Prefabricated Homes: Challenges and Benefits

Are there any obstacles you see that limit people from being interested in pre-fabricated homes? What limits, or stigmatizations, are you aware of (or are common in the field) around the adoption of prefab homes?

Also, what are some of the benefits that you see?

Please share any links, thoughts, examples, or ideas you have in the comments below!

@FanyuLin @RachitaMisra @Greenduck @SRashkin @Cambias @bngejane @Jefferson @csmith102462 @ashokjain @Nirmita - with your specializations in building and technology, it would be great to see any input you might have!

Hi Nick, here are a few slides (4,5,11) in this link explained obstacles and high level benefits of adopting prefab for mass housing, and what we as an industry need to come together to achieve the next step towards solving the housing crisis.

Yes, definitely. The first an foremost obstacle for prefab style homes is the funding from the banks is extremely dislocated in thus area. Especially if that home is going to be placed on land that is not owned by the owner of the home. We need a real funding revolution in this area as well. When people have to look at personal loans etc in order to by prefab, then the rates are very expensive.

The other couple of things that I see as impediments to success are the opinions people may have about them, for example that they are too small of that the resale value is no good. Others are the lack of genuinely compelling options and not enough incentives ie- Big XPrize haha to encourage innovation.

Limitations: In the Indian context for the urban poor, the high density in communities doesn’t allow for prefab technologies. The streets can be as narrow as 4-6ft with homes abutting each other on 3 sides, logistically making carrying of even prefab modules larger than 4ft by 4ft difficult. The usage of cranes too is impossible because of this lack of access - imagining the costs were absorbed without the household.
Another limitation would be customisation for small homes to incorporate NLV solutions (natural light and ventilation) and alternate material and improve indoor comfort levels.

The limitations are different in rural communities, where logistical issues are around travel and lack of road infrastructure or supply chain.

Benefits: Time taken for construction in large scale. Up-skilling labour force, availability of skilled trades-person are challenges on field that add-on to construction timeline aside from time taken in regular masonry.

@Nirmita, where are you located?
Your concern about the narrow passage ways being a bottleneck for prefab modules seems to be rather misplaced.It is just a question of proper design and detailing.
Regarding rural communities, please remember that all the work force originates in rural areas only and they are forced to travel to urban surroundings to work, wasting there 25% work time in travel and money also.
We have to set up prefab manufacturing units in rural areas only and transport the finished products to wherever required.
Still in our country, the person with real skills has no respect as compared to the person who has money and speaks English fluently.
Lat me tell you boldly that unless respect is paid to the SKILLS, we are never going to be successful, at least in our country.

@ashokjain we are based out of Bangalore and work with many community groups engaging for resilience building in rural livelihoods, migrancy, urban livelihoods and housing. Our work pans the south, east and north-east. Please connect ( with us cause we would love for these bottlenecks to not exist and provide our communities with the best of solutions.

I think it is perception. Think of IKEA - people love it or hate it. Our home is full of IKEA, and we use it creatively, so the modular Billy bookcases, for example, look amazing. Legos are limited in size of each piece, but the possibilities of use are infinite. Look at BuildSmart which is a sort of lego for real buildings.
How do we help people understand the limitless capabilities of modular and prefab?

Hello, here in the Nordic countries we have many successful companies that manufacture prefabricated houses.
A complement if you want to build cheap houses for low-income people is 3 d printing preferably with local materials.
Here is a link to some, excuse the advertising in Youtube.

Vesa Lius

Please read what is suggested in infinity water.
There are suggestions on how it is possible to arrange water and wastewater in a naturally decentralized manner at a low cost.
There are also suggestions for using biogas for cooking and heating.
As well as planting regenerative gardens etc.
I guess you will use the knowledge from both competitions.

Definitively! There’s a lot of synergy between these prize designs, and Future of Work as well. That one’s focused on low-skill and low-wage populations, which overlaps with the people we have in mind here.

So it’s a good thing we’re designing these prizes at the same time, and community members are encouraged to provide feedback on all three!

Great because robots and AI will remove many jobs. That may be partially solved with regenerative agriculture regenerative livestock management and the recapture of steppe and desert.

Built InCommon proposes “a new infrastructure to democratize and decarbonize modern methods of construction through a distributed network of community owned factories, exchanging private profit for collective ownership and broader social value.”

In building networks of small, neighbourhood-owned factories, Built InCommon facilitates local fabrication of homes, knowledge (and skills) exchange, and the ability to share capacity.

^ I especially like this example (:

Cemex, my previous employer, has developed low-cost and energy-efficient solutions for cast-in-place and pre-fabricated panel construction houses for developing markets. Configurations range from simple standalone small houses, to low-rise and high rise apartments. In some markets, Cemex is helping with turn-key solutions including, financing, land, design, and construction. Here is a link to a presentation that covers design basics, benefits, and examples of projects that have been implemented.

Thank you for the input so far, everyone! Tons of valuable information and examples, and the team appreciates it.

@sglaude1 @sunshinem @fferguson @NCHH @RachitaMisra @dpelleti @RBarragan @JimKing @mkooistra @Rwyse @stevenfallon @HousingMichigan - curious what your perspectives and experiences around prefab housing as an option may be?

I think the ‘branding’ of prefab homes needs to be different. Like what was said up-thread, there’s this perception that prefab homes are rather lacking in creativity. So far, I agree with this perception. I haven’t entirely been ‘wowed’ by many pre-fab projects, to be honest.

Prefab homes are great because they are derivative of mass-production, meaning the costs go down considerably. But it’s hard for architects to make homes unique and favorable over others when their ‘bones’ and general massing is almost the exact same as a lot of others. Pushing for more creativity in our prefab industry could help, and that will probably come with time as we continue to master pre-fab and improve.

I do not think it humanly possible to provide the UNIQUE houses to everyone.
Prefab can be made good, acceptable and favorable in general and UNIQUE also if only a few are to be made.
Creativity is being incorporated in prefab and has always been and will be in future also as it is continuous process and also because there is always scope for improvement.

Thanks for the input, everyone!

@ashokjain - Do you have any favorite projects in particular?

@csmith102462 - What do you feel are the biggest benefits the Cemex projects have seen?

@samanthasuppiah - What do you think are the greatest advantages of Built in Common?

@NickAzer - during my somewhat long association with prefab,I have had many favorites which I implemented. But, the mind, as you know, does not rest and evolution / development /innovation becomes a constant process. The latest i was working with a project,which is the ultimate in prefab, according to me, off course, but got postponed because of the current situation.If all goes as I see it (dream it) I would have a
.1. Pucca cement construction @ $5 per sq ft,
2. It would be insulated (double walled) system,
3. With internal spaces for Piping, electrical, gas pipes etc.,
4. Light weight construction with as low as 45 Lbs per sq. ft.,
5. With an isolation from the ground, giving advantages against earth quakes,
6. With a possibility of flotation under flash floods,
7. With reinforced walls (Not easy for miscreants to break through),
8. No chances of flying off in heavy winds,
9. and, both sides plain and smooth, as they want it.

Any plan would be possible.
I would /should have the prototype within 45 days of situation becoming normal.
keeping my fingers crossed.

Cheers for the question @NickAzer -
Built InCommon’s greatest strength here is the low-tech nature of community industry, leveraging experience and expertise while bringing the community together at a level everyone can co-create at. This creates the sense of ownership and belonging we so need to weave in to create resilient communities, while bringing people into conversations on built environment sustainability and their ability to affect change at various levels.
This for me is a big step in the right direction away from #urbanhell, towards #communityjobs and towards #sustainablearchitecture in “housing the masses”.