News & Views
Can a System Built, Pre-Fabricated, High Performance, Kit Home be a “Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH)?” Part 1
Now we are getting to the heart of it all. We discussed that a system built home is a higher quality home at a competitive price. Of course, this, as everything else, is dependent on the specifications, workmanship and “best practice details;” cheap, high-maintenance, homes abound costing their owners more money and aggravation. We are focused on cost of ownership, not first costs.
Continuing the SIP conversation; we will use their engineering and manufacturing process as an example of a technically advanced building SYSTEM and how a process is managed. And ultimately, how this improves quality. All pre-fabricated systems require a ‘lead time’ to schedule the work, complete engineering and shop drawings and get approvals from the owners. Most system suppliers have the materials in stock and do not need to ‘order’ the materials for a specific project. The manufacturing process is very predictable and can usually be scheduled to meet the onsite construction schedule resulting in a more efficient building program.
If we are to address improving quality and managing costs, we need to make better use of materials and labor. Pre-fabrication in a factory takes the guess work and on-site human error out of the equation while making better use of labor and materials. Recycling and waste are much more easily managed in a factory than on site. The result is a better built home in less time, with less material, less on site waste, and for less cost in an ever increasing cost market.
To improve the quality of a normal conventionally built home requires improving many parts and pieces. In-home construction, a WAG at the total ‘parts’ of a home is some 10,000 pieces for a 1,500 sf, 3 BR, 2-1/2 bath home. What this says is that if we are to improve the standards of a home, we need to improve and manage lots of parts.
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?
Prefabricated homes, often called "prefabs" and “kits” and “panelized” refers to a broad range of residences that have been constructed using panels or pieces that were fabricated before their arrival on site. These advanced pre-assembled components are NOT a manufactured or mobile home because they require on-site assembly, installation, and inspections.
Prefabrication has been around since the turn of the 20th century, remember the Sears & Roebuck homes starting in 1908, they shipped the building components for ENTIRE homes in a Railroad boxcar to an owner in expanding America. Because of the huge catalogs by Sears and Montgomery Wards @ ~3 lbs. and 1700 pgs. both selling homes, these homes became known as ‘Mail Order’ or ‘Catalog’ and ‘Kit’ homes.
Construction of a building is complex and requires many parts and people. We don’t think about how something works until it doesn’t work. The building industry is slowly going through major changes caused by many socio-economic factors, including an aging population, retiring construction workers who are not being replaced, a population who does not want to work outside in often uncomfortable conditions, working with our hands is becoming a novelty (construction is not a keyboard), costs of site labor are increasing dramatically, cost of LTL (less than load) site delivered materials is more expensive than to deliver a full load of materials to a factory or jobsite.
"What's old is new again" is not just another trite, cute and meaningless phrase around the Right Home Company, it is almost a mantra. By taking the classic designs from the early half of the 20th century, combining modern design standards and the latest building technologies, they have generated high-value homes for tomorrow.