Prebuilt
15–11–2017

The times are changing: Why prefabricated housing is back in vogue

Prefabricated housing suffered something of a tarnished reputation in the 20th century due, in large part, to the proliferation of government-built housing after the Second World War.

The many thousands of cheap, boxy dwellings thrown up to accommodate the booming post-war population were desperately needed at the time, but left a perception that modular houses were of a poorer quality than conventional builds.

However, times are changing – thanks to improved technologies, a greater interest in sustainable building practices and growing market demand for fast, cost-effective construction, prefabricated housing is finally coming of age.

 

Innovative companies such as Archiblox, Modscape, ARKit and Prebuilt are showing just what can be done with such projects, producing designs with a degree of architectural finesse that rival traditional high-end builds.

Victoria-based Prebuilt offers residential prefabs throughout Australia, working in close partnership with well-known architects such as the celebrated Glenn Murcutt – winner of a slew of international awards including the prestigious Pritzker Prize – Ramon Pleysier of Pleysier Perkins and Sean Godsell.

Prebuilt’s Laura Batch says the close involvement of respected architects, combined with prefabrication’s advantages in terms of pricing and time, means that more home builders are considering the modular option.

 

“We have really moved away from the rectilinear square, modular look,” she says. “[With prefabricated housing] you can produce really high quality architecture in an extremely short time.”

The timeframe from the initial client brief to finished product is usually about nine months, says Batch, with the on-site component taking up just six weeks of the total. (That compares to an average of about 12-18 months for a conventional build.) Because the modules are constructed in the factory, then transported to the site for assembly, the risk of expensive weather delays is minimised.

One of Prebuilt’s recent projects was a house in Sydney’s Rose Bay for media executive Pippa Leary and her family. Leary and her husband Bruce Lee, also a corporate executive, commissioned a Pleysier-designed, Prebuilt-constructed home because of the relative economy and speed of the construction process.

 

The prefabricated modules, which were assembled about five months after Pleysier’s design was complete, took just two months to transform into a house once in situ.

Leary says a major consideration when briefing the architect was their desire to make the most of the aspect of the site. “It was important to us that we captured as much northern light as we possibly could,” she explains. “The light is amazing, because there are so many louvres. When the light hits them, the house is filled with rainbows.”

The facade features a curved wooden wall that echoes the balconies on the neighbouring block of art deco apartments. The black and cream colour palette of the exterior reflects Pleysier’s signature use of dark colours.

 

The design includes a courtyard off the kitchen with retractable awnings, and a picture window in the children’s room that opens to a tree.

 



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Laura Batch says the involvement of respected architects, means that more home builders are considering the modular option.Laura Batch says the involvement of respected architects, means that more home builders are considering the modular option. Photo: Supplied by Prebuilt

Thanks to improved technologies, prefabricated housing is finally coming of age.Thanks to improved technologies, prefabricated housing is finally coming of age. Photo: Prebuilt

Pippa Leary and Bruce Lee at home with their family.Pippa Leary and Bruce Lee at home with their family. Photo: Nicholas Watt

Victoria-based Prebuilt offers residential prefabs throughout Australia, working in close partnership with well-known architects.Victoria-based Prebuilt offers residential prefabs throughout Australia, working in close partnership with well-known architects. Photo: Prebuilt