- #1. Prefab homes provide quick, much-needed affordable housing
- #2. Prefab homes can be great ‘laneway’ homes
- #3. Prefab homes offer serious cost savings!
- #4. Efficient construction on site means fewer things can go wrong
- #5. Prefab homes are more durable than a house built on-site
- #6. Prefab homes can make use of local materials in bulk
- #7. Prefab homes may have lower permit fees and easier processes
- #8. Prefab homes can be very eco-friendly
- Final thoughts on the benefits of prefab homes
For almost a decade I lived in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Vancouver, BC, where average home prices hovered around $600,000 (CAD) for a one-bedroom condo and over $2 million for a three-bedroom detached home. Unsurprisingly, there’s a housing crisis in that city, and yet the container housing project just down the street from my own tiny apartment was the lone example for years of a low-cost, low-waste, simple, mostly prefabricated tiny home project that houses those in need of affordable housing.
There are so many benefits of prefab homes, so we thought we’d take a look at why this kind of construction project might be the right fit for you and your family.
Note: while there is some overlap, tiny homes and prefab homes are not always the same. For a rundown on benefits of tiny home, check out this blog post.
#1. Prefab homes provide quick, much-needed affordable housing
Happily, in the past couple of years, more of these prefabricated housing projects have popped up (sometimes seemingly overnight!) in the city to provide a home for some of Vancouver’s more vulnerable residents. These micro-apartments and prefabricated buildings provide a quick and attractive way of addressing the housing crisis in cities like Vancouver. And during the pandemic, housing people in their own space rather than in crowded shelters has been absolutely essential to reduce the risk of people getting sick.
#2. Prefab homes can be great ‘laneway’ homes
Prefabricated, modular homes and tiny homes are increasingly popular as a way to add onto an existing home. This is great for housing in-laws or grown children in a separate space, allowing a vulnerable relative or friend to live independently but with support close by, or just as a mortgage helper or investment in your property.
#3. Prefab homes offer serious cost savings!
Compared to a conventionally built apartment building, or a detached home, prefabricated homes have a quick turnaround thanks to efficient design and building processes. This helps keep both material and labor costs down, saving you a bunch of money. If you’ve been eyeing up land or a new build on existing property and the price tag of conventional construction scared you off, reach out to some of the Leaf Score recommended prefab home companies for an estimate on your project.
Looking back at those container housing units in Vancouver, the bachelor style apartments average 290 square feet, with a small kitchen, full bathroom, in-suite laundry, and a price tag of just $82,500 to build. A conventionally built 325 square foot apartment in another social housing development nearby cost around $220,000 (CAD) to build in 2018 and took a lot longer to get to a move-in ready state.
It’s hard to state an average price to build a detached home in the U.S., but one thing is certain: conventional construction takes longer and offers more opportunity for things to go awry and get really, really expensive.
In the U.S., building a new home using conventional methods can vary from $90 to over $1000 per square feet. This amounts to around $180,000 to $2 million for a small three-bedroom home. The cost of labor and materials will differ wildly depending on where you live, of course, and your choice of entry-level, comfortable, or luxury materials and finishes will also affect the price.
Prefabricated eco-homes can also range dramatically in price, but the costs are more likely to tally with initial estimates, given the quick construction and nature of the project. If you’re going for an ‘off-the-rack’ type studio container apartment, a new home may cost you around $50,000 to $100,000 (not including land). For a four-bedroom prefabricated luxury home, you’re looking at anywhere between $200,000 and around $500,000 for the home (not including land).
#4. Efficient construction on site means fewer things can go wrong
A prefabricated home is built off-site in a factory and is then shipped in pieces to a building site where it is quickly assembled in place. Because these homes often follow a set design template for the most part, the on-site team typically faces few, if any, hurdles in putting the home together. Unlike with regular construction, this can mean a smooth timeline, with other services such as plumbing and electrics easily scheduled at the right time and with no delays.
A prefabricated home may only take a matter of days, weeks or a couple of months from initial design to turning your key in the lock. Indeed, it can take as long to prepare a conventional building site for the building process as it can to build an entire prefabricated home. This is, in part, because cutting and building prefab pieces indoors removes the potential for delays due to weather. According to The National Association of Home Builders, most prefabricated homes are completely finished in around five months. Some may take just a couple of months, and smaller homes may take even less time.
Compare that to construction times of up to three years for some condominium projects in some cities, or around 18 months for a conventionally built detached family home and it’s easy to see the attraction of a prefabricated home, especially for many Millennials trying to get into the housing market for the first time.
#5. Prefab homes are more durable than a house built on-site
As we point out in our piece on the downside of tiny homes, tiny homes are considered mobile homes, which means they do not have to be built to code. The same is not true for prefab homes, which are often more durable than regular homes since they have to withstand the rigors of the journey to site! And, because most of the work is done off-site in a weather-proof factory, damage from rain, animal mischief, and other factors is much less of a problem, meaning fewer nasty surprises after you move in.
#6. Prefab homes can make use of local materials in bulk
A prefabricated home can often be made using locally sourced materials, with prefab building companies knowing well in advance how much of each material they’ll need. This creates the opportunity for improved local sourcing and bulk discounts, making things cheaper for you and better for the environment as transport emissions are reduced.
#7. Prefab homes may have lower permit fees and easier processes
If you’ve ever tried to get planning approval and permits for a new construction project, you’ll know what a nightmare it can be. Prefab homes often have a lower ‘permit value’ and faster, pre-cleared permit processes, and your prefab construction company is likely to know how to make this process go smoothly and quickly.
#8. Prefab homes can be very eco-friendly
Prefabricated homes can be both extremely stylish and, if you choose the right company, very eco-friendly compared to a conventionally built home. In addition to the potential benefits of using locally sourced materials and construction, prefab homes are often designed to incorporate passive heating and cooling systems and other energy saving measures. And, again, because the companies building these homes make several of the same type each year, they have a lot of know-how on the best systems for each design.
In addition, using panelized and modular construction in the factory can mean that prefab homes have tighter air seals, helping reduce energy leakage and making for a more eco-friendly and comfortable home. And finally, because the builders don’t have to worry about exposure to weather during construction of interior materials, they may be able to avoid the use of weather-shielding chemicals and coatings that can make an on-site build more toxic to the environment.
Final thoughts on the benefits of prefab homes
Prefabricated homes that use modular, manufactured, and panelized techniques together account for more than a quarter of construction in the United States (R). No surprise, really, given all these benefits of prefab homes!
Next, let’s look at the potential pitfalls of tiny homes and prefabricated homes of all sizes.