AT On... The Long History of Prefab

AT On... The Long History of Prefab

Jonathan B.
Mar 26, 2008

Prefab construction has been the way of the future for at least the past sixty years. We spent yesterday knee deep in dusty boxes in the archives of the Small Homes Council, which used to be a unit of the Architecture School at the University of Illinois. We were surprised by what we found...

There were many, many prefab housing companies established after World War II. Their goal was to take advantage of the pent-up demand for housing. Then, as now, prefabrication was seen as a way to decrease waste, increase energy efficiency, and rationalize production.

There was one big difference: the prefab homes of the 1940's and 1950's weren't the stylish FlatPaks and LV Homes of today. We might look back on yesterday's prefabs with a bit of nostalgia, but they were simple structures, intended to help builders meet an annual demand for 1,000,000 houses each year after the war. We understand the allure of a well-designed house from a brand-name architect -- we'd love to have an LV of our own. But if our big goal is green, maybe the best bet for architects would be to take a page from history and prefabricate houses that are super energy efficient... and designed to suit popular taste.

image credits: Factory, via Sam Wilson's web page, which is a fun read: Sam was a trucker who delivered prefabricated houses! Cover of Houses from Prefabricated Wall Panels, via Core77 via prefabcosm from a Flickr image originally posted by moderns_r_us.

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