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As a home design company, we are often asked if our plans can be fabricated by the ever-growing number of controlled-environment fabricators. The answer is a resounding “yes”! This article is a primer on the use of fabricated components in housing.

Article courtesy of the GVHBA (Greater Vancouver Home Builder Association):

Thinking about building a brand new home? One of the images that springs to mind is the construction site, bustling with activity as a succession of workers and subtrades build your home from the ground up.

The reality is that increasingly your new home is built in factories and then assembled on your building site. Pre-fabricated roof trusses, pre-assembled wall panels, ready-to-install kitchen cabinets, pre-finished flooring…these and many other components used to be built piece-by-piece on site. The vast majority of new home builders today take full advantage of the quality, precision and just-in-time delivery of manufactured building components. This allows them to provide their customers with a high quality home efficiently, cost-effectively and within a shorter timeframe.

As manufacturing processes have become more sophisticated, opportunities for moving the construction of homes inside the factory have expanded. Factory-built housing is a growing industry in Canada, reflecting changes in home construction here and elsewhere. In Sweden, for instance, close to 90% of all new homes are factory-built.

Today, homeowners and new home builders can choose from a number of factory-built systems that provide a home in varying degrees of completion-from modular and manufactured homes that arrive on site virtually complete, to pre-engineered and panelized homes that reduce the amount of work required at the site.

As the name implies, modular homes are built in three-dimensional modules, offering homeowners and builders a great deal of design flexibility. The homes are very energy efficient and can be built to the R-2000 Standard-the highest standard for energy performance in Canada.

Modules can be combined to make one-, two- or three-storey homes. While a typical two-storey home consists of four or five modules, larger custom homes might use eight or more of varying dimensions. A small, but growing number of developers have also turned to modular construction for multi-family complexes (e.g. row housing).

When the modules arrive on your lot, they are ready for assembly on the foundation. Insulation, air/vapour barriers, plumbing, wiring, siding and other construction details are mostly completed. Interior finishing is usually well advanced, including drywall, trim, flooring and cabinets. Completing your home on site can take the builder a couple of weeks or more, depending on the size, style and features of the home. Some features and custom upgrades are best done on site, such as brick siding and some hard surface flooring.

A manufactured home is the option that is the most complete when it leaves the factory. It is often ready for move-in the same day or a few days after it arrives on your site. Due to their unique structural design, manufactured homes can be installed on surface foundations, such as piers. They can also be relocated, although the majority are never moved from their original site. Built in one or two sections, manufactured homes are available in many designs and layouts, with a wide selection of standard and customized features.

Characteristic of panelized homes are pre-fabricated wall sections that can reduce on-site construction time considerably. The panels can be partially or fully completed, with windows, doors and siding often installed already. For pre-engineered homes, the major building components are prepared in the factory and shipped to the building site as a package ready for assembly, including framing materials, doors, windows, roofing, siding, interior wall partitions and subflooring. The pre-engineered building system emphasizes precision design and pre-cutting and can be used for virtually any home design, from standard cottage plans to highly customized dream homes. 

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