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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Architect Marmol Radziner’s prefab Desert Home

Prefab as a Modern and Green Option for Homeowners

Today, prefab is no longer simply about saving money – it is also a system for producing personalized homes while still providing predictability and confidence in a process often fraught with surprises. Modernism and green design share a common creed: the efficient use of materials, time, and economic resources.

Building green is a twenty-first century extension of modernism’s mandate of environmental and economic responsiveness. A contemporary home is not modern if it is not green. A prefabricated house enhances its green credentials through numerous efficiencies in resources, labor, money and the time inherent in its building process. Buyers interested in a prefab housing design project must ask the tough questions. They need to explore the methods utilized by producers to respond to personal, societal, and even environmental priorities.

Where to Start: Understanding the Basics

When it comes to your own purchasing decisions, don’t look for a magic bullet. Ask yourself a series a questions such as: Is there a higher quality solution, or a less costly, faster, more enduring, or greener solution? As you begin your exploration of alternative housing approaches, recognize from the start that there are likely many excellent solutions. But before diving in head first, you should take a moment to go through the following exercise:

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Make two lists of your priorities:

List one: The first list should describe your vision qualitatively — do you want your house to be funky, glassy, modern, warm, super green, and energy-efficient? Also include all programmatic essentials – whether it’s a room for your elderly parents, a ground level owners’ suite or a home office with a special views, list them all.

List two: The second list should be process related. Ask yourself: do you want to work directly with a designer or work from an existing design? When do you want your home to be ready? What are your budget limitations? Do you want local assistance in planning, builder selection, and permitting, or are you planning on going it alone? How much time can you invest in planning?

After completing each list go back and prioritize everything you’ve listed starting from the essential to the desirable. Take your time and collaborate with all stakeholders, young and old. This exercise sounds simple, but trust me, my forty years of direct experience with clients suggests otherwise. A project this important and a process this complex requires discipline. In the heat of decision-making, having clear-headed, prioritized criteria will be invaluable as you explore and determine which options are most responsive to your needs.

Your Road to Prefab Home Ownership

The next three parts of this series will explore the three different types of “clients” that are served and satisfied in every successful project. I will also explain which form of prefab typically satisfies each of the three clients. I hope this will help you on your way to a successful homebuilding experience.

One last thing – if I were a brain surgeon I wouldn’t consider operating on myself, nor would I be comfortable with a surgeon performing their first surgery on me or a loved one. Unless you are an experienced professional, don’t undertake this endeavor without seeking the proper guidance. Experience matters. Prefab producers who have endured the current downturn (and prior downturns) offer stability. Survival is the result of continuous improvement and innovation and in all likelihood, working with these kinds of companies will result in a product that endures as well. The journey to a green prefab home is far more likely to reach a satisfying destination when you are guided by experienced, local professionals who can facilitate every aspect of design and planning, and make the most of your time and money.


GREEN GUIDE TO PREFAB: The History of Modernism and the Prefabricated Housing Movement

Lindal Cedar Homes is the world’s largest provider of quality custom cedar homes. Founded in 1945, there are more than 50,000 Lindal cedar homes—and satisfied homeowners—worldwide. Known around the world for their signature post and beam building systemquality building materials and detailed craftsmanship, their experienced Lindal Cedar Homes dealers will help you each step of the way.

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Michael Harris is a MIT graduate with two degrees in architecture. Michael has made it his professional mission to innovate system-built design and the planning process to ensure fulfilling client experiences. Michael spent 31 years at Deck House Inc. working with clients, designing new products, innovating client-centric sales process and marketing, and was involved in the acquisition of a competing brand (Acorn Structures). He led the company as CEO and served on its Board of Directors for 15 years. In 2006, Michael joined Lindal Cedar Homes, working with executives, staff and dealers to build a new strategic plan, then implementing the plan as President and CEO. Today he works as an independent consultant and dealer (testing the efficacy of the plan by” walking the talk”).

While at Lindal, he led the company’s entry into the modern market; forged a collaboration with Dwell Media initiating Lindal’s participation in the Dwell Homes Collection; and created the Lindal Elements program, a new line of on-system designs and process he designed with the company’s creative staff. He brought the iconic industry player to become the first “Green Approved” building system by the NAHB Research Center and the only single family home included in TIME Magazine’s Green Design 100 in 2010.

In addition to selling and consulting, he serves on the Board of Advisors of Blu Homes, writes on the subject of manufactured housing, and enjoys life with his wife Carol, splitting their time between Seattle and their family’s home base in New York City.

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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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