Michael Harris

GREEN GUIDE TO PREFAB: The History of the Mobile Home and Its Influence on the Modern Prefab

by , 08/08/12

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A New Model: The Green Prefabricated Home

Prefab Attracts Designers and Consumers Alike

During the last five years, changes in the economy, skyrocketing energy costs, and the growing understanding that the endangered environment poses a threat to humanity have forced a “time out” for serious reflection on how we are living.

The age of outrageously conspicuous consumption is thankfully over and has been replaced by a sober sense of reason and responsibility. Federal and state legislatures now mandate various green building and living measures, and today there is an increased awareness that building green does not mean adding significant cost. Different pressures – financial and otherwise – have made sustainable architecture a more viable option, especially in conjunction with prefabrication.

The current tight mortgage market makes the financing of cost overruns from building a new home a near impossibility. As a result, prospective homeowners have come to value predictability and avoid expensive time-consuming risks whenever possible. Prefab building systems meet these needs since they are based on streamlined processes and mass-purchased and produced components. They also make the modification of existing designs or the creation of new designs less time-consuming and cost-efficient.

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Systems building also reduces waste in the factory (where remnants of larger pieces are often used to fabricate smaller parts) and on-site, saving the cost and environmental aftermath of carting waste to landfills. Overall, the amount of fuel required to deliver components is reduced when they are tightly packaged on one or two trucks, rather than in dozens of small deliveries. Systems producers also often invest in research and development that results in the use of innovative engineered components and sustainable materials. Today, for the first time, there is a real and measured consensus among consumers that prefab houses exceed conventionally built houses in both quality and value.

Architects, seeking to make their services and designs accessible to a broader base of design-savvy yet value-conscious consumers, have turned to the prefab industry to deliver the dream: an architect-designed home, produced efficiently in a factory, sustainably built on-time and on-budget.

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Res4 ArchitectsMarmol Radziner, and Michele Kaufmann have led the way in offering both strikingly beautiful pre-designed homes and custom homes produced in modular home factories and co-joined on-site. While the costs may seem high for those familiar with modular home pricing, in actuality they are more affordable than conventionally built homes designed by architects.

Dwell Magazine shined the spotlight on modern prefabs by selecting a Res4 design as the first Dwell Home, which was built as a demonstration home in 2004 in Pittsboro, North Carolina. The idea was appealing enough to attract over 2,500 visitors on the opening weekend.

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14 Comments

  1. frenks frenks August 21, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I very much like the idea of these prefabricated homes. One of my nephew who lives in Europe has one of this mobile home and I can say it is amazing. It’s portable indeed.
    Frenks

  2. wilsongrant August 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

    That’s a nice analogy. Prefab homes are preferred by lots of people in today’s generation. One of the reasons is it does cost lower than the off-site built homes.

    Wilson Grant

  3. Bria Reus August 13, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I think there are disadvantages of living in a mobile home. One of these is that you can’t establish deep relationships with neighbors since you don’t stay in a particular place for too long.
    Bria

  4. crystala February 19, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Being a blogger about mobile home living and remodeling, I thought I knew a lot about them. There is a very interesting history about the people who designed the original (non RV) concept. Great article!

  5. true creativity January 29, 2012 at 3:58 am

    This information is important for conservation of the eco-system (through green, prefab housing.
    World leaders should be advised to read this and leave their comments. How many world leaders read INHABITAT?
    Those who read it should be given prizes

  6. jimbruno January 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    i so wish you might have included captions as to who is responsible for each of the homes!

  7. Molly Cotter Molly Cotter January 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Over 10% of new homes in 1970! I would have never imagined!

  8. Jasmin Malik Chua Jasmin Malik Chua January 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Oh prefab, I love you so!

  9. Rebecca Paul Rebecca Paul January 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I had no idea the mobile home had such an interesting history. Thanks for the lesson Michael, I learned a lot from this post!

  10. Dan Mendes Dan Mendes January 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Although I hate mobile homes, it’s crazy that they lead to the development of the type of house I would love to live in today

  11. Jessica Dailey Jessica Dailey January 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I completely agree with Diane — so interesting that the mobile home, something that isn’t thought of as a modern, fancy home, is the predecessor to the sleek prefabs we know today.

  12. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I had no idea there was a connection but it makes a lot of sense.

  13. Lori Zimmer Lori Zimmer January 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    the original prefab! totally transcends the mobile home stereotype

  14. Diane Pham Diane Pham January 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    very insightful article. most people don’t make the connect between tradtional mobile homes and the new, sparkling modern prefab homes we love today.

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