One of architecture’s modern debates is over the design credibility of the modern prefabricated home or building. Around in the United States since the time of the Great Depression, prefabricated homes are those that were, completely or partially, mass-produced in a factory and then delivered to a build site. While some prefabs can be seen moving down the highway on trailer beds marked “WIDE LOAD,” others arrive on site in pieces or panels that can be assembled easily on site.
While “prefab” once conjured images of mobile homes, trailer parks, or Hoovervilles, the modern prefabricated home is nothing of the sort. Well known and cutting edge architects and designers from around the world now work in prefab design and constructions. They notice the market for them in terms of prices and build time, and the manufactured nature of them appeals to the precision that these world class architects are used to. To the architect, the prefab project is a much more hands-on and complete affair where s/he is involved not only in the design but in the production.
The contemporary debate over prefabs is in their design appeal. While many architecture specialists recognize the interesting and cutting edge design in today’s prefab, there is concern over whether the prefab has appeal as “real-world homes.” The thought is that home owners want their homes to have an individual handcrafted feel, and that, perhaps, the prefabricated home lacks this homey feel.
But with any research into the scope of design in prefabricated homes over the last ten years specifically reveals that they are available in all types of designs, sizes, shapes, and styles. Some prefabs can and do look as handcrafted as traditional on-site stick-built homes.
While the Hoovervilles and Levittowns of yesterday have cast a shadow on prefabricated homes in the past, with the help of modern architects and modern technology, prefabs have come into their own. With a build time of almost half of a traditionally frame home, and a design that now rivals any other home style, the prefabricated home is becoming a choice home for modernists and traditionalists alike.