more by offering more options to encourage “green, sustainable living”, it adds to the build’s cost for buyers who value those options and consider them essential.

Aside from that, general unfamiliarity with the process cause many to miss out on this building method. Unless you do specific research on different building methods, you will likely just assume that traditional “stick built” homes are the only possibilities for having a custom space.

Having to purchase land may also be a serious deterrent for those who may have been interested in prefab building otherwise; and the simplicity of subdivision building offered by most other traditional building companies offers peace of mind during a process that will already be moderately stress-filled. This is especially true for first time home buyers who may not understand the logistics or having to purchase land, use savings or acquire loans specific to the construction of their home.

One of the most glaringly obvious solutions would also be the hardest to execute: making the options for prefab building more accessible. Building a home from scratch by definition if a more expensive endeavour particularly when it comes to customization. It’s clear that for both the building company as well as buyers, filling an order in a single factory, particularly if that factory does only high-design prefab, is expensive for all parties involved. It’s necessary to tap into a much larger client base for these types of buildings in order to be able to manufacture on a continuous basis.

Prefab building has the potential to address very specific housing problems that currently exist; particularly with overpricing, space and layout limitations, especially in large cities where small cookie cutter condominiums seem to be taking over the real estate landscape. It’s possible to make this method of building much more appealing, particularly with a millennial buying crowd who clamour for these small high rise options in order to be closer to large metropolitan city centres. Working more closely with banks and lenders in order to ensure financing options for those with smaller budgets as well as simplifying the process of purchasing land are things that could help bolster the industry in unparalleled ways.

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