Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?
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Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Steven Comisso at June 21. 2005
I’ve read bits and pieces of this thread. My experience with prefab is limited but less so with modular construction. Here is an accounting of what I’ve learned so far.
I have designed a number of real estate sales centres with prefabricated modules from GE Modular Buildings here in Toronto. I have also proposed a passenger ferry terminal built of non-combustible (ie steel) modules. My experience in the commercial realm has been that the advantage of modular/prefab is speed of erection only. The cost of the modules is at least 15% more than site built construction.
I just completed a two storey addition to a 70’s bungalow. We removed a substandard bedroom wing and dug a basement and built over it. The addition was not straight off the remaining building but kinked slightly. The project was priced by an outfit called Modular(.ca). They have some pretty awful stuff on their website (which the owner admitted to me) and are used to doing top-ups. They typically build the wall and floor components in a warehouse and ship them to site. The wall finish is pristine and they can work in winter. After looking long and hard at it, they decided they had to stick frame it. I’ve had them price other projects and once again they offer speed of erection only. The lesson is, I guess, it has to be a box.
There has been a building boom here for the last 20 years. The efficiencies and the economies of scale builders are generating are remarkable and at almost every price point the houses have brick veneer! Most of what has been built is neither modern nor tradition but of a simple bland consistency that is acceptable to the lowest common denominator (don’t get me started). Economies of scale are hard to achieve even in 50s and 100s.
We have found that the psf cost of a project varies widely when you begin to look at fixtures and finishes. These must be kept simple and cheap for the prefab to fly but is also where a builder typically makes most of their profit (aside from land improvement). I do not know how to resolve this except to have package A,B,C as you do when you buy a car.
Finally, I’ve attached some pics of the first modern house we designed in DC about 6 years ago. It is a simple plan of 2500sf with two bedrooms 2 baths and a powder for a retired couple. We have a 13 ft living dining room (which I believe is the ideal height for such a space) and avoided any catwalks or building two-storeys on both sides of the high space. To save money we: went with a single car garage, minimized windows on the second storey, and eliminated as many interior doors as possible. The building is clad in EIFS and has a generous overhang to protect it. This building was built for $250K complete; including full basement and built-ins. That’s about $100 psf. To get to this figure we had to import the commercial glazing and millwork from Canada.
-Most of the houses I design, even if traditional in appearance, have modern space planning at their core. One way to get the economies of scale you need is to have a building form that is adaptable to a more traditional aesthetic. This would increase your available market and make the entire endeavor more cost effective.
-One design is not enough. Based on some builder work I’ve done, you will need at least 7 models. 2 corners, 2 wide lots and at least 3 deep lots. By creating a suite of homes, builders could now get in on the act and you could keep control; dropping these babies down by the hundreds! (You also need an infill model for us city folk.)
-A common plan for several owners, I think, is not feasible. Design something great at the core; kitchen/dining/living. Keep the enclosed volume down to the minimum. Offer packages that finish this off with # of desired bedrooms and parking spots. Offer finish levels to meet target price points.
-Make it steel construction, which is more adaptable to differing climates.
-Unfortunately, build it in another country. In Canada you would get 20% more for your money, in China, who knows. There are several prefab builders in Canada sending buildings to Japan. SC
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at June 21. 2005
Interesting comments. I'd like to see larger images of house. It looks very interesting but the image is very small.
Your comments making a comparison to a production builder and economy of scale are true, but I am beginning with a cost basis derived from the Sage's project. This is a one-of custom modular house. Building even just 3 of the same houses out of the same factory will still realize some economy. Bringing the factory 3 contracts rather than one will still realize some economy. Not enough to drive something from 100$/sqft to 80, but something none the less.
Your comments about commercial modules and a 15% premium sounds right to me as well, although the GE modules are a completely different animal. In any case if this kind of margin is the same in residential wood framed modular construction, and I am not saying it is, then it still offers a price advantage over the inflated construction markets in many metropolitan areas, particularly in CA. In these situations the ability to move the bulk of your labor to another state offers a great cost advantage, and to Canada, perhaps more but I can't say.
Now there will be situations where site built can be done for less than a modular, but this proposal does not include the detailed documentation required to build on site. To build the Common Modular design on site will require additional services commensurate with any custom site built design which again has proved to be a barrier to people pursuing an modern house, a barrier we are trying to overcome by sharing a design.
I think your conclusion sounds like a great recipe for a modular product that could fill a niche, the one identified here. I encourage you to follow through to a product. However it is a little bit to soon to say that the Common Modular is not feasible. The design issues you describe are much less of a problem than the coordination of everybody's timing. Some have land, some do not, the odds of getting this all to happen in concert is slim. That is looking to be the factor that kills the deal more so than the designs which have been pretty well received.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Marshall Mayer at June 21. 2005
Some interesting comments. I definitely agree with you on the time factor. It's much faster to build in a factory than on-site. And that opportunity cost can be pretty significant, especially if you are loosing out on instant equity in a hot market.
One area where you can't make a generalization is cost. The cost difference between modular and site-built construction will depend entirely on the market. It may be 15% more to build modular in some markets, but in California and most of the rest of the left coast (the market where I have the most experience) modular is less expensive than site built, and sometimes by a wide margin. and that is even accounting for transportation costs.
For example, Michelle Kaufmann started her own site-built 3-br Glidehouse before the product was introduced. She's used what became a standard Glidehouse floor plan, and even used most of the same interior and exterior finishes. So it's a Glidehouse, except that it's site-built. Not only did the first modular Glidehouse get built and occupied before hers (even though she started hers several months before the product was introduced), it was done for about 40% less than her site-built home. Her home is in Marin County, north of San Francisco, a traditional hot spot for new home construction. But it's also typlical for many California and west coast markets.
At the recent debut of the Breezehouse, I had several people tell me that they could build a home for less than what we could. Sure, they can build a home for less than the Breezehouse, but I guaranteed them that you cannot site-build a Breezehouse for less than what we can. So far, no one has proved me wrong, and I'm sure they won't, at least in California.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Kevin Dickson at June 23. 2005
Here's the core module that SC is asking for:[url href=http://www.buildwithcore.com/]buildwithCore[/url]
Cheaper prefab...although not necessarily modernPosted by David Hirsh at June 30. 2005
One of the subtexts of this thread has been over the question of, Why should prefab cast more just because the product is a modern house? I have been searching to merge some method of prefabrication with modern design in an attempt to build a mid-sized beach house for around $75 a square foot (less the cost of land which I already own). I have had nice conversations with two regional builders that sell alot of conventional looking houses (albeit some with vaguely modern, open, simplistic, and highly functional floorplans).
One builds their houses by panels in their factory then erects them onsite and then brings in the customary subtrades to finish the house in a very conventional manner.
The other builds houses to completion in their yard, then literally cuts them up into shipable modules to be reassembled on site. Each claims to save a ton of costs on materials and labor, and with some basic finished (vinyl windows, vinyl and carpet flooring, formica counters, electric heat and tank water heating, no appliances, etc.) they can produce (according to the models I walked through) a fairly tight ranch, rambler, or chalet.
The latter builder will make changes to their stock homes but won't build from your plans. In contrast, the panel builder invites one to bring them one's plans and have in-house engineering for a well-below market price. Unfortunately, they have never built anything resembling the great modern designs that show up on this and other modern house websites.
I figure my best bet to get the panel builder to bid a house of modern design would be to choose a design that would be easily panel-built; using their general contracting service would yield me an open, functional, modern looking home at below $90 a square foot.
At least it seems like an idea for now.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at June 30. 2005
David - what you have outlined sounds like a very compelling proposal. It sounds like you are being methodical about your analysis and I would really like to know more of the facts you are discovering. I hope you share more of this background. Could I twist your arm to start a blog here at LiveModern that chronicles your search and I hope your construction?
BlogPosted by David Hirsh at July 05. 2005
I wish I could keep a blog here, Greg, because I like journalling and I have been trying to do the front end work on this beach house in a very systematic way. My wife and I have been taking our time since buying our land, looking at a variety of homes and ways to build them.
But alas, I already have a web log of my own already that barely gets enough of my attention on a weekly basis. We lead an utterly modern family life what with coaching little league baseball, my son's kung fu lessons, volunteering at my son's school, and my own surfing and long distance swimming addiction. Oh, and this little thing called a job that helps me pay the bills:grin:.
What I might do soon is start to sum up where we've been, including our continuing interest in the Common Modular idea (or at least one of the schemes you've previously presented within that idea) and throw those up on my blog. If that looks good there, I'll start one here too and just cross post to both. That way noone here has to suffer through the other personal and political bellyaching I put up on my existing blog.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at July 05. 2005
Hi David - if you already have a blog going then by all means keep it there. If you can make a new category for you blog entries then you can make it easy to sort all of the house related entries. I'd guess there is probably some way to make a link to a presorted page that has only your house postings and then you leave it to the visitor if they want to dig up more info on you blog. If so, then just put a link to your blog on your home page here with a description of your project. You could drop a progress picture there too if you want.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by carol georgopoulos at July 05. 2005
I see that all the postings on this subject are from way back, but I would like to suggest one thing. We now have an Eichler-type house that came with lots of dark panelling and made dark cave-like rooms. We had the panelling in the kitchen covered with vinyl wallpaper that looks exactly like hand-plastering (creamy/gold color). It is amazing how well it turned out, and we'd be willing to do it in a living room. This could also be applied over drywall; the critical element would be finding a good paper-hanger.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by JB at July 05. 2005
Just when you think you've seen all the good the bad and the ugly we get simulated faux finishing. Does faux-faux finish make real finish?
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Jon Malone at August 18. 2005
Has anyone looked at adapting a commercial steel frame building for residential use? The quote below from steelbuildings.com is for a 24'x56' building 10' high on one side and 12' on the other. It doesn't include any wall panels but does include the roof.
I haven't gotten very far with this idea but would plan to fill-in the existing frame with light-weight steel framing, use fiber cement siding on the outside and sheetrock on the inside.
Engineering Design Info:
Code:CBC 2001 Wind:80 Ground Snow:100 Live Load:20 Roof Snow:70
Exposure:C Seismic Coefficient/Aa:0.4 Siesmic Zone:4 Frame Reduction: No
Building Design Information:
Width:24' 0 Length:56' 0 Height:10' 0 Slope:1:12
Sidewall Bay Config:2 @ 28`-0
Left Column Spacing:1 @ 24`-0 Right Column Spacing:1 @ 24`-0
Left:Full-load Expandable Rigid Frame Right:Full-load Expandable Rigid Frame
BUILDING HIGH SIDE EAVE HEIGHT IS 12`-0
FRONT SIDEWALL WILL HAVE WIND COLUMN LOCATED IN BAY (1)
BACK SIDEWALL WILL HAVE WIND COLUMN LOCATED IN BAY (2)
1/2 LB COLLATERAL LOAD IS FOR LIGHTS
EXAMINE CAREFULLY! Please check with your local building inspector for specific codes and loads in your area. Steelbuilding.com is not responsible for incorrect codes and loads.
PLEASE NOTE: ANY CHANGES MADE TO THE BUILDING, COLORS (INCLUDING DOORS), ACCESSORIES, ETC. MUST BE MADE BEFORE THE BUILDING IS PURCHASED OR ADDITIONAL CHARGES WILL BE APPLIED.
Steelbuilding.com will collect sales tax from Arkansas residents. Buyers in other states agree that they are responsible for any applicable state or local taxes.
Framed Opening/Overhead Door Summary:
----NO FRAMED OPENINGS----
----NO ACCESSORIES SELECTED----
Total Price Summary:
Base Building Price:
Drawings: Stamped with Design Calculations
Tax: Rate: 7.75% + $0.00
Total Price: (Delivered to your job site.)
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at August 18. 2005
Yes - the site where you got this quote has been posted here before. And its a fine idea as pre-engineered steel buildings are a great value. Its such a fine idea that we decided to package it! See www.6040house.com
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Peter Marrek at September 07. 2005
We do bespoke prefab component homes and ship world wide. If you have a design, we would be pleased to quote for you. We can also design for you at very reasonable rates.
Generally, we are in the $25-$35 ft.sq. range for all components needed to erect a structure that is 100% complete from the exterior (locked-in-cold). Can even supply on-site build factory expert.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Adam McBride at September 19. 2005
[quote:SimplyTheBest format=text/plain]We do bespoke prefab component homes and ship world wide. If you have a design, we would be pleased to quote for you. We can also design for you at very reasonable rates.
Generally, we are in the $25-$35 ft.sq. range for all components needed to erect a structure that is 100% complete from the exterior (locked-in-cold). Can even supply on-site build factory expert.
Do you have website??
Done wishing; time to get it goingPosted by David Hirsh at December 16. 2005
This thread is the one that brought me into the livemodern.com fold. And now we're really trying to get it going in the form of an affordable modern beach house on the Washington State Coast. I've added a blog to post my thoughts and experiences and if you get a moment, check in with from time to time. We might not end up doing it fully prefab but it will be affordable and stylish. Thanks.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by LiveModern Webmaster at December 27. 2005
How does the courtHOUSE work out cost-wise? It is a really beautiful design, functional and provides a private outdoor space, but is still compact. Nice work! :grin: Is this a stock plan like Greg offers or is it a modular plan...? Tell me more.
Have you considered taking on investors and just building the project? This is something we discussed at one of the early meetings of Seattle Modernists. Matt from Cast Design Build actually had a project going at the time for which his company was looking for investors. Perhaps this is the way to start this?
The Seattle/Puget Sound area seems like a good idea for the project. From what I can see there seems to be a larger concentration of people actually taking action on builds there. During the above mentioned meeting starting a building coop was one of the items discussed. It could also be a good project for one of the regional Modernism groups.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at December 27. 2005
Jonii, I have not. Not that I am not open to this, but I would only do something like that locally so I could be on top of the construction. I have investigated locally with local investors but nothing more. I would be very happy to work with owner/builder/develpers at other locations interested in putting together a local coop. This has been discussed by several groups here on LiveModern. Last time round I think a group in LA was organizing. This is just the kind of activity I would like to see happen and would be eager to facilitate.
I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about your courtHOUSE. Thanks!
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at January 03. 2006
Jonii - the courthouse is not my design.
Yeah, Greg, I know! :grin: I've been trying to get Mark's attention on this, I finally just sent him a message.
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at January 04. 2006
Ok Jonii! I thought you were confused but it was me! He has been on leaving messages but he probably did not click into this thread because it would not be obvious you were talking about his project. Why not start a new topic called CourtHouse! That will get his attention!
Greg...you were mentioned briefly in an article in Mens Journal about Prefab homes. Not sure if you were aware of that?
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at January 05. 2006
No way! I had no idea. What month issue was it? I'll have to look for it.
edit: I checked at Barnes and noble and they did not have the magazine. I don't know where to look for it - ?
Re: Have you wished for a cheaper prefab?Posted by Gregory La Vardera at January 06. 2006
I looked at the web site earlier and I saw the current issue TOC with an article about prefab listed. I sent an email to their customer service asking where to find it.