Prefab finds a home in fire-ravaged neighborhoods of California

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“For decades, utopian designers and populist dreamers have glorified prefabricated housing. The idea to mass-produce a home like an automobile, with much of the process standardized in a factory, promised greater efficiency and lower costs than traditional stick-built architecture. Less than 3 percent of housing starts in the United States in 2016 were some sort of prefab. On one hand, there is a “resistance to prefab as ugly boxes,” she noted. But the more specialized and elaborate the look and layout, the less affordable it becomes. Designer prefab easily costs more than $300 a square foot, putting it in competition with custom-built houses.

If ever there was a time and place for prefab to flaunt its virtues, it is now, in Northern California. Even before the fires, stringent statewide building regulations and a shortage of contractors and construction workers made erecting a home a challenge. Now with the spike in demand for labor and materials, the wait time for completing a stick-built house in the area is estimated to be four years at a cost of anywhere from $500 to $700 per square foot.”

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