Every time we show a small prefab the upper case comments pour in: ITS SO EXPENSIVE! There is always the statement that "prefab should be cheaper than site-built" and cost about $50 per square foot," which my dad built his house for on some farm in Arkansas." I try to explain that these houses are built of better materials to higher energy efficiency standards, that it costs more to not build out of carpet and vinyl, that building small costs more per square foot than building big. It never matters.
So when a house popped up on Dezeen that was actually called "the Happy Cheap House" built in Sweden by Tommy Carlsson, I had to check: Is it happy? Is it cheap?
It is certainly economical with its choice of materials, clad on the outside all round with corrugated steel. This isn't as cheap as vinyl siding and asphalt shingles that you will find on your usual home, but will last hundreds of years. It is a simple and cheap boxy shape too, minimizing the exterior area and with only one real "this is designed by an architect" note, the cut-off corner at the entrance. On the other hand, that's a very clever way of getting a covered entry by subtraction rather than addition.
The way the roof is framed is really interesting too; you get a downspout with a real slope to it. Traditional gutters get so clogged with leaves and gunk, but this is steep and will always drain.
Inside: drywall and plywood. Big fixed vision glass (very cheap to do) and separate ventilation openings. As minimal as you can get.
So what's the sticker on this baby? 110 square meters for 170,000 euros or 1,545 euros/m2. What's that to us? It's $223,856 on a straight conversion, but Sweden's currency is way over-valued and it's not a fair comparison. According to the Economist's Big Mac index, it's 24% over what it should be for purchasing power parity. So it's really US$ 180,529. The house is US$ 152.47 per square foot.
No doubt someone will point to the fact that according to a home cost calculator, a house in California averages $128 and in Texas, only $74. But it's comparing apples and oranges. I think Tommie Carlsson has nailed it here; it's an interesting, minimalist design made out of the most basic of materials, with some very clever touches. It makes me happy just writing about it.
Lots more photos in Dezeen.