Does a System Built, Pre-Fabricated, Kit Home Improve Quality? Part 1

by Stewart Elliott, Co-Founder Right Home Company

Through a better understanding of building sciences, the insurance industry, and several generations of socio-economic reality, there have been many ‘pressures’ forcing changes and improvements in building construction. This blurb will ask whether SYSTEM BUILDING has contributed a solution to the growing demand and has improved Quality at the same time?

The very first question needs to be; ‘what is quality?’ Quality is often confused with Standard. Quality is a non-descript word; it can be a poor or better ‘quality.’ We often assume that the quality material is a better material; this is simply not true. Standards, on the other hand, are a documented measurable specification supplied by a proven, professional, certified resource.

This quickly turns into a political statement; governmental regulations vs. letting the market drive the standard – we will not address this here – a little like the fox protecting the henhouse.

We need to be prepared to ask the supplier what they mean by a quality material or service and ask if they can ‘document’ it. A reputable supplier has a written and approved process and procedure manual, often referred to as a quality control manual. Within the pre-fabrication industry, this manual is required for various certifications by various authorities and jurisdictions.

Among the pressures these days, we as consumer-owners are demanding a more time saving ‘next day delivery’ attitude of our cars, computing, and homes. Another pressure, in a nutshell, is the substantial increase in disasters, such as floods, fires, tornados, and hurricanes. Today’s normal growth and older home replacement requires about 700,000 new homes annually. Plus, the construction industry is expecting an additional 300,000 new homes annually for several years to replace those lost in the recent disasters. Presently, the construction industry is very short-handed and the construction business is booming. These forces have resulted in a variety of outcomes.

Of course, one market-driven result is to raise prices, which is the present situation; ‘it’s a seller’s market’ as the saying goes. With high demand and limited resources, prices go up. Pricing and costs will be a later conversation.

For example, a higher standard for a house sheathing material might include one that is more consistent, dependable, less expensive, easier and faster to install, stronger, and more flexible. Prior to the 1930s, sheathing was #3, 1” thick, pine boards onto which a carpenter would secure the trim, siding or roofing. Though plywood had been around for many years, the big boost was the development of waterproof adhesives of the ’40s allowing it to be a sheathing material replacing the boards. Starting in the 70’s OSB production matured and competed with Plywood and has essentially replaced it as the ‘common’ sheathing product today. It is less expensive, comes in a much larger range of sizes and configurations, and has substantial environmental benefits.

OSB is also the material of choice in most pre-fabrication of building components largely due to its availability, lower price and sizes up to 8’ x 24’.

Taking its lead from cardboard and plywood; in the 1950s, the industry began laminating 2 skins of a material such as plywood or OSB to either side of rigid foam insulation producing an extremely strong and versatile product. These panels also had higher R-value insulation. Installing these Insulating Panels (then called stress skin panels) is faster and saves many construction steps. In light of today’s high cost of labor, codes requiring better insulated, tighter homes, increased strength demands in hurricane and tornado prone areas, and much more, the evolved panel becomes a very viable solution. There will be further conversation on this system later.

This product is one example of how s pre-fabricated product has improved quality.