Allison Arieff literally wrote the book on modern prefab and knows the subject better than just about anyone. She writes in the New York Times about the trend towards multifamily housing, calling it " the killer app for the modular industry."
In 2004, Allison was proselytizing prefab for single family house, and I was selling them. We both dreamed of a revolution in the homebuilding business where architect designed, elegant, green and affordable homes would be available to anyone. In the end it didn't work out as we thought it would:
Absent economies of scale, the dreamed-of cost savings are basically impossible to achieve. Imagine building a custom car on a Ford assembly line and you can get a sense of how that might work. The repetition involved in creating a multi-unit building simply aligns with prefab’s capabilities in a way that single-family homebuilding does not.
It also became obvious that there is more to it than just the boxes that make the house; there is also the cost of land, foundations and servicing. It ended up that they were pretty well all big country homes, or prefab sprawl.
The future of green, elegant and small housing is multifamily, and as Allison concludes, "Prefab can make that happen more quickly, efficiently and economically than conventional construction — and increasingly, it’s doing exactly that."
Great article in the New York Times