The Monogram Modern Home, a prefab designed by Method Homes featuring a luxury kitchen outfitted with Monogram appliances, toured the country in 2015, making appearances in Portland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, Dallas, and Boston. We want to take this opportunity to muse on the importance of modern prefab construction, a topic we cover extensively at Dwell.
Prefab construction made it possible for the Monogram Modern Home to travel the country. Prefab housing is a notoriously flexible solution that treads lightly on the land. At 825 square feet, the Monogram Modern Home is easy to transport by truck. If a homeowner chose to use multiple units to form a larger house, they could break it apart and move them separately.
Because prefabricated construction enables careful moderation and experimentation in the building process, it allows for structural innovations that traditional site builds typically don't see. One example of this is Cubicco, a company that is developing disaster-proof prefabs. Cubicco’s prefabs can withstand Category 5 hurricanes, extreme heat and cold, ten-foot snow loads, and earthquakes (when paired with a strong foundation).
It also can be an extremely efficient method. We love this prototype designed by students from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and their peers from the Université d’Angers in France for the 2014 iteration of the Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles, France. The super green design consists of three layers: an energy-efficient, insulating structural envelope, an integrated building systems core with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and an exterior shell equipped with solar systems and the ability to shade and collect rainwater.
Since it relies on regular, repeated modules that are quickly produced, prefab is a viable option for affordable housing. A new residential building in upper Manhattan, dubbed The Stack and designed by the architecture firm Gluck+, employed offsite prefabrication methods to create a high-quality, affordable housing solution that was raised onsite in only 19 days.
The industry still has room to expand in terms of production. As we've noted in our pages, industry leaders feel momentum behind factory-built housing, but it will only pick up speed once the industry scales up and bends the cost curve. "The demand definitely exceeds the supply," says Robby Kullman of Capsys, which assembles modular structures inside a 75,000-square-foot factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.