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Prefab Homes Grow Up and Go High End
Building Prefab always had many advantages, such as high quality workmanship, less waste with in-factory recycling, shortened building time, greater energy efficiency and more. All these reasons have been know for a long time so why has there been a recent breakout into higher end homes.
The most significant reason is that progressive prefab or modular home builders have overcome the constraint of the traditional factory mantra of maximizing plant efficiency. Factories are most productive if they build high quantities of the same thing. If the goal is solely to be most productive then the house design falls victim to functionality. In other words you may have the best method and materials to produce a lower cost home but you also get the most boring home designs.
So boring home designs are great for camps, retirement parks and the tight budget, but lousy for todays increasingly educated and affluent society who do not accept yesterday’s normal.
Once the prefab building industry understood that the client drives the home design and not the factory or the production line, innovation and change happened.
The first challenge was to ensure that the high quality of materials and workmanship was maintained while allowing for upgrades to higher end options.
The second was to allow for complete home design customization.
First he mindset had to change. The mindset that each home was a single prefab unit evolved into each home component was a prefab unit. So we needed to have computer programs that could keep track of the more that 5000 pieces that make up a home and put them together into as many variations as possible.
The programs were developed. CAD, Archicad, AutoCad, Chief Architect and more. These programs have come into widespread use and were then tied directly into materials management systems.
Now we could design a custom home and order high quality materials for each home to match the design. The factory production line became filled with job shops for each home. The high quality building standards now added elements of craftsmanship.
A good material management example. Rather than stock standard size windows at the factory you order the windows in any size to match your customized requirements. This lowers inventory cost and brings in “just in time” thinking. This change was not easy, we had to cajole, educate and demand that our material suppliers change to be able to supply the materials quickly. But with a little time it happened.
We then went one step further. O those poor production managers. We opened up custom home design to even include designs that could not be entirely be built in the factory in a cost effective way.
A good example is a custom roof design with a high pitch and many peaks, valleys and dormers. This type of roof is better built on-site after the prefab modular home units have been placed on the foundation. A prefabricated roof truss package is brought to the site and the roof is then completed on-site in days.
As an industry, while maintaining high quality materials and workmanship the Prefab custom home became available to High End home buyers. The prefab home became the sum of prefab components or pieces. Prefab was used only those parts that did not compromise design.
High End Home Buyer First. Factory Second. The High Quality of Prefab Grows up.