by , 01/06/06


With the new year, we’ve decided to try a new theme for Fridays. Since we seem to have a steady stream of stunning prefab crossing our radar, we thought we’d make Friday our day for featuring this category. Of course, we expect that many weeks will beg for a prefab post on other days, but tune in on Fridays for a regular feature on something fabulously prefabricated.

This week we’re kicking it off with an innovative and absolutely unique design from Michael Jantzen. Read on for details on Jantzen’s M-House and come back for more next Friday (and before!). Have a great weekend.

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  1. James January 8, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Let’s think about your comment/complaint for a second, Brad. The price of a pre-fab house is mostly dictated by the manufacturer rather than by the actual designer. In our iPod age the home construction industry is still hopelessly primitive. You see in order to make things affordable it has to sell in huge numbers. Every component of a pre-fab house has to be mass produced and standardised in order to become cost effective – and here is where the designer hits the proverbial wall. It would we hard to imagine the iPod made out of timber (or lumber in your speak). Yet timber remains the cheapest building material for houses (just look around your suburb Brad and why don’t you note how many well-designed houses there are while you are at it) and the suppliers are happy to keep it that way. A few researchers and small companies here and there are tinkering with high-tech space age materials that could revolutionise the building process but hey, that would put a lot of govt. subsidised timber companies out of business now, wouldn’t it? And so essentially pre-fab houses are houses made in the factory using the same techniques and materials that are used on-site – it’s all steel, timber and plaster like it’s 1900. No wonder that a well designed house comes with a hefty price tag – after all you get what you pay for. If you want to reduce the price you have to reduce the size of the house – simple.
    There are some pretty clever little pre-fab designs out there that do not cost and arm and a leg because they are small in foot print.
    And whoever said that the building industry needs to become like the car industry was a lunatic – what with their gas guzzling SUVs?! Beyond the mass standardisation of components I wouldn’t like to be motivated by someone like the soon to be bankrupted GM.
    There are many designers out there who could design the most beautiful, energy efficient, sustainable pre-fab houses only if the construction industry was as keen to break new grounds as Apple computers are. Otherwise it’s back to a pre-fab timber shack with a long drop and a candle and a goat to keep you warm at night – nothing wrong with the basics?

  2. Sarah January 8, 2006 at 2:23 am

    Really appreciate the comments and certainly agree with the challenge Brad poses. Affordability in housing is crucial, though sometimes we get lured by exceptionally innovative and beautiful designs in spite of price, and simply post them for the sake of interest (or wistful daydream). When available, we’ll make a concerted effort to provide cost information and to seek out prefab that is not only cool, but accessible to a majority of us. Thanks again for taking the time to make yourself heard! We appreciate your input.


  3. andrew January 7, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    i still think ModMod is a better term for this approach: ModularModern ?


  4. allan Siegel January 7, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Prefab and modular are not necessarily interchangeable particularly if you include large scale housing needs. Both concepts have been around for quite awhile (think Scandanavia in the 30;s). Brad is absolutely correct. What is interesting about prefab if it is financially out-of-bounds? It is easy to make something stylish and packaged neatly if price is no object. The trick is good design, affordability and environmental soundness.

  5. Jill Fehrenbacher January 6, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Very good point Brad. While some prefabs are still definitely affordable options in places where land is at a premium, we recognize that prefab is not always the cheapest way to go. We’ll do our best to research and publish the prices of everything we cover here so that readers can compare costs and make up their own minds as to how “affordable” these different designs are.

    Thanks for your important comment!

  6. Brad January 6, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    Prefab is certainly a popular topic in the housing world, and I certainly won’t complain about more coverage. But I have a request.

    I fear that the original advantage of prefab — lower cost — is getting lost in all the hype. Many a prefab design comes in at $200 per square foot or more. I realize that modern is expensive, but that’s supposed to be low-cost?

    Let’s keep these designers honest. Put the price per square foot in bold. At $200 per square foot, prefab is destined to be just a fad. Let’s challenge designers to actually make prefab affordable and sustainable.

    Thanks for listening.

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