Prefabricated building is a type of building that consists of several factory-built components or units that are assembled on-site to complete the unit.

Prefabricated house construction

Construction of a prefabricated modular house (Click here for a time-lapse video)

Prefabricated housing Edit

South Parkway2

Uninhabited prefabricated council houses in Seacroft, Leeds, UK

The term 'prefabricated' may refer to buildings built in components (e.g. panels), modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes), and may also be used to refer to mobile homes. Although similar in nature, the methods and design of the three can vary wildly. There are two-level home plans, as well as custom home plans. There are also large differences in the construction types. Mobile and manufactured houses are constructed in accordance with the HUD building codes in the U.S. while modular houses are constructed in accordance with the IBC (International Building Code).

  • Modular homes are homes that are created in sections, and then transported to the home site for construction and installation. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes, and are usually the most expensive of the three. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction much like a typical home. Manufactured and mobile houses are rated as personal property and depreciate over time.
  • Manufactured homes refer to homes that are built onto steel beams, and are transported in complete sections to the home site, where they are assembled.
  • Mobile homes are homes built on wheels, that are able to be moved from place to place.

Mobile homes and manufactured homes can be placed in mobile home parks, and manufactured homes can also be placed on private land, providing the land is appropriately zoned for manufactured homes.

Manufactured homes Edit

Main article: Manufactured housing

Constructing manufactured homes typically involves connecting plumbing and electrical lines across the sections, and sealing the sections together. Manufactured homes can be single-, double-, or even triple-wide, which is simply a measure of how many sections wide it is. Many manufactured home companies manufacture a variety of different designs, and many of the floorplans are available online. Manufactured homes can be built onto a permanent foundation, and if designed correctly, can be difficult to distinguish from a stick-built home to the untrained eye.[citation needed]

Manufactured homes are typically purchased from a retail sales company that may be independently owned and operated, initially assembled by a local contracting company, and follow-up repairs performed by the manufactured home company under warranty. For this reason, customer service and reputation are extremely important. Purchasing a manufactured home from a disreputable or dishonest company can lead to lengthy delays in moving, as well as large residual and unexpected costs. For this reason, it is advisable to seek second opinions or first-hand consumer opinions of a manufactured home brand.

A manufactured home, once assembled, goes through a "settling-in" period, where the home will settle into its location. During this period, some drywall cracking may appear, and any incorrectly installed appliances, wiring, and/or plumbing should be repaired, hopefully under warranty. If not covered under warranty, the costs will be borne by the consumer. For this reason, it is important that the consumer ensure that a reputable and honest contractor is used for the initial set-up. If any repairs are not completed by the initial set-up crew, the manufacturer will send repair crews to repair anything covered by the warranty. The secondary repair team must be scheduled, and may not be available immediately for most repairs. Just because a manufactured home has been assembled does not mean it is immediately inhabitable; appropriate ventilation, heating, plumbing, and electrical systems must be installed correctly by the initial set-up crew, otherwise, the consumer must wait until the manufacturer repair team can schedule an appointment, unless the consumer undertakes the repair at personal expense.

Construction sites Edit

Mobile homes and manufactured homes can be placed in mobile home parks, and manufactured homes can also be placed on private land, providing the land is appropriately zoned for manufactured homes. Many cities have not updated zoning regulations for modern manufactured houses, and thus, may not permit manufactured houses to be placed in certain areas.

McDonalds use prefabricated structures for their buildings, and recently set a record of constructing a building and opening for business within 13 hours (on pre-prepared ground works) [6].

The History of the Prefabricated Building Edit


Prefabricated post-war home at Chiltern Open Air Museum - Universal House, Mark 3, steel frame clad with corrugated asbestos cement

Prefab 20060625

A 1950's metal UK prefab at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford, Surrey.

Houses have been built in one place and reassembled in another throughout history. Possibly the first advertised prefab house was the Manning Portable Cottage. A London carpenter, H. Manning, constructed a house that was built in components, then shipped and assembled by British emigrants. This was published at the time (advertisement, South Australian Record, 1837) and a few still stand in Australia.[1] Another interesting building was the prefabricated hospital that the British Army deployed in 1855 during the Crimean War designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel with innovations in sanitation, ventilation and a flushing toilet.[2]

The world's first prefabricated, pre-cast panelled apartment blocks were pioneered in Liverpool, England in 1905. A process was invented by city engineer John Alexander Brodie, whose inventive genius also had him inventing the football goal net. The tram stables at Walton in Liverpool followed in 1906. The idea was not taken up extensively in Britain, however was adopted all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Prefabricated homes were produced during the Gold Rush in the United States, when kits were produced in order to enable Californian prospectors to quickly and effectively construct living accommodation [7]. Homes were available in kit form by mail order in the United States in 1908 [3].

Prefabricated housing became increasingly popular during World War II due to the need for mass accommodation for military personnel. The United States used Quonset huts as military buildings, and in the United Kingdom there were a large number of prefabricated buildings used including Nissen huts and Bellman Hangars. 'Prefabs' were built after the war as a means of quickly and cheaply providing quality housing as a replacement for the housing stock destroyed during the war. The proliferation of prefabricated housing across the country was a result of the Burt Committee and the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944. Whole estates of prefabs were constructed to provide accommodation for those made homeless by the War and ongoing slum clearance [4]. Almost 160,000 had been built in the UK by 1948 at a cost of close to £216 million.


Amersham Prefab (COAM)-front room showing solid-fuel fire

Prefabs were aimed at families, and typically had an entrance hall, two bedrooms (parents and children), a bathroom (a room with a bath)  — which was a novel innovation for many British at that time, a separate toilet, a living room and an equipped (not fitted in the modern sense) kitchen. Construction materials included steel, aluminium, timber or asbestos, depending on the type of dwelling. The aluminium Type B2 prefab was produced as four pre-assembled sections which could be transported by lorry anywhere in the country [5].


Amersham Prefab's Kitchen (COAM)-showing Belling cooker, Ascot wash heater and fridge

The Universal House (pictured left & lounge diner right) was given to the Chiltern Open Air Museum after 40 years temporary use. The Mark 3 was manufactured by the Universal Housing Company Ltd, Rickmansworth.

The United States also used prefabricated housing, both to provide accommodation for its troops during the War, and for GIs returning home afterwards. Prefab classrooms were also popular with UK schools increasing their rolls during the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Many of the buildings were designed with a 5-10 year life span, but far exceeded this, with a number surviving today. In 2002, for example, the city of Bristol still had residents living in 700 examples [6]. Many UK councils are beginning to demolish the last surviving examples of World War II prefabs in order to comply with the UK government's Decent Homes Standard, due to come into effect by 2010. However, there has been a recent revival in prefabricated methods of construction in order to compensate for the United Kingdom's current housing shortage [7].

Prefabs and the modernist movement Edit

More and more architects are incorporating modern designs into the prefabricated houses of today. Prefab housing should no longer be compared to a mobile home in terms of appearance, but to that of a complex modernist design.[8] There has also been an increase in the use of "green" materials in the construction of these prefab houses. Consumers can easily select between different environmentally friendly finishes and wall systems. Since these homes are built in parts, it is easy for a home owner to add additional rooms or even solar panels to the roofs. Many prefab houses can be customized to the client's specific location and climate, making prefab homes much more flexible and modern than before.

There is a new zeitgeist in architectural circles and the spirit of the age favors the small carbon footprint of "prefab". Eminent amongst the new breed of off the shelf luxury modernist products is the perrinepod [9], which has found favor worldwide for its green credentials and three day build time.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Prefab: From Utilitarian Home To Design Icon, by Jim Zarroli, Morning Edition, September 15, 2008, NPR
  2. Renkioi: Brunel's Forgotten Crimean War Hospital by Christopher Silver
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. [3]
  6. Gillilan, Lesley (March 23, 2002). "The prefab four". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  7. [4]
  8. "Transportable Homes, Explained". Transportable home finance. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  9. [5]

External linksEdit

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