Have you heard about the guy who comes to your house after you’ve purchased a car and builds it in your driveway?
We haven’t either. Because it never happens.
We know cars are built on assembly lines in factories, and that assures us of consistency, quality, and pricing that is known at the outset of our purchase.
So why don’t we apply the same thought process to houses as well?
Modular homes – built in pieces in factories and then transported and put together on site – are a good idea for similar reasons. And they’re certainly not the new house on the block! One of the earliest English settlements in the Americas was made up of structures that had been fabricated in pieces in England and then sent over on boats to what is now known as Massachusetts.
Yet since the 1600s, the United States has lagged behind other countries in production of pre-fabricated housing. The suburban sprawl style in the States has long supported an affordable and robust site-built housing market. Site-built may be popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right or best way for everyone. With the construction market constantly in flux, particularly these days, modular housing is quickly rising to the top.
Okay then – what makes modular houses better?
Let’s go back to the climate-controlled factory. Inside this protected space, every day is the same as every other day. There won’t be moldy wood lurking in an interior wall or soaked insulation that has to be thrown away because it was left out in a rainstorm. The specifications that factory building allow for are incredibly precise. Consistency is easier to achieve in a controlled environment. Material purchases can be exact and any excess can be put to use elsewhere.
And what about the people actually doing the building? In a factory there are benefits and safety regulations not available on construction sites. There is a stable workforce with greater oversight and no delays because of weather or lack of people. Modular building provides a safer work environment with a more uniform and secure product.
While we’re discussing better working conditions, we might as well drive home the point that assembling a home indoors ultimately translates to superior home performance. Want your home to hit those passive house or net-zero standards? Building indoors grants a greater likelihood because, well, it essentially boils down to two questions… How thorough is that carpenter when standing out in the pouring rain? And how well does that tape or glue adhere when it’s -5 degrees out? From this perspective, the corollary between thorough, controlled construction and superior performance is clear.
The preposition “pre” means “previous to; before.” So yes, a modular house is fabricated before it arrives on its site and foundation. But “pre” is relevant to the rest of the pre-fabricated process as well – including the cost. The various features of modular building add up to a more predictable price of your new home purchase. On a site-built project, materials may have to be replaced, workers might not show up, and the whole thing can drag on and then add line after line to your final invoice. By nature of an assembly line, many of the unknowns that can add costs to a site-built home are eliminated.
When comparing apples to apples, modular housing is generally a more affordable way to build a new house. Factories allow for efficient working conditions and bulk purchasing (think buying power), so costs associated with materials, labor, waste, and fuel/transport are all minimized, which ultimately translates to savings for you. This means you can add more options from your wish list, get more house for your money, or invest in the sustainable features that will save you even more money in the long run.
And while the shipment of houses from England to the Massachusetts colony probably took an incredibly long time, in modern times, once it has been designed and constructed, your modular home will arrive on site very quickly! What’s that old saying about time being money?
When you’re moved in, with the money and time you’ve saved on your pre-fabricated house, then you can get to work helping to build the car in your driveway!