A recent letter to the editor of The Guardian sang the praises of prefabricated housing (prefabs) describing them as “imaginative and wonderful dwellings” that helped to solve the post-war housing shortage after 1945.
“These prefabs were undoubtedly very small, but their kitchens and bathrooms would have been a revelation to people whose previous dwellings would have had shared outside toilets and no running hot water. My in-laws lived in central London and were not bombed but they did not get such facilities, that we today consider essential, until the London county council rehoused them in 1959. It is very easy to sneer at efforts like the introduction of these dwellings from our 21st-century expectations but all progress has to be judged against the needs of its time.” Norman Bone, Derby The Guardian May 18 2017
For the historical background, the University of the West of England’s history of council housing covers the origins of the shortage and the prefabricated bungalows built. The Excalibur Estate was one such development of prefabs – meant to last 10 years, but still being lived in in the 2010s (Municipal Dreams blog post 18 March 2014). Visit the Prefab Museum to learn why these instant homes have their fans.
Could 21st century prefabs be part of the answer to current problems? Urban Splash who build ‘off site’ homes certainly think so. L&G Homes are also pursuing what they call modular construction methods.
“…off-site-built homes can be produced in about half the time of traditional construction as the house itself can be built in the factory while foundations are being laid on site” The Guardian 26th January 2017
Today’s prefabs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have given architects a chance to experiment as Inhabit demonstrate. You can even build your own prefabricated home – as they have been doing in the Netherlands for some time (The Guardian 25 Nov 2011). Alternatively you can have a custom-built home (Redruth, Cornwall; Graven Hill, near Bicester, Oxfordshire). Perhaps a slightly less Grand Design but without a lot of the hassle.
“Housing experts believe custom build could help tackle Britain’s housing crisis, partly due to the speed of building these homes, which often use prefab elements. The government is targeting 20,000 self- and custom-build homes by 2020, a steep rise from last year’s 12,945.” The Guardian 14th May 2017