Prefabricated housing gains acceptance, goes mainstream

Kohn Shnier
© Tom Arban/ Kohn Shnier Architects

I shoulda stayed in prefab. I became a blogger to fill the time while working for Royal Homes in Ontario, trying to promote modern green prefab homes and waiting for the phone to ring. Soon I was writing more than I was building, and now I am reading in the Financial Post that factory-built homes are shedding their ‘cheap’ label and exploding in popularity. Prefab construction is up to 11% of the market, three times that when I was in the biz.

Writer Armina Ligaya interviews my old boss, Pieter Venema, who built the Kohn Shnier designed Muskoka cottage for two families shown above (and that was my last hurrah in the business, covered in TreeHugger here). What I hoped for is finally happening:

Architects are “embracing” industrialized building, says Pieter Venema, president of Wingham, Ont.-based Royal Homes. “It’s got more of an upscale cache to it,” he said. “People are really beginning to understand the concept and see the benefits of it. It’s slow to change but we do see it.”

One of the biggest problems in marketing prefab was that everyone always thinks it should be cheaper than a conventionally built house. However it is almost impossible to compete with a subdivision builder who is essentially creating an assembly line in the field. Pieter explains:

Our solution is not a cheaper option, it’s not a more expensive option,” he said. “If you go to a subdivision builder, it’s probably cheaper. But you’re getting a house that’s not customized, and usually not to the same spec as well. It’s just a different type of product.

© Bone Structures

The article also looks at the work of Bone Structure, a Quebec based steel framed prefab company that is making a very big splash. I will have a look at this soon. More in the Financial Post.

Tags: Green Building

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