Prefab Parlance

By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
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From Kynar and Galvalume to SIPs, the terminology associated with prefab construction can be daunting. We asked a handful of architects and designers to help us build a prefab glossary of the top terms and definitions related to modular housing, and we hope you’ll help us add to the list in the comments.

Carbon Footprint: A measure of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a person, organization, or location at a given time.

Construction Waste: Unwanted material produced directly or incidentally during the constructio process. This includes building materials such as insulation, nails, electrical wiring, and rebar, as well as waste originating from site preparation such as dredging materials, tree stumps, and rubble.

Cost of Construction: Expense incurred by a contractor for labor, material, equipment, financing, services, utilities, etc., plus overhead and contractor's profit. Costs such as that of land, architectural design, consultant  and engineer's fee are not construction costs.

Cost Control: Budget and actual cost of operations, processes, departments or product and the analysis of variances, profitability or social use of funds.

Custom Home: custom-built on-site from "standard" materials; on-site labor-intensive.

Energy Efficiency: The ratio between the useful output of an energy conversion machine and the input, in energy terms. The useful output may be electric power, mechanical work, or heat. Energy conversion efficiency is not defined uniquely, but instead depends on the usefulness of the output. All or part of the heat produced from burning a fuel may become rejected waste heat if, for example, work is the desired output from a thermodynamic cycle.

Greywater: Wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation, and constructed wetlands.

Kit Home / Kit of Parts: A structure that contains prefabricated components and is put together by a contractor.

LEED Certification: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for the environmentally sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings and neighborhoods.

Mobile Home: A factory-assembled residence consisting of one or more modules, in which a chassis and wheels are an integral part of the structure, and can be readied for occupancy without removing the chassis and/or wheels.

Modular/Module: Modular buildings and modular homes are sectional prefabricated buildings or houses that consist of multiple modules or sections which are manufactured in a remote facility and then delivered to their intended site of use. The modules are assembled into a single residential building using either a crane or trucks.

Passive Solar: Using sunlight for energy without the use of active mechanical systems (as contrasted to active solar). Such technologies convert sunlight into usable heat (water, air, thermal mass), cause air-movement for ventilating, or future use, with little use of other energy sources. A common example is a solarium  on the equator-side of a building. Passive cooling is the use of the same design principles to reduce summer cooling requirements.

Prefab: Prefabricated. This term is wide open to interpretation. The components are either generally available when the structure is designed or they are created specifically for the project (i.e. designed for reproduction).

Quonset Hut: A prefabricated hut of corrugated iron having a semicircular cross section. Quonset was originally a US military term derived from the location where the hut was developed (Quonset, Rhode Island). The British synonym is Nissen hut.

SIPs: Structural Insulated Panels. Panels are typically made using expanded polystyrene (EPS), or polyisocyanurate rigid foam insulation sandwiched between two structural skins of oriented strand board (OSB).SIPs are used as building panels for floors, walls and roofs in residential and commercial buildings.

Yurt: a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework, used by nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey.

Amanda Dameron


Editor in Chief / @amandadameron

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