Thursday, January 31, 2013

Demystifying Prefabrication

There is a lot to be confused about with prefabricated housing in California. Let's start with the terminology itself. If you talk with Codes and Standards Administrator, Kevin Cimini at the California Department of Housing and Community Development, you'll get a good explanation. There are basically two kinds of prefabrication.
  1. Manufactured Housing.  This what you find in mobile home parks here in California.  They are very standardized, regulated by federal HUD standards and designed very explicitly for affordability.  These units tend to depreciate in value reliably over time.
  2. Factory-Built Homes.  These buildings are regulated by the same California Building Code as any site built structure.  They are further subdivided into two distinct categories:
  • Orange Insignia Building Components.  In the custom home market, these components are usually individual rooms, combinations of rooms or entire dwelling units.
  • Red Insignia Building Components.  In the custom home market, these components are usually wall, floor and room panels.  Previous Agriboard and SIP panel projects done by Studio Ecesis were done using this delivery method.
A good way to remember the difference between these two color standards is that the "red" color appropriately alerts you to more required assembly on site.
When one reads about prefabrication in many popular design publications these days, it is important to realize the article is usually discussing orange insignia factory-built homes.  Produced by few, and promoted by many, these buildings are increasingly being conjured by architects and advertised on their websites.  The building itself is usually NOT produced by the architect but instead is reliant on a solid partnership between them and a handful of trustworthy factories that tend to aggregate - understandably - in areas that are more severely impacted by weather and its effects on the construction season.

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