Are Handmade Homes Better Than Prefab Homes?

A few days ago I read a blog post by Richard Olsen, who’s a former editor at Architectural Digest. His book, Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design, celebrates the funky and creative in homebuilding.

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The author is critical of modern and post-modern design, including works from Le Corbusier to new iterations like those in Dwell. I can see his point, as homes such as the Clark House in West Vancouver are the ultimate example of a work of art you can live in, and celebrate both design and craftsmanship.

Olsen wrote in his blog about Le Corbusier’s ideas for “…a house free of idiosyncracies, a house in celebration of standardization, one made of parts not crafted by an artisan aiming for one-of-a-kind character but, instead, fabricated by an anonymous factory somewhere—capital-‘I’ Industry.”

And Dwell, he says, continues with that direction. Are handmade homes better than prefab homes?

Is Dwell really that bad?

However, I don’t feel so critical of Dwell homes and modern design. It would be nice if we could all have a handmade home, but I think we need better homes more than we need handmade homes. We need healthy, efficient, durable, and attractive homes, even if they’re factory made.

I’d like to see more variety in design, and more of a vernacular approach, too. Now the hot design motif is Mid-Mod; in the suburbs it’s the McMansion with a dozen gables. And so on. A factory-built home can have style—much better than a nostalgic suburban box—along with solid workmanship, a lack of artifice, healthier materials and construction techniques, and great reduction of waste. Not to mention better design, that is easier to heat and cool, and that will be more durable over time.

The handmade idea is great, but there’s no way to get that to the majority of people, so let’s go with prefab and factory-built in whatever style. The mass market can have dramatically better homes, and I see the prefab innovators dragging the industry toward better homes.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Here’s A Relatively Affordable LEED Platinum Prefab Home

Living Homes, a builder of prefab homes, now offers their C6 model at a cost of $145 per square foot, or $179,000 for the three-bedroom, 1,232 square-foot model. That does not include the lot, foundation, trucking from the factory, or installation, but is a relatively affordable LEED Platinum prefab home. The company has several designs priced at $145 per square foot, all in the modern vernacular.

The C6 model is Energy Star certified, superinsulated, and uses materials like fiber-cement or cedar siding, cork flooring, and low-VOC finishes. I think they’re attractive homes, and I’m impressed that the cost is dropping while the performance is improving. I wonder if they’re insulated well enough to reach net-zero status here in Wisconsin. I’ve inquired and will update this post when I find out.

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The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably with

  • green building
  • permaculture
  • green cities