Monday, April 9, 2012

Modular Home Factory Production Lines are Not Architect Freindly

Striving to mass-produce houses the way Detroit makes cars has been the dream of many Architects and designers over the past hundred years.

There’s been a heap of unrealized schemes, created by utopian intellectuals and Architects (from Frank Lloyd Wright onward) who imagined using assembly-line technology to bring affordable, beautiful, distinctively modern houses to the millions.

Again and again, these idealistic ventures have been deflated by public indifference, or economic recession – or by the fact that excellent design and rock-solid construction never come cheap.  This is why many prefab homes built in the US have price tags in the $300 a square foot range.  If a prefab home factory can only build one house at a time because they must build each module on stationary cribbing, it sort of defeats the idea of mass producing homes and simply creates a "one-off" home built inside a weather resistant building.  $Cha-Ching$.

There are modern modular home factories with true assembly line production cranking out custom homes every day but few seem to be able to rely just on these Architect designed prefabs to keep their factory open and profitable.   

Ask someone at Clayton Homes what the response has been to their modernistic, assembly line produced i-house that was placed on their dealer's lots.  I’m surprised that the i-house has sold as many as it has but from what I’ve heard lately, its future may be in doubt.  Could it be Clayton’s Edsel?

Unlike Ken Costner’s “Field of Dreams”, production follows demand, not demand follows production.  Especially if the finished price on these unique homes approaches the $250 - $300 sq ft range.

I commend the small factories that build those one of a kind homes because they will continue to try to find ways to improve their output and will strive to showcase both green and sustainable building methods.  These homes are the experimental laboratories for the entire modular home industry.

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