the-commonditization-of-architecture - The Commoditization...

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The Commoditization of Architecture Eric Harker The quality, aesthetic-centric design, and bespoke nature of buildings, especially homes, contrived by a professional architect have traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and privileged in society. However, the more than century old concept of prefabricated building brings to the table an ingenuity and craft of a caliber rarely seen by the middle and lower tax bracket among us. Prefab, as it's also known, is the answer to problems regarding governmental housing projects, emergency shelters, and reductions in carbon emissions; and as museums have done for art, prefabrication exports fine works to the general public. This is a paradigm I refer to as the commoditization of architecture and here I will define the need for a renewed interest in prefab and such commoditization. “Prefab” is a somewhat equivocal and elastic term. Understood in a theoretical premise by enthusiasts of architecture, while often confusing to the design illiterate, and furthermore lacking the solid definition and sustained inquiry, which would allow for a more fundamental influx into the market. Essentially all houses built in the United States have prefabricated elements, but most lack the criteria that would deem them bona fide 'prefab'. The term modular housing is for all intents and purposes synonymous with prefabricated housing, but neither should be interchanged with 'manufactured housing' in the context of process and construction quality. While manufactured homes conjure up ideas of mobile housing units, which are less than enviable,
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modular housing offers an attractive alternative to traditional stick-built site- assembled methods. In fact, BRE (The Building Research Establishment) of Scotland suggests that prefabrication “be it full volumetric application or based at component level, need only affect the construction process and not the end- product.” 1 Generally speaking, there are three basic categories in prefabricated housing: the kit home, panelized systems, and volumetric modules. 2 The kit home is just that, a structure that arrives on site, packed together with several parts and a manual for the assemblers to follow. A panelized system, or precut housing, differs in that it requires more on-site labor and allows more options for the client for customization. One of these arrives in large pieces, such as full walls, the roof, and floor, which while still having to be put together by skilled labor, simplifies the process immensely. 3 The modular home, also called a volumetric module, is the most complete and some might say the definitive prefabricated structure. The elements of the home are constructed in the factory with essentially no piecing together needed, unless multiple modules are used because of the constraints of transportation like height of overpasses and width of roadways. 4
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the-commonditization-of-architecture - The Commoditization...

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