Modular homes, kit homes, and homes you can build yourself
January 15, 2023 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Rural Studio is a post-grad program that researches affordable design principles. a handywoman in northern Michigan vlogs herself building a modular house (ongoing). A designer researches sustainable homes and decides to build a net zero home. Bungalow In A Box is a family operation that builds timber frame + SIP small houses, with lots of pictures of the build and install.
posted by rebent (11 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
We watch a fair bit of Grand Designs and the prevalence of SIPs in the UK is super interesting. They’re often cut to shape at nearby factories and arrive in one big delivery for assembly which seems like a fun way to build a home. OTOH it also seems like pre-fab has a big headwind based on these interesting series from the blog Construction Physics, The Rise and Fall of the Manufactured Home and Why are there so few economies of scale in construction?: “A recurring theme of this newsletter is the failure of prefabrication (building homes in factories instead of on-site) to revolutionize the housing industry.”
posted by migurski at 10:22 AM on January 15 [8 favorites]


Sears (Roebuck) used to sell build-it-yourself houses.

A friend's family had one out in the Okanagan until it burnt down the previous year.
posted by porpoise at 10:37 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I want a time traveling Sears Roebuck house, but not the fire.
posted by rickw at 11:20 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


My dad owned a manufactured housing dealership for about 40 years, starting in the late 1970s, and before that he worked in the industry as a laborer and truck driver, starting around the time I was born in the mid 1960s.

I spent about seven years managing the business in the 2000s before going back to my original occupation as a software developer.

Now I sell dealership management software that I created to dealerships in various parts of the country. So I'm still involved to some degree in the industry.

The two links in migurski's comment above are decent overviews of the MH industry, although I noticed a couple of things the author got wrong as I quickly skimmed them.

It's a very, very strange industry, and its failure to grow beyond roughly 6 to 9 % of total US home construction probably has several causes, including the (possibly true) conspiracy theory that the major player in the industry has intentionally prevented growth, as part of a multi-decade plot to kill all the smaller, independent players, and ultimately control everything itself.
posted by OneGearIsEnough at 12:58 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Building the Pretty Good House, more, more.

Rural Studio, previously.

disclaimer: One of the authors of Building the Pretty Good House is a friend, but they use recommend SIPs, and I think the book and ideas belong here.
posted by theora55 at 1:32 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Wow, fantastic! Thanks, Theora!

Small house creators are the modern little guys. Anyone who can figure out how to create net zero, eco friendly, affordable housing and get rich off it is good in my book. A housing revolution is going to hit the world soon, as one-size-fits-all gives way to "this is what works here."
posted by rebent at 4:07 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


There's a great episode of Craft in America (a series on PBS in the U.S.) all about homes. It profiles some folks who have built homes from scratch, and it also shows the North House Folk School in far northern Minnesota that's dedicated to teaching how to frame one's own home with classic joinery techniques.
posted by hydra77 at 11:46 AM on January 16


Who knew MetaFilter was a modular housing enclave? I share names with people in this thread, my mother's family lived in a Sears-Roebuck kit home that still stands today, and my father owned and operated a modular home company (think factory-built homes built to code as modules and oversize-load-trucked to the site where modules were assembled and fastened to the foundation).
posted by infinitewindow at 8:40 AM on January 20


I've long dreamed of building my own home.
One concession I've made in my plans is to probably use a kit or similar home just to simplify the whole approval/insurance/mortgage end of things.
There are endless designs and while I might love the thought of designing everything myself, I don't truly believe that I'd design anything better than the thousands(?) of already-designed homes that exist.

Of course the whole thing will remain a dream because the process of getting a loan to buy land and build a house pretty much seems impossible. Land is cheapest with no services, but loans are harder because the bank would have a harder time selling a house in the sticks. Land close to town is almost as expensive without a house on it as with, etc etc. I don't see a path to doing this in Canada that doesn't start with having hundreds of thousands of dollars to start with.

I won't ever stop learning about different ways to build houses, though! I love this stuff!
Especially construction methods that use straw bales!

A big collection of homes to look at that wasn't mentioned yet: beaver homes and cottages.
posted by Acari at 2:20 PM on January 20


My wife and I are fortunate enough to have our Forever House being built now. We are trying to have the house meet Passive House standards and eventually become NetZero/Positive. When we started the process we initially wanted to go with a panelized build. We even had the designs drawn up and got to the pricing phase of the project, which is where it all came to a halt. The cost would have been about 20% higher than doing a stick build. It is sad because we REALLY wanted to go the panelized route. As someone with a background in a complex systems field (data network engineering) building structural panels in a factory and then moving it to the site just makes sense for so many reasons. Hopefully this will change over time, I think being able to build highly energy efficient affordable houses would make a noticeable dent in climate change. So much heat and energy is wasted with our current building standards. Then there is an insult being added to the injury, in that the people who would benefit the most from a highly energy efficient house are the ones who aren’t doing as well economically, and they are the ones who can least afford these building technologies. I know that there I some interesting work being done on panelized retrofits for older houses in New England, but it looks like even that hasn’t yet moved out of the prototype phase. I think that we are at the place where this is less of a technological challenge anymore and more of a process/human challenge, which is usually the hardest challenge to solve.
posted by Cu_wire at 5:31 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Of course the process doesn't always go as planned...
posted by gottabefunky at 2:04 PM on January 26


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