I got into an interesting conversation the other day about different ways to build a home, or additional accommodation, like a granny flat, without doing the whole bricks and mortar thing! The conversation turned to removal houses versus kit homes versus modular homes and so on.
Until some bright spark asked what the difference was between a kit home and a prefab - and then it was on for young and old.
Contrary to what many people think, prefabricated homes, manufactured homes and kit homes are different, although the principle is largely the same.
Prefabs are also known as modular homes, as they are generally designed in modules. For example, a granny flat might be two modules, and these are built separately, off-site, in a factory.
The advantage to prefabs or modular homes is that just about everything - right down to floors and fittings - are included in the design. So when the modules arrive on site, they literally slot together and away you go!
Add water, power, electric and sewerage and the building is complete and ready to furnish.
Kit homes also arrive onsite in pieces and are slotted together, but they don't come as complete modules. But it's cheaper than starting from scratch onsite, as the pieces are already cut to size.
There is more scope for variation with a kit home - for example, room size. Whereas room size in prefabs is restricted by what the delivery truck can legally carry, kit homes come in pieces so the restrictions don't apply.
Once delivered, you can hire a builder to finish construction, or do it yourself as an owner/builder.
A manufactured home is basically a mobile home, and not something we see that often in Australia. Despite being manufactured on a steel frame, they are not classed as a permanent structure, so certain building regulations apply.
In the past, kit homes and modular homes were not considered as strong and long-lasting as a bricks and mortar home, but that is now not always the case.
Most kit homes and modular homes are now very high quality, well designed and constructed for the residential market.
And what's more, they are increasing environmentally-friendly, which is making them very popular.
This has a lot to do with the type of materials used. By using energy efficient building materials, ongoing energy usage and cost for the occupant are reduced.
Eco friendly kit homes are also made of natural materials, which is clearly much healthier for the occupants.
And because the components of the kit home or modular home are made off-site, there is less wastage, less disruption to the house site, and less vehicle movements to and from the site.
As more people choose to live off-grid, these types of homes will become more popular, as they are perfect for off-grid situations. And with that popularity will come further advances in their design and technology.
Australia didn't warm to the idea of prefab and modular homes as quickly as America but they are now becoming part of the solution to a more sustainably built environment.