There’s an ongoing affordable housing crisis, with prices rising at exponential rates compared to what most people earn, not everyone can afford a luxury home. The wage and rent gap for low-income families is now quite wide, forcing most of these families to spend more than half of their income on housing alone. In order to keep a roof over their heads, many have to sacrifice basic necessities like transportation, health insurance, and in some cases even basic necessities.
This is why we need to discover ways to address this housing crisis. Fortunately, there are several promising solutions being tested nowadays. One of these solutions is using prefabricated or modular construction. Prefabricated concrete housing uses materials put together at an off-site location in large quantities. These are then transported to the jobsite for quicker assembly.
This article shows the other side of prefab, why construction experts believe that it may not be as effective. On paper, the cost of production, mass-produced for affordability, and the short project duration means prefab factory-built homes are way more affordable than those which are constructed traditionally. But in reality, can prefabricated construction really help solve the housing crisis?
The Benefits of Going Modular
LEGO bricks and automobiles resemble the workings of modular construction. Just as creative structures are made with the former, buildings can be virtually configured where factory-built pieces constitute the structures. If we’re talking about prefabricated houses, the best analogy would be LEGO bricks. These toy bricks teach us that we can build anything, even with the most basic brick structure if we assemble them properly. This modular method of construction offers great flexibility. We’re only limited by what we can imagine.
Speed is the key
And just like building with LEGO, speed is the main benefit. A modular structure would be faster to build compared with similar structures built traditionally. Normally, it would be a step-by-step process: you first need to lay the foundation work, start with the first floor, then do the next one. You can’t skip a step, because it will be impossible to build your second floor when the first one is not yet completed.
With modular, you can already build your first and second floor while you’re building the foundation work. Since you’re building the parts off-site, you can technically build everything in your house at the same time. You can just assemble it on the jobsite once everything’s ready.
The faster you build, the quicker you can put it up on the market, the sooner you’ll earn. Because of this, you’ll be able to provide more affordable options to renters without worrying about your earning potential. You can fund multiple projects at the same time, and still finish them on schedule, thanks to off-site construction. If more people invest in prefab construction, more low-income families will benefit, since you can provide a lower rent for them.
Over time, as construction companies get accustomed to building more prefab modular housing, the costs will also go down. Repeating the process over and over allows the construction companies to hone their craft, perfect their skills, and build more efficiently and affordably.
The costs you see today could be even cheaper in the future, with better processes and tools. Doing things repeatedly lets you gain efficiencies that greatly drive down long-term costs.
Prefab construction’s greatest selling point is financial savings. You might think that custom-made parts put together off-site would be more expensive, and you’re probably right. But that’s for one-off projects. But with modular construction, that’s really not the case: mas producing these parts would be cheaper since prefab manufacturers can get bulk order discounts from suppliers, and that savings gets passed down to the homeowners.
Prefab greatly lowers the overall costs of building homes without sacrificing the quality of the materials. This also helps you avoid unreliable contractors and staff, saving you a lot of headache and repair dollars in the future. Factor in the relatively short “construction” time and you’ll see great savings on the overall build cost.
One of the best features of prefab construction is the controlled manufacturing environment. Since this process involves mass-producing parts of a home off-site, the manufacturer adheres to strict standards.
The home’s sub-assemblies, wall panels, posts, and more, are all built to a uniform quality. Compare that with on-site construction, where the structures are built depending on the skill levels of contractors, and one bad egg can ruin the whole construction project.
Prefab construction ensures that each sub-assembly is built to code, by a team of skilled and experienced professionals that will ensure uniformity in every batch they produce. Some are even constructed using precise machine equipment, guaranteeing strict adherence to building codes and standards.
Imagine building a home from scratch in freezing cold temperatures or under sweltering heat. One by one, the crew takes a break, leaving just a handful to work on the project at a time. You can only imagine the quality issues that would come up during the construction process, and you can only hope that they’re gone once the project is finished.
Now picture a factory-controlled working environment, consistent temperature, and dry materials. Everyone is working on assigned stations, no health and safety hazards, and everything is running like a well-oiled machine.
This illustrates the difference between working on the construction site and producing prefab materials off-site. The strict factory procedures protect the staff from injury, so there are no distractions and disruption during operation. Keeping every crew member safe, warm, and dry ensures the highest quality of materials will be produced every time.
Can Prefab Really Solve the Housing Crisis
Currently, prefab represents just a small percentage of homes in the market. According to National Review, “modular and prefabricated construction is used to build just 2 percent of new single-family homes and 3 percent of new multifamily housing.” But with the worsening housing crisis, plus the new technologies being used in the construction process, the future looks bright for prefab.