Prefabricated Homes and Their Benefits

Written by Morgan Kaenzig de Denus

The components for prefabricated homes are constructed in a factory before being transported to the construction site where they are assembled. This differs from stick-built homes. Contrary to popular belief, prefabricated homes vary in size, type, quality, and style. They are also affordable, customizable, durable, and energy efficient. People in the United States are starting to recognize the many benefits of prefabricated homes, and they are gaining popularity.

What Are the Different Types of Prefabricated Construction?

Manufactured Homes
Manufactured homes are built entirely off-site on a steel frame. They are then transported to the construction site and set on a permanent foundation. Manufactured homes come in three varieties: single-wide, double-wide, and triple-wide. Single-wide homes consist of one unit, while double-wides consist of two units that travel separately to the site, where they are then attached. Triple-wides are composed of three different units, which are then joined together on-site.

Modular Construction
Modular buildings are incredibly customizable. The modular homes are constructed from separate box-like modules, which are then combined to form a complete building. The modules are generally transported on the back of large flatbed trucks and then lowered into place with a crane on-site onto a permanent foundation.

Modular buildings are built indoors and must conform to many specific rules, building codes, and other guidelines.

Panelized Construction
In this prefabricated construction method, the building’s exterior walls are constructed in a factory, transported to the final site, and installed on-site. While some panelized homes already have their doors and windows installed before the panels arrive on-site, others have the windows and doors installed on-site. Since these homes are built in panels, they can be constructed with nearly any aesthetic.

Generally, panelized homes require more finishing work than modular homes. For example, painting, installing the stairs, installing the cabinetry, and installing the flooring for a panelized home are often completed on-site. The total build time for a panelized home generally falls between three and five months.

Structural Insulated Panels
This form of panelized construction is very energy efficient and has a quick installation process. Usually, structural insulated panels have an insulating foam core that is placed between two oriented strand boards. Buildings made with structural insulated panels also need fewer load-bearing walls, allowing for an open interior. They are also very energy efficient.

What Are the Benefits of Prefabricated Construction?

More Affordable
Prefabricated homes are more affordable than stick-built homes. Homes built on-site can be twice as expensive as prefab homes. Prefabricated houses have the benefit of a shorter construction time, which can lower the building cost. Factories also buy mass-produced supplies in bulk, which contributes to the lower cost of building a prefabricated home.

Additionally, fewer construction workers are needed at the construction site to assemble a prefabricated house than are necessary for a stick-built house. Another plus: There will not be any weather-related delays, which can also help reduce costs.

Less Waste
In the United States, more than 500 million tons of demolition and construction debris are generated annually. While a traditional on-site construction project might send waste straight to a landfill, contributing to this alarming statistic, the spare materials from prefabricated homes can be recycled in-house. These leftover materials can then be used in other prefabricated projects.

A stick-built home can also generate waste when components are not stored correctly during construction. Parts can be damaged, stolen, or graffitied while they are on the construction site.

Very Durable
Prefabricated homes can be more durable than traditional stick-built houses because they are designed to be transported by truck and then hoisted by a crane. Often, prefabricated homes have their frames reinforced to ensure they can survive the delivery process.

Prefab homes also have a lower chance of developing mold during the construction process because they are built in a controlled factory environment. Consequently, prefabricated homes can maintain their structure’s integrity.

Increased Energy Efficiency
Prefab homes are built in a controlled environment, which allows for more accurate construction. There are fewer distractions and changing environmental conditions as there might be on-site, so the joints will be tighter, glue or sealants will have time to dry properly, and the building’s overall quality will be more consistent. The resulting home will have better insulation and be more energy efficient.

Quicker Construction Process
Constructing a stick-built home generally takes around seven to nine months. The National Association of Home Builders says that prefabricated homes often take five months to complete. However, they can be completed in just sixty days. In some cases, a prefabricated construction project can take less than half the time of a similarly sized traditional construction project.

One reason prefab homes have a quicker construction process is that they have better upfront planning. They also do not have to worry about on-site weather factors or subcontractor scheduling delays, as the vast majority of the work is carried out in a factory. Different pieces can also be manufactured simultaneously, which can further reduce the duration of the construction project.

Safer Construction Process
The sub-assemblies for prefab homes are constructed in a factory-controlled environment. As a result, workers do not have to worry about environmental hazards, dirt, moisture, wind, or other weather-related dangers and health risks.

Less Site Disruption
There will also be reduced site disruption since many components of a prefabricated building, if not the whole building, are completed in a factory. As a result, there will not be as much truck traffic, material suppliers, or equipment at the final construction. This can reduce noise, pollution, and distractions on-site, allowing workers to concentrate on the task at hand.

What’s Next for Prefabricated Homes?

Prefabricated homes are already on the rise. In 2019, only 5% of all new homes built in the United States were prefabricated. In the same year, 20% of the homes in Germany were prefabricated. Just under 20% of homes in Japan were prefabricated. In Scandinavian countries, 84% of the detached homes were prefabricated.

Although prefabricated buildings have always been customizable and eco-friendly, people are only beginning to realize the potential for prefabrication. In many cases, it can be hard to differentiate between prefabricated homes and stick-built homes. From homes to apartment complexes, prefabricated buildings offer many benefits, and they are likely to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years.


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