What is prefab

Prefab is a term used to indicate that the components used to build a house have been manufactured off-site. Prefabricated buildings can be 100% prefabricated but in most cases, a small percentage of the construction process takes place on-site where the prefabricated components are assembled. Building a house with prefab construction offers several advantages.

Main benefits of prefab construction:

  • The prefab building process is faster
  • Prefabrication rarely experiences delays
  • Prefab construction is more sustainable
  • Prefab homes are of higher quality
  • Prefabrication is cheaper than traditional built

All these benefits of prefab construction contribute to a major certainty of the building process. In this guide, you will find all you need to know to understand what prefab construction is and why it is gaining so much popularity.

What is a Prefab home?

A prefab home is a house built by using some kind of prefabrication method to either manufacture the main building components (like walls, roof or floor) or the entire house. The word prefab indicates that a good amount of the construction process is carried out in a factory-like environment. However, there are different kinds of prefabricated building techniques and depending on the prefabrication technique utilised we can build one type of prefab house or another.

Types of prefab houses

Modular houses: A type of prefab that is built per parts known as modules. Every module is a prefabricated three-dimensional section of the house that once built is shipped to the building site where it is assembled in a fast and easy way. A modular home can be built of one or multiple modules depending on the house’s size.

Panel-built houses: Also known as panellised homes, these houses are built with prefabricated panels that are designed as walls, roofs and ceilings. The panels are complete systems built with all the necessary elements; such as wiring, plumbing and thermal insulation. Therefore, once assembled they define a house that is pretty much ready to be lived in.

Log houses: A modern approach to the traditional log cabin. These houses are often built entirely off-site by laying prefabricated logs horizontally. These logs are designed and shaped in a factory easing the building process and improving the home’s performance.

Tiny Houses: This type of prefab home is very popular since it offers a building solution that is quite affordable as well as unique. Generally built entirely in a factory and placed on wheels, tiny homes offer the advantage of being moveable, enhancing a lifestyle of freedom and minimalism.

Cabins: These prefab homes are characterised by their size; being small units with a maximum of one bedroom. Contrary to tiny homes, cabins are permanent settlements and can be built with a variety of prefab techniques.

Image courtesy of Wee House Company

What Are The Benefits Of Prefabrication?

Since prefab construction takes place in a manufacturing plant, it usually utilises highly mechanised tools in a process that often resembles an assembly line rather than traditional construction methods. This modern building process offers some advantages in comparison to on-site construction methods.

The prefab building process is faster

Building a house with prefabrication methods accelerates the construction speed enormously in comparison to traditional construction. While building a house with traditional construction methods takes at least 6 months, the overall construction of a prefab house usually takes as few as 16 weeks[1].

The acceleration of the construction process is a direct result of the industrialisation of the prefab building process. Prefabrication is a procedure that takes place in a manufacturing environment where several steps are highly mechanised which accelerates the building timeline.

Prefabrication rarely experiences delays

Additionally to the natural acceleration of the construction process, prefabrication has the advantage of offering a reliable building timeline. The most common delays experienced in traditional construction are generally due to unexpected weather events and transportation issues.

Given that prefab construction takes place in a manufacturing plant that is sheltered from the weather, the working conditions are excellent all year long ensuring compliance with the building schedules on nearly all occasions. Additionally, since transportation is highly reduced, traffic delays are pretty much non-existent.

Prefab construction is more sustainable

The construction industry has a strong negative impact on the environment with transportation and waste being the main causes of it. In the UK alone, construction rubbish amounts to millions of tons every year[2]. Building a house with prefab construction methods is, in general, more environmentally friendly than building a house on-site with traditional construction techniques.

Prefab construction is more sustainable since it cuts down on transportation and waste thanks to the centralisation of the works. This centralisation limits the need to ship heavy machinery to the working site; eases bulk transportation of materials; and allows the recycling and utilisation of leftover materials.

Prefab homes are of higher quality

All permanent prefab houses are required to adhere to the same local building regulations expected for a house built using traditional methods. Therefore, all prefab homes are always built to at least the same quality standards as on-site-built houses. However, in most cases, prefab houses exceed these standards.

Since all prefabricated processes take place in a factory-like environment, every manufacturing stage is developed in the same location following a process that is highly mechanised and carefully monitored. This setting reduces enormously any possible human error and construction mistakes that could negatively impact the overall quality of the house.

Prefabrication is cheaper than traditional built

Generally, building a prefab house is cheaper than building the same house on-site using traditional methods. The cost reduction is a direct result of the centralisation and mechanisation of the building process.

Centralising the works cuts down on transportation needs since workers no longer need to commute and all materials are delivered to the same address in bulk. Additionally, labour expenses are lessened thanks to the mechanisation of several construction works and the acceleration of the overall building process.

What is the average price of a prefab home?

The average price of a prefabricated house is about 90,000€, though this number can vary enormously from one type of prefab to another. Tiny houses are the most affordable type of prefab with an average price of 63,139€. Other types of prefabs that are permanently built on foundations have a higher average price, this is the case of modular homes whose average price is about 106,200€.

Still, even within the same prefab home type, the price range is wide. This price depends on the size of the house, the materials used, the quality of the finishes and even the location where the house will be based

Can you finance a prefab home with a mortgage?

Financing a prefab home with a mortgage is possible. However, the process of applying for a construction loan to build a prefab home isn’t just the same as you would follow to finance a house built with traditional on-site construction.

Every country has different types of loans available to build prefab houses. Still, the most important thing to consider when applying for a mortgage to build a prefab house in the U.K and Europe is the quality of the construction. It is essential to prove that the house is built according to the minimum requirements defined in the local building regulations.

FAQ

How long do prefabricated houses last compared to traditional construction?

Prefab houses are built with materials designed to last for about 50 years, a very similar duration to that expected for traditionally built houses. The overall lifespan of a house varies depending on the chosen materials but also on the quality of the construction. Therefore, since prefabricated houses are often of higher quality, their durability can be slightly longer compared to traditional construction.

What kinds of prefab homes can you buy?

The most common types of prefab homes that you can buy nowadays in the UK and Europe are modular houses, panel-built houses, tiny homes, log houses and cabins.

Are prefab homes a good investment?

Definitely. Once built a prefab house looks just like a traditionally built house which makes them at least as good an investment as a traditionally built house. However, since the construction of a prefab house is more affordable and their quality often superior, these types of houses are a great investment choice.

Is prefab more sustainable than traditional homes?

Yes, generally prefab construction is a more sustainable building solution since it highly reduces transportation needs and cuts down on wastage of material.

References:

[1](2022, January 10) How will modular homes tackle the environmental crisis? Vista panels Ltd https://www.vistapanels.co.uk/how-will-modular-homes-tackle-the-environmental-crisis/
[2](2021, August 31) Dobrowolska, K. Construction and demolition waste management Archdesk https://archdesk.com/blog/construction-and-demolition-waste-management/

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