Allison Arieff on the Future of Prefab

Allison Arieff literally wrote the book on modern prefab back in 2002 (with Bryan Burkhart). It was an exciting time, and we all had great hopes and dreams, not all of which panned out. She is interviewed by David Keeps of the Chicago Tribune, and discusses the successes, failures and its future. A few key questions:


David Keeps: How has the movement and market changed in the six years since you wrote your book?

A: Well, there are a lot more books on the subject, but the funny thing is that they pretty much all have the same houses in them. I would say that nationally there are only 100 houses of this type that have actually been built. A lot was over-promised and under-delivered, so now we are going through this period of realism where the consumer wants to see what's available and possible. For a lot of people it's still conceptual — architecture on paper.

David Keeps: How can modern prefab make the world a better place to live?

A: Modern prefab can begin to make a dent in the tragic vernacular homogeneity that plagues this country. People speak all the time of "context" or houses being true to their respective neighborhoods, but what I see when I travel around the country is the same boxes with a tacked-on facade — French Country, Tuscan, Cape Cod, whatever. It's not architecture, and it's not good design.

But beyond the aesthetic, practitioners of modern prefab place an emphasis on smarter, more sustainable building materials. That reduces the massive environmental impact of home-building and makes houses healthier for people to live in as well. The smaller footprint that is often the signature of these homes is also far better for the environment. ::Chicago Tribune

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