Prefab & Tiny houses

oh! what a romantic concept: designing & building  your own tiny house.  It’s smaller, cheaper, simpler, moveable… and it’s caught the fancy of many.  I’d like to delve a bit further into the reality of this phenom.

Are tiny homes really all they’re cracked up to be? I think  it’s narrow niche concept and (tiny home communities) could turn into a modern version of the 60’s housing development fiasco.

My reasoning:  I’ve yet to hear or meet someone who has lived full-time in a tiny house for more than a year or two.  The ones that do stay in them more than a year are located within beautiful natural locations of dense urban jungles. They are claustrophobic and ill-suited to our modern life style.   Tiny homes are great for  sleeping & working (bedroom/office)  but for not so much for full-on living.

But on a more technical basis, tiny homes are misconceived and will run their course (again).  This is not the first time we’ve had a ‘tiny home’ explosion.  First, let’s look at the eco, and carbon footprint of building a floor, walls, roof for <500sf for 1 or 2

 

people and compare that to a multi-unit housing footprint.

 

Tiny home footprints in development…

The real allure to tiny homes is the American culture of independence/pioneering and individualism (narcissism).  And the huge swaths of available land.

 

Prefab

Is pre-fab (fabricated off-site) the wave of the future?  Some people think so, and several regulatory agencies are demanding it.  Let’s look deeper into pre-fab and see what really happens behind the curtain.

With all its efficiencies and advantages of assembly line production, pre-fab started in the early 1900’s when Sears offered mail-order ‘kit’ homes.
They soon turned into mobile and pre-manufactured or modular homes.

 

Can you tell – I am not a fan of tiny or pre-fab homes.  I’m a fan of local.  Local everything.  Local materials, local labor, local smarts, local loco…  And Prefab construction is anything but local.  It’s another version of globalization, centralized (usually far away) production and …    The eco-footprint of prefab and tiny homes is WAY higher than site-built homes.

 

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under construction… being revised:


 

I can see the allure. They have a small footprint – physically. They mostly skirt under the regulatory radar screen. Some of them are affordable (the $20k+ ones are not.

‘prefab’

this is getting to be a dirty word in the developer vernacular. The more PC terms are ‘modular’ or ‘smart’ construction. European & Asian countries are going ga-ga for these developments because they are a shortcut to address dire affordable housing shortages.

I like the FT Times quote: ‘A prefab tiny house is ‘a very good-looking’ impractical building’ ‘. (FT Sept 9,10 thinking inside the boxes’)

Ikea has a ‘BoKlok’ flat-pack house that’s popular in Scandanavian countries. Malaysia has stipulated that 70% of all housing construction must be pre-fab, in Japan 16% of all new housing is prefab…

Is this a solution for the West Coast’s dire affordable housing crisis? I hope not. While it sounds good up front, when you fast-forward a couple decades… one can see a troubling scenario reminisce of the 50’s/60’s housing development slum-like fiasco in the making.

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