I got an email from Jetson Green today with the title “Factory-Built Homes Are the Future”. This is quite the statement. With few exceptions throughout history homes have been built on site by hand. The idea that a home is built in a factory with high tech machines and then plopped down on the site changes things drastically.
They mention one company that builds the house in the factory “using advanced software systems, automated cutting machines, and a streamlined manufacturing process… the fabricated elements are then stacked and packed, again using software to optimize the use of space, and assembled on-site in about one to three days.”
The total time to make the house is 20-60 days. The homes are Passive House standard with renewable energy systems.
As a green builder this reality is a little disconcerting. Although the company offers images of single homes surrounded by nature, for me the idea of homes built in a factory bring up an image similar to the one below of a low income suburb in Mexico:
But I understand that Jetson Green is onto a growing trend. Just like everything else, homes will also be built like Model T Fords. It makes a lot of sense from a financial point of view. It can be argued that the savings in materials also makes sense from an ecological point of view.
It is possible that many generations from now most people buy factory made homes and a small handful (the wealthy and the outcasts) build homes the old fashion way. The wealthy can afford to build “hand made custom” homes. The outcasts choose not to buy off the shelf – think earthship.
But it is possible that for most people the factory built home becomes the most affordable option. Prefab homes have yet to hit the mainstream market and most homes are still built on site. But I suspect this will change.
As a green builder I am not worried prefab will take my job any more than painters should fear photography took their job. As systems and technology changes so does the green builder.
And there will always be room for both, just like there is room for Coors beer and local handcrafted beer.
And very importantly I think we have a long way to go before it becomes ecologically justified to tear down existing structures and replacing them with a prefab home instead of renovating. For now renovation is by far more ecological than building new.
Here is an example of their prototype factory built home: