What is a Prefabricated Building?
Have you watched any one of these reality shows where a family is gifted with a new customized house? The script calls for the family to move out of their old dilapidated house for 3 to 7 days. The allotted time frame of 3 to 7 days is put in good use as the people involved in the show break their back conceptualizing, designing and constructing the house. When the family comes back home a surprise awaits them as their beautiful new house greets them.
A leading fast food joint holds the record for putting up a branch and in operation in less than 13 hours. How can they do that? The answer lies in prefabricated buildings.
In a nutshell a prefabricated building is a type of construction that make use of pre-made or factory built parts or components that are then transported in the site to be assembled. There are various types of buildings that make use of this technology as this type of construction is fast to build. The building parts are preassembled to some degree and each unit is designed and built to perfectly fit each other. The terminology also applies to all modules as in modular homes, transportable homes as in manufactured homes, built-in components such as panels, shower stalls and compact kitchens, and to mobile homes too. There is quite an overlap in the terminology as mobile homes are rather low end as compared to high-end prefab houses designed by top calibre architects.
There is a growing need for Modular Homes today. You might think that all prefabricated buildings are low end, poorly constructed and of inferior materials. They could have been some 30 to 40 years ago, but not today. Prefabricated buildings today are designed by "green" architects to meet the high standard set forth by the locality and the even higher standards by the International Building Code, International Mechanical Code, the International Plumbing Code and local codes relating to electrical code and waste management. Prefabricated buildings today are conceptualized, designed and constructed with emphasis on going green. The design and construction phase are ecologically friendly and has low maintenance need. These considerations make these buildings, whether residential, institutional or commercial, a smart and better choice.
The beginnings of Prefabricated Homes started in the UK during WWII. There was an immediate need for the mass housing of military personnel and facilities for military equipments et al. The United States had the Quonset Huts as its prototype while the United Kingdom had the Nissen Huts and Bellman hangars.
- Prefabricated homes were built for displaced and homeless families in the UK after WWII. The Burton Committee and the 1944 Housing Act paved the way for building more than 160,000 prefab homes by 1948. The aluminium Type B2 were for small families as the prefab only has a small entrance hall, two bedrooms, a toilet and a bath and a kitchen. Prefabricated classrooms also mushroomed in UK because of the "baby boom" syndrome of the 50's and 60's. The prefabricated buildings were designed to last from 5 to 10 years. However in a small town in Bristol, UK more than 600 units are still standing and being used currently.
- Mobile homes became popular in the US in synchronization with its prefab homes boom. The 1950's brought in a new and bigger concept for house trailers. Bigger and more state of the art mobile homes caught like wild fire as everyone wanted to own one. The market was huge and as more companies compete with each other in terms of lower prices, quality suffered and mobile homes are now synonymous with cheap living. RUVs or recreational utility vehicles are not in this line though.
Resurgence of Prefabricated Homes and Buildings occurred in mid the 1990's. The practice of manufacturing prefabricated steel trusses, long-span and pre-stressed concrete beams and thin panelling boards was never discontinued though. As the need for quick and easy construction practices grew, construction technology met the need full force. Prefabricated buildings save the owners time and money as compared to constructing one from scratch. There are a lot of companies today that offer a wide range of prefabricated buildings like: residential homes, commercial buildings, educational institutions, small offices, storage sheds and warehouses and more.
Prefabricated Building Choices
The preferred material for the frame is steel but wood and concrete mix or foam are also used for panelling and finishing materials. What then are the important aspects to consider when searching for the right prefab building?
- Choose between modular or prefabricated building. Modular prefabs are great for small scale constructions and stackable building designs. Prefabricated buildings gear more towards long span and high-ceiling construction that are column-free - hangars, gyms, stadiums and so on.
- Decide where you are going to build the new prefab building. The location matters so you can decide on the building design conforming to the landscape and contour.
- Choose the design and the size of your prefab building.
- You might want to customize the design that you choose. You may add more space or combine two areas into one, or change room dimensions. Prefabricated buildings are designed to accommodate future expansions.
- Make sure that you choose a tested and reliable prefab manufacturer and or retailer. Learn if its products meet International Building Codes. Read the fine prints of the contract when choosing the manufacturer. Look for the length of coverage of warranty, what are the items covered, check the suppliers of warranties (manufacturer, installer, transporter and appliances) and how to file claims.
- See to it that your building conforms to the zoning and building codes of the locality to avoid delays in the construction.
- Don't forget to look into the site preparation. Before buying the land or before sealing a deal with the prefab manufacturer or retailer, make sure that the manufacturer, installer and transporter has seen and approved the land. Most prefab installer and contractor can prepare the site for additional fee. If the installer/contractor does not do site preparation ask the installer for referrals.
Buying a house is expensive. You need to clarify from your retailer for the itemized coverage of the contract. You might find yourself in a financial bind if "hidden" costs suddenly come up.