Andrew Maynard: Prefab from Australia

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A holy grail in prefab is adaptability- how do you make it easy to add pieces and let the dwelling evolve and change as your needs do? Andrew Maynard has developed a system using small steel framed modules that can be adapted and arranged according to needs and budget, and shuffled or added to as needs and income change. The modules sit of a set of rails, and are strong enough to accommodate a second floor. The roof is set up for rainwater collection.


Says Andrew Maynard in this 2004 competition entry for affordable housing in Victoria, Australia:

"For housing to be affordable now and in the future there is a dire need for the building industry to catch up with the processes used in the production of electrical goods and cars. If the car industry functioned as the building industry does we would have roads full of very different vehicles. All cars would be built simplistically and crudely at a very high price and would be affordable to few. The vicurban house design is a cheap production line, prefabrication system for affordable housing for all."

::VicUrban Affordable Housing Competition


building system

Onsite work is minimised to the installation of a steel "train track" footing system allowing the prefabricated modules to simply be slid into place. The prefabricated module is based on a rigid galvanised steel frame with plasterboard internal finish and stained farmed pine external skin. The floor covering is armourply panel. This allows quick easy fixing and the 2400x1200 sheet size adds lateral bracing to the frame. The roof surface is a bituminous finish on a ply substrate. There are no gutters; the roof acts as a shallow gutter allowing the water to be delivered to one of two downpipes.

adaptability / 2nd storey

The prefabricated system allows adaptability in the planning of the house. The proprietor can alter the way their house is planned based on environment, orientation, social needs and privacy. Furthermore, the rigid steel frame construction system allows for a second storey to be easily added. Alternating between single storey and double storey allows estates to have a visual diversity based on a single modular form. The flat bituminous roof also allows rooves to easily become trafficable outdoor areas for second storey spaces.

add on system

The computer industry is the catalyst for this adaptable modular house. Like the common computer, a basic unit can be purchased allowing further growth, adaptability and investment at a later date. The basic [and most affordable] form of the house would be a single bedroom home with bathroom kitchen and open/living modules. The user can add to this basic home other modules such as a carport or they can add on features such as sunshading, stairs or external decks. It is imagined that all of these elements would be available for the user to purchase as they would a keyboard or mouse for their computer.

cladding diversity

The cladding illustrated in the design is stained plantation pine, however, a myriad of materials can be used in the prefabricated system. Standard materials such as rendered cement sheet, weatherboard or brick can easily be veneered to the steel frame. Other more interesting and contemporary materials can also be used such as acrylic, alucabond or mesh allowing plant growth over the house. Furthermore, a single house could use a number of differently clad modules to produce a very rich texture to the facades. Along with the potential addition of a second storey, adapting the materials allows an estate to achieve rich visual diversity based on a single, modular, prefabricated form.

Environmental consequences

WASTE - Beyond the benefit of tight cost control, prefabrication also enables material wastage to be limited to a minimum and allows recycling to optimised. Articulate waste in the prefab process thereby achieving less waste and greater recycle turn around.

THERMAL CONTROL - All walls are insulated and there is a mix of fixed double glazed and openable double and single glazed windows and doors. All solid doors will be insulated and all openings will have breeze seals on all edges. The basic module is 5 metres wide allowing optimal through breezes to cool in summer. While Glazed areas can be orientated north to allow optimal solar gain in winter.

WATER - As described above the roof is designed as a single shallow gutter, thereby allowing all water to be articulated to 1 or 2 points. This allows a water tank to be easily located near the house with very little water loss.