Have you ever driven down a highway and noticed, suddenly, over the course of only a few months, there is a new community of homes? Where there was once a hilly slope or a empty lot, there is now a cul-de-sac surrounded with two- or three-story town homes? Chances are these are prefabricated homes. Had you been there the week before, you may have seen the tractor-trailers delivering these homes, perhaps in pieces, to the built site where they were secured to their foundations and finished.
Prefabricated houses are, by definition, those that have been partially or fully constructed off-site in a factory or other manufacturing facility. The prefab house was originally put in production in response to a the housing need after the Great Depression. President Hoover earmarked federal funds for the construction of prefab homes that were to become communities for returning veterans and their families. These Hoovervilles in the US, as well as similar post war communities in other countries, became a large part of the landscape. In the US, they helped to more densely settle parts of the mid-west.
These prefab “shanty town” homes were constructed quickly and economically without much thought for design. There was a need for housing and the Hoover communities filled it. Most veterans, however, did not stay long in these communities. Many moved back home. Many just did not want to live in a “war” community. Not surprisingly, Hoovervilles and prefabricated houses became synonymous with designless, mass-produced shells – what we might now call “the McHouse”.
But the late 20th century changed all of that. A renewed interest in prefabricated houses caused designers and architects to rethink the prefab – to give it purposeful design, warmth, size, and individuality. Prefab homes now can often not be distinguished from traditional homes at all – unless you see them arrive on the site. With prefab home competitions spurring originality and attention, the prefab home market has grown considerably over the last two decades.
Today’s prefabricated house can be anything you want it to be. It can rival the largest most modern home on your block. It can replicate the feel of a home that you had as a child. The choice is yours. And once you begin to research and choose, you will find the cost and build time advantage that is making the prefab home a force in today’s marketplace.