Prefabs: Modular Vs. Kit Prefabs: Modular Vs. Kit

Prefabs: Modular Vs. Kit

by Alexandra Spunt

February 6, 2009

Inside a Modular Prefab

Designer: Marmol RadzinerModel: Palms HouseSize: 2,800 square feetCost: $1.2 million, before landscaping and landA recent visit to one of Marmol Radziner's construction sites in Venice, California, reveals a 2,800 square-foot steel-and-wood beauty, with 750 square feet of covered outdoor space. Assembled by crane in a single day from a series of factory-built modules, the house is currently in its "buttoning up" phase. To the naked eye, it looks just like a regular house (albeit a very large, very nice one), until the bolts and stitches are pointed out.Traditionally, the appeal of modulars is that you can have a fancy architect design your house, without paying fancy-architect prices. According to Todd Jerry of Marmol, the appeal doesn't end there: He says it's greener, that the building period is shorter, and that prefabs pose fewer risks to lenders. That said, typical modular prefabs are not exactly priced for the people. But unlike kit houses, there's much less for the buyer to take care of here. Says Jerry: "[Our customer] just doesn't want to deal with the headaches of building."They're also generally not the type to worry too much about a pricetag. These homes start in the $250-$300 per-square-foot range-that's before the cost of land.

Inside a Kit Prefab

Designer: Rocio RomeroModel: LVLSize: 1,453 sq ft.Cost: From $42,950, before landscaping and landMatthew Meek, a 32-year-old New Yorker, built his LVL as a country house for his new family. He opted for a kit, he says, because modern modulars can be prohibitively expensive. "Rocio worked because it's standardized to a degree but allowed me to do a lot of the customizing," he says. He's quick to warn, however, that "even though there are many efficiencies to be gained, once you start the process you realize that you're always going to work with your unique property and circumstances."Chad Foster, of Indiana, echoes the sentiment. "I did something nobody should ever do, though," he says with a laugh. "I basically built my own." A 41-year-old graphic designer, Foster says that mistake definitely lead to some inefficiencies and money lost, but he's quite happy with the finished house. He lives in it full time.In the end they each spent about a year and a half on their houses before moving in. Not including the price of land, but factoring in all other expenses, Meek's final cost was about $175 per square foot. Foster kept his at about $127 per square foot-pretty standard for the area he lives in. But of course, his house is a lot cooler.Photo of Rocio Romero LVL by Richard Sprengler
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Prefabs: Modular Vs. Kit