Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prefab vs Modular - The Final Definition

For years people have used the terms prefabricated and modular interchangeably. Many on the west coast think of their style of modular housing as prefab while many on the east coast think prefab means double wide trailers. As far as I can tell there is no definitive definition for either in the housing or commercial construction industry.

Well, my friends, that’s about to change thanks to Modcoach. From now on all prefab and modular homes that completed in a factory and shipped to the job site ready to be finished will be called modular in this blog. Anything that requires additional structural finish at the job site such as trusses, panels, SIPS, kit homes, etc, will be called prefab from now on.

Since nobody else including all the Architects in the world have never come to an agreement about it, I just think it’s time that someone made the distinction and called one “prefab” and the other “modular.”

Most Architects seem to love the word prefab but appear to get dry heaves if they design something that will be built in a modular factory. I have high praise for the Architects and designers that embrace modular like Douglas Cutler, Amy Ellison Ostberg and others.

The subject is now closed as far as this blog is concerned. From now on, log homes kits are prefab while Blue Ridge Log Cabins are modular. SIP homes are prefab but I still don’t know where Blu Homes fits in. 

I do have a problem, however, with modular homes that are built on cribbing and never moved along a production line. Are these “off site, site built” or is there another term someone can suggest for this inefficient and expensive Lego homes?

I will continue to write about both types of construction and report about all the big projects, new products and great ideas for both.


Anonymous said...

Coach, now you've gone and done it. What will the prefab people do now that the mighty Coach has spoken and said that they are really just modular homes?
They won't be happy about it. They have worked for years trying to set themselves apart from their east coast rivals and now you've leveled the playing field. What were you thinking?

Anonymous said...

I've been fighting this fight on the West Coast for a couple of years, was beginning to think I was insane. Glad to have some support.

Keep doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this will help rather than hinder.
In the UK, this is a daisies and flowers issue.

We have been trying to "bury" the term pre-fab for many years, because pre-fab brings to mind buildings that were erected after WW11 as a temporary solution to our housing crisis. Their intended temporary nature meant that they often suffered from poor design and construction as a result. What is even worse, some of them are still occupied to this day.

In the 90's the industry began to adopt the term "offsite" (although we still can't decide how to spell it! off-site, off site, offsite) for any building that was predominently fabricated rather than constructed. Obviously modular falls into this catagory.

Modular is usually linked with the term volumetric, in other words a product which leaves the factory in a three dimensional form(s). It is fabricated so by definition it is off-site......

I am happy not to be annonymous:
Bob Mears:

Patrick Muchmore said...

As a longtime commercial “trailer, modular, pre-fab” technical and sales guy with most of my experience on the west coast but now relocated to the east coast I have to add that I was recently asked to define our product without using any of the undesirable labels of the past. I said which ones? Trailers? Modular? Pre-fab? Yes was the answer…. All of those, they give the building and finance team the creeps. So I came up with “off site volumetric construction” so add that to your list, and what about when I add a site constructed roof truss system on top of my “off site volumetric construction” or a connected site constructed panelized gymnasium, now what do I call it? Well the current term is a “hybrid” so now I have a HPOVC, (hybrid pre-fab offsite volumetric construction) project.