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Beyond Trailer Parks: Prefab Homes


Prefab Homes Trends and Designs
People tour a two-story, three-bedroom modular home in New Orleans.
People tour a two-story, three-bedroom modular home in New Orleans.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

If you hadn't heard of prefab homes before, you probably did after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and left thousands of people homeless.

Evolving out of an organization called the Mississippi Renewal Forum, the Katrina Cottages are affordable prefab homes, designed in the tradition of Gulf architecture. They cost only $35,000 to build and are much more comfortable and visually attractive than a government-issued FEMA trailer.

Currently, the big draw of prefab homes is their sustainability, energy efficiency and small size. Everyone talks about downsizing like it's a bad thing, but proponents of prefab homes call it "rightsizing." Prefab homes are more efficient and Earth-friendly to build. Since they're assembled in factories, this eliminates onsite construction waste as well as trucks driving back and forth to construction sites burning gas and polluting the air.

Today's prefab homes aren't boxy trailers, or old-fashioned log cabin styles, either. You can purchase a modern prefab home in ranges of $100 to $300 a square foot, or more for luxury. Clever design makes the most of a small home, with built-in shelving and storage spaces.

Designers try to match a specific home design to its surrounding landscape. They don't want the home to be the focal point. Rather, they want the home to become part of the landscape. This is why you'll see prefab homes with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and open floor plans.

Here are a few of the more interesting prefab designs we've read about lately:

  • Recycled shipping containers
  • Refurbished boxcars
  • Prefabricated outer walls from sustainable wood
  • "Alley houses" -- 8 feet wide, 4 stories tall

To find out more about living and home, check out the links on the next page.


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