Is Prefab Overhyped?
"Today there is once again a sense of excitement and curiosity as modern prefab architecture returns to the mainstream, rescued from its stigma as cheap or even mobile housing by a new wave of well-designed units. Innovative new ideas have popped up in large numbers, ranging from Ecoshack's prefab yurts and the Katrina Cottages for Gulf Coast hurricane victims to prefab homes by the furniture company Design Within Reach. But there's also intense scrutiny and skepticism surrounding prefab, or modular or factory housing, as it's otherwise called. Some argue that while prefab is touted for its ability to be mass-produced, it's delivered to relatively few. Others note that while it promises affordability, modern prefab is often expensive (for example, California developer Steve Glenn's much-publicized Living Homes, with designs by Ray Kappe and Kieran Timberlake, generally average well over $200 per square foot). More question marks surround such issues as durability, comfort, and variety. For the architect entrepreneur looking to sell prefab as a business, it remains unclear if it's possible to turn a profit. For the time being, as prefab units rise in cost, dividends remain small because few houses have been widespread sellers."