4 unexpectedly beautiful prefab houses
Long associated with poor-quality, mass-produced cheap homes popular in the post-war period, modular or prefabricated houses – prefabs for short – are experiencing something of a resurgence. There has been growing interest in prefabs as architecture studios look for ways to shed this image—modern prefabs can be anything from stackable shipping container to single modular pods.
The main difference that sets prefabs apart from regular homes is efficiency. Prefabs are manufactured off-site in a climate-controlled area, shipped in sections, and can be assembled precisely onsite in a matter of weeks or days, depending on specs, size and complexity of design.
Recent advances in technology—3D printing and factory automation in particular—has made it possible to build prefab houses that are not only affordable and quick to assemble, but also hard-wearing, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing. Assembling a prefabricated 300 sqm house can save 66.5 hours of labour compared to building an identical house on-site, according to a study by NAHB Building Systems Council.
Modern prefabs have evolved from the fixed designs of old. Many modern prefabs involve high-end design studios and even incorporate smart home technologies that allow lighting and appliances to be controlled using smartphone apps. Upmarket prefabs tend to offer high-tech insulating walls, glazed windows and underfloor heating to keep weather elements at bay while keeping carbon footprint at a minimum. Many modern prefabs also make use of eco-friendly features with net-zero capabilities. Below we have compiled a list of 5 prefab houses worth getting excited about.
Bert’s Box by Bert and May
London interior brand Bert & May is best known for finishing materials with an accent on reuse – reclaimed timber cladding, a beautiful range of repurposed marble baths and sinks, as well as handmade tiles, built-to-order kitchens and bathrooms, fabrics, and interior design services. But there’s a more unusual side to the product range – entire prefabricated houses.
Known as Bert’s Boxes, they comes in four varieties – the one-bedroom Bert’s Box and its two-bedroom cousin; Bert’s Office Box; and the smaller Bert’s Pop-Up Suite which is designed as an addition to larger spaces. All the Boxes are equipped as much as possible with products from the Bert & May range – reclaimed timber on the outside, and handmade tiles, underfloor heating and full kitchen and bathroom suites on the inside.
The entry model Bert’s Box is also partially powered by a 2 kW carbon-friendly solar photovoltaic system that can generate up to 25% of the Boxes’ electricity and hot water consumption. The interior of the Boxes has also been designed to maximise storage space without compromising on aesthetics. Starting from a very reasonable £150,000 ($194,000) for the 46 sqm one-bedroom option, the Boxes can be ready from a standing start three months after the order comes in.
Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (P.A.T.H.) by Starck with Riko
You can expect anything that Philippe Starck is involved in to catch the eye with its design, and the Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (P.A.T.H.) doesn’t disappoint – combining high-tech timeless design with respect for the environment.
The most distinctive aspect of P.A.T.H, developed by the French designer together with Slovenian firm Riko, is a curved cornice roof made of fibreglass that conceals the ventilation, drainage outlets and photovoltaic systems from view while setting the design apart from other houses. The glass façade allows the maximum amount of natural light in while also meeting technical requirements for thermal insulations. In addition, customers can outfit their P.A.T.H. with eco-technological solutions such as wind turbines and rainwater collection systems to make it even more energy-efficient.
Vipp Shelter by Vipp
Denmark’s Vipp is another interior product brand that has made the jump into energy-efficient prefab housing – perhaps even more impressive seeing as the Vipp team’s day job is making appliances like bins, shelves and lamps rather than materials. But Vipp have taken their knowledge of metalworking on a small scale and replicated it magnificently in a larger setting – producing the Vipp shelter, a sleek, light and impeccably finished 55 sqm getaway.
The shelter’s strapline is ‘Living in a Product’, and the look and feel of the everyday Vipp range translates perfectly to the shelter. Everything in it is supplied by the brand, giving the shelter its harmonious feel.
Built on a steel grid, the Vipp Shelter comes fitted with a fireplace and underfloor heating. The exterior is dominated by dark steel and large glass windows, with ceiling that allows natural lighting in. While the dark tones of the structure dominates the landscape, the sliding glass windows blurs distinction between indoor and outdoor, letting the inhabitants feel as though they live in nature.
The Vipp shelter is slightly pricier than the rest of our entrants at $585,000 – but that perfect Danish design is definitely worth the hit.
modulOne by PassivDom
Finally, the 3D printed modulOne by Ukrainian startup PassivDom comes with serious eco-design credentials — with its standalone water supply, the prefab house is designed to be completely self-sufficient even in -20°C. It comes with an advanced micro-climate system that learn to adapt to your needs to maintain ideal temperature, humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels inside the house. The Autonomous model comes with a smart air ventilation system that can be managed using a smartphone app. The fact it is 3D printed lets PassivDom keep the costs down – the top-of-the-range Autonomous model comes in at just €59,900 ($65,000).
Over seven billion people call our little blue planet home. Whichever way you slice it, that is a lot of inhabitants. Everybody needs a home but, with urban populations spiralling higher and higher, space is at a premium...
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