Would you like to live in a prefabricated house? |
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Would you like to live in a prefabricated house?

by Jillian CariolaPublished: August 23, 2017Updated: August 24, 2017

How do prefabricated homes stack up against traditionally built houses?

We now live in an era when everyone wants everything in a flash. Hungry but can’t be bothered to wait for a full meal? Pour hot water into a cup of instant noodles. Want your 15 minutes in the spotlight? Create a YouTube account. And if you thought real estate does not have something for aspiring homeowners who want a dwelling built in a snap, you’ve probably never heard of prefabricated homes.

What is a prefab home?

A prefabricated home, or prefab, deviates from the traditional stick frame property construction that involves building a home piece by piece on site starting from the framework to the roof. A prefab takes the on-site construction out of the equation; it is a type of dwelling with parts manufactured off-site in advance in such a way that they will be easy to ship and put together. These components are then delivered to the chosen site and assembled.

While there is evidence that prefab homes were invented in the 16th century, they did not become popular until the creation of the 1900s “house kits,” quite literally houses that come in kits complete with parts, which would then be assembled by the buyer or the people they hire. Sears was one of the most popular names in the business, selling between 70,000 and 75,000 house kits from 1908 to 1940. But more recently, prefab homes have again risen in fame as people are seeing them as a quick and affordable way to finally make their homeownership dream a reality.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market
"The Preston" Sears Catalog Home as it appeared in the 1918 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Photo by Sears, Roebuck & Co. (Sears Roebuck Catalog (1918)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One type of prefab is the panelized home, which involves the use of building components like panels or entire walls made off-site and pieced together at the lot. It still involves quite a bit of construction on-site, as finishings like cabinets, flooring, stairs, and other elements still need building.

The modular home is composed of completed modules that have been constructed in a remote facility. These modules are then delivered to the site and placed side-by-side, end-to-end, or stacked, which allows the homeowner to customize the property’s layout. One such example is the shipping container home, which is growing in popularity abroad and here in the Philippines.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market modular house
A modular home waiting to be delivered. Photo by Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another kind, the manufactured home (sometimes called a mobile home), is also built off-site, but have permanent steel chassis on wheels that allow for easier transportation. No construction is done on-site, as the home is already formed and would only need anchoring onto a foundation after the wheels have been removed. In some instances, the wheels are not even removed, and are instead covered only with side skirting to conceal them.

Pros and cons of prefab living

Before settling for a prefab home, understand that this type of residence has its fair amount of pros and cons.

● Prefabs are more affordable as they require fewer people to put together.
● Since parts are manufactured in a controlled environment, there is no risk of construction delays due to weather interruptions, which can be also be costly.
● Moreover, the fact that several elements are already pre-made makes the building process quicker. Just imagine, with a modular home, all you need to do is stack one room on top of another to form the house, instead of pouring concrete, making and installing rebars, etc.
● Many prefab homes are built to be sustainable; there are companies who claim to have products built to withstand high-intensity earthquakes and strong typhoons, so your safety is guaranteed.
● The quality of the parts is guaranteed as they are made at a closely monitored facility where inspections are easily done.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market modular house shipping container house
Shipping container homes. Photo via Depositphotos

● Just because you are buying a more affordable “instant” house does not mean you won’t have to pay the full price of the land on which you want to place it. Also, if the lot you want is in an underdeveloped area, you will have to spend the time and cost of procedures to get it ready for residential use, such as the installment of a septic system.
● Many homeowners tend to be traditional, and they might not see a prefab home to be as long-lasting as a dwelling built from the ground up. This means you may have to wait a while for a buyer if you plan on selling it in the future.
● Prefabs may cost less than a traditional home, but your up-front payment would be a bigger burden. Unlike a regular home, which you can pay for in monthly amortizations, you will have to pay the entire amount for a prefab home right away to own it.
● You will most likely spend a lot on out-of-town costs if the eventual site of the building is far from the factory where the home is manufactured.
● Since prefab homes are built at a factory, options for customization may be limited to the selections the company already offers.

Prefab homes in the Philippines

If you are interested in bucking tradition by going for a prefabricated dwelling, there are quite a few companies that have emerged to provide an alternative to the traditional form of home building over the years.

Durability and convenience have long been the priority of WallCrete, a manufacturer of long-lasting prefab structure parts and systems since the 1970s. According to the company, their products are “stronger than the hardest hollow block” and can resist pressure of up to 2,500 psi. Structures are also easy to install as they come with training, support, and construction guide. Plus, quality is assured by working with Vazbuilt, widely known for prefabricated reinforced concrete columns, wall panels, and tie beams.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market MyProperty WallCrete
House made using WallCrete building system and parts. Photo from

Looking to dispel the myth of prefab homes being of low quality is Revolution Precrafted, a company that aims not only to simplify the construction process, but to offer a variety of choices in terms of aesthetics as opposed to mass-producing run-of-the-mill design options. The company, founded by design and real estate developer Robbie Antonio, creates livable spaces using “cutting-edge technologies and cost-effective production systems” in collaboration with over 30 world-renowned artists, architects, and designers.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market MyProperty Revolution Precrafted
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architect's Cabin|Stack|Prefab. Photo from Revolution Precrafted Facebook page

On the other end of the scale is Smarthouse, which prides itself in producing low-cost modular homes. Other than being the ideal option for budgeted buyers, Smarthouse also ensures their homes are made of high-quality materials for resilience against typhoons, strong winds, and earthquakes. As a low-cost housing provider, one of the goals of the company is to “address the concerns of accommodating informal settlers, provide easy to build classrooms, dormitories and other similar necessities.”

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market MyProperty Smarthouse
The Smarthouse modular log cabin. Photo from

H.R.D. (S) or House Research Development (Singapore) is a Philippine-based Japanese home-building firm that specializes in, among other things, the technology development, product and construction management, market research, cost estimation, and designing of housing components. The company made headlines in 2011 when one of its prefab homes manufactured in the company’s Cavite Ecozone warehouse was the only one left standing after a tsunami wiped out a coastal community in Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan.

As for those who feel like test driving a prefab home (sort of), Citihub is a transient accommodation that offers affordable all-male lodging for those working or going to school in Metro Manila. This Filipino enterprise prides itself in offering bed spaces for as little as Php57 a day largely due to the fact that their dormitories are made of recycled shipping containers.

Prefabricated homes, their history, pros and cons, and presence in the Philippine market Citihub
Citihub's accommodations made of shipping containers. Photo from


Sources:,,,,,,,,,, ABS-CBN News YouTube page,

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