Bespoke vs Pre-Designed Prefab House Models: Which One should You Choose

When buying a prefab house, there are two design options to choose from: bespoke or pre-designed. The most noticeable difference between these two remains in the customisation freedom, though following a different process in the design stage influences the overall construction. Therefore choosing to design a prefab from scratch or selecting it from a catalogue should be based on our priorities.

What is a bespoke prefab house?

A bespoke prefab home is a house designed from scratch considering the user’s needs. The house project can be designed by the prefab company or by an independent architectural firm. Every element of the house is developed individually according to the exact specifications of the client creating a unique and personalised space.

Designing a bespoke house is very attractive to those who can easily visualise their dream home. Though it can also be a great opportunity for a client with non-common situations such as difficult plot topographies or very specific design requirements since the architects will adapt the design to the client’s needs.

What is a pre-designed prefab model?

A pre-designed prefab model is a house that has already been designed and is available for anyone to purchase. Pre-designed prefabs are also known as catalogue prefabs since the purchase process begins with the client comparing different pictures of the available houses to find the one that better satisfies their needs and desires.

Choosing a pre-designed prefab highly simplifies the process of buying a new home since it follows a very visual and intuitive procedure. Still, despite choosing an already developed model, the client can customise different elements to personalise the house to its taste.

pre-design prefab home
Image courtesy of: Akso-Haus-model Stella 1-112 Offset Gabled Roof

Main differences between bespoke and pre-designed prefab homes

Once built, it is not possible to tell the difference between a prefab house that has been designed from scratch and one that was selected from a catalogue. They both will look like beautiful, good-quality construction. Their difference will be visible in the construction process instead.

Design possibilities: Can you customise them?

The design possibilities of a prefab are much wider when choosing a bespoke model. In this case, there are pretty much no design limitations since the architects will work to develop the house the client is wishing for. This design flexibility is especially helpful when building a house in a lot with complicated topographies since the designers can find the best house design to utilise this inconvenience and turn it into an opportunity to create a unique architecture [1], [2].

Quality of the materials: What are they made from?

Bespoke prefab homes aren’t necessarily built with higher quality materials, though being tailor-made grants the clients the possibility of choosing the materials of their choice. Those clients with an interest in utilising high-quality, durable materials can select each one of them to their liking when purchasing bespoke homes.

Choosing a pre-designed prefab is still a guarantee that the construction materials will provide a safe and durable environment since all permanent prefab houses are built according to the current building regulations and this guarantees a good material selection [3]. Still, there isn’t much margin for the client to improve their quality or even select other options such as utilising sustainable materials unless the manufacturer provides them.

Production: How long does the process take?

Bespoke prefabs require longer design phases since the whole house has to be designed from scratch. The duration of this phase varies from client to client, depending on the complexity of the design or the modifications required to achieve the desired house [4]. Though, it is generally longer than it would be if the house was pre-designed.

The production of a pre-designed prefab is highly simplified and the overall duration is enormously reduced. In this case, the design phase consists of selecting a house model and customising some of the elements which usually translates into a fast time frame. Additionally, the manufacturing of the modules is usually more methodic and can be completed in a shorter amount of time since less customisation allows the manufacturer to stick to the standardised mechanisations.

Price: How much will the house cost?

Prefab houses have an average cost of about 90,000€, though multiple variables modify this value and one of them is the design process: Bespoke prefabs require far more time and dedication to build and design which consequently translates into a higher construction price.

Pre-designed prefab models aren’t unique and can therefore be built in a process that highly resembles mass production. A great advantage of this type of design is that the client knows how much it will cost to manufacture the house as soon as the model is selected. Some modifications can increase this value a bit, though this cost is also clearly established while selecting them.

Should you get a catalogue prefab or design it from scratch?

Choosing between a pre-designed model or a bespoke design can be tough since each design option offers different benefits and inconveniences. Both choices will provide the good quality house that you have been dreaming about, though to fully satisfy your needs it might be helpful to identify your most important priorities.

  • You struggle to imagine how a floor plan will look once built: In this case, it might be very helpful to choose a pre-designed model. These are displayed with images and sometimes you might even be able to visit a sample. This way, when you choose a design, you know exactly what you will get.
  • You have a very specific design in mind: If you have a very unique design in mind, you will benefit from building it from scratch.
  • Your property has a steep topography: Most pre-designed prefabs are designed to be placed on a flat surface. If your property is significantly steep a bespoke prefab might be a better solution since the overall design can be thought to accommodate the unique location.
  • You are aiming for unique features such as sustainability or energy efficiency: While sustainability and energy efficiency are tags commonly associated with prefabs, not all prefabs are built with strict energy environmental or efficiency standards. Choosing a bespoke design can be a good way to define the exact features you want your home to offer.
  • You need a house as soon as possible: If you are in a hurry, choosing a predesigned model will ease the process and might save you some time.
  • You have a tight budget: Choosing a predesigned model is more affordable than building from scratch and the total cost might be a better fit for your possibilities.
Image courtesy of: CMB Housing Solutions-model Primum

Frequently Asked Questions

How can a bespoke model get the benefits of prefab construction?

In comparison to pre-designed models, bespoke prefabs are more expensive and have a longer construction process. However, bespoke prefabs are still cheaper and faster to build than traditional construction and this is a direct result of prefabrication. Despite being fully customised, these houses are still built in a factory-like environment where most works are mechanised, cutting down time and human labour.

Is it possible to get a singular prefab house designed by the architect of your choice?

Generally yes, though this can vary from one prefab manufacturer to another. In this case, the architect of your choice will work together with the manufacturer’s design team to ensure the design enables efficient construction, transportation and assembly.

How can a predesigned model get some grade of customisation?

Most manufacturers offering pre-designed models encourage the client to customise some elements of the house in order to personalise it to suit their needs and desires. The most common customisations include choosing the flooring materials, the kitchen distribution and finished or the colours.

How can a pre-designed model be adapted to the local conditions?

Yes, despite being predesigned, every prefab has to adhere to the local building regulations and therefore, a pre-designed model will be adapted to the specific requirements of the place where it will be based.

[1]Step by Step Guide The Wee House Co.
[2]Design Aito
[3](2020, July) Manual to the Building Regulations. A code of practice for use in England HM Government
[4]Tailor-made projects tini

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